At first, the Romans paid no mind to Christians because they believed that Christianity was just another sect of Judaism. It wasn’t until they realized that Christians didn’t consider themselves to be Jews, that the Romans began to look downward on Christians. The Romans did have a right to be fearful of Christianity and believe that it was a cult. The Romans saw Christianity as a threat to their religious system. For example, Christians refused to sacrifice to the gods, because they only believe in one God only. These conservative Romans were offended and also believed that this would threaten their society. The pax deorum was an agreement with the gods. They believed through this agreement, if they sacrificed and worshipped the gods, then the gods would protect them in return. Due to the fact that Christians refused to perform sacrifices and worship the gods, the Romans believed that this would endanger themselves, the people around them, and the city as a whole. Christians also defied the Roman military service. There were many who refused to serve at all, and the Christians that did serve were faced with discrimination and conflicts of conscience due to mandatory attendance at official sacrifices.
Christianity was also mostly kept underground because it was illegal. So seeing this uprising of Christians mad them fearful that Christianity would takeover. Most people are often fearful and aren’t open of change because it disturbs their routine that they’ve grown accustomed to. The year 112, was the first time where the Roman state saw that Christianity was a reviewed as a different religion from Judaism. Pliny the Younger was faced with a dilemma. He was the governor in the Roman province of Bithynia when a number of Christians were brought into his court. What the Christians were charged with is unclear, but Pliny ultimately decided that he would execute the Christians because they refused to recant their faith. Pliny was unsure as to whether it was okay that he can execute them legally for no other existing crime except for faith, so he writes the Emperor for some advice. The Emperor replies that he did the right thing in executing them, but advises him not to seek out Christians for prosecution.
Christians also would refuse to worship or sacrifice to the emperor. Because of this, they were suspected of treason. Christians of course believed that the emperor was a person and didn’t deserve to be worshiped as if he were God.This made not only conservative Romans suspicious, but also representatives of the State suspicious as well. The fact that Christians gathered for church services, and wouldn’t allow non-Christians to experience these services did not help their case. The Romans deemed these services as “secret meetings” that were held by traitors of the state.
Rumors that spread about the church also didn’t help. When Christians would celebrate a feast that called for the spread of brotherly and sisterly love amongst them, rumors would spread that the Christian church were practicing incest, and open sex.
Christianity was dismantling almost every practice that the Romans set up. It was changing their usual routine. They didn’t know how to acclimate to that change, so the only way they felt like they can make up for this is to persecute them and try to get people to stop being Christians.
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