Never Stop Learning

The first Monday after Labor Day always feels like New Year’s Day to me. It’s a new goal-oriented beginning with fresh challenges. I feel like that little girl, sitting in assembly, waiting to discover my new classroom and teacher. Geek that I am, I even looked forward to my first homework assignment.

My “certain age” does not squash that kid in me, so I registered to audit a course at Northeastern Seminary called “Being Christian.” Since I write Christian content, I wanted to write more deeply and knowledgably on matters of faith.

This course looks at the first 300 years of church history to the Reformation. The professor takes a holistic approach, combining church history with theology and faith formation. And I’m loving it! My textbooks are: The Story of Christianity-the early church to the dawn of the reformation by Justo L. Gonzalez and After the new Testament – a reader in early Christianity 100-300CE by Bart D Ehrman… just in case you want to run out and buy them.

The Gonzales text gives me the historical backdrop of Christian life in the church’s early years. Ehrman’s book provides primary source reading. Instead of writing about, say, The Gospel of Thomas, I get to read it myself.

So Many Parallels

The author of Ecclesiastics wrote, “there is nothing new under the sun.” I see many parallels between first century and twenty-first century Christians. Many live in countries where Christianity must exist under the radar. But there are subtle forms of persecution here in America. [1]And I noticed some parallels between living in the Roman Empire and life in today’s United States.


The Roman government did not care about one’s personal beliefs, just as long as outwardly you went through the motions. Offer incense to the many gods (they had no preferences), follow Roman rituals, and don’t rock the boat. They believed outward unity would create order in the realm.

I had thought Romans in the first centuries actively hunted down Christians and killed them. Actually, if you kept quiet, and no one accused you of being Christian, you were safe. But once accused, you were brought before the tribunal and given the chance to go free if you burned incense to the pantheon of the gods and renounced Jesus. If one refused, torture and death awaited. Best to believe what you want, as long as you keep quiet about it.

Remember the klerfluffel when a football coach and his team “took a knee” at halftime? Yet when Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field, all the players “took a knee.”  And the sportscasters remarked positively upon it. Our culture accepted taking a knee in one instance, not so much the other.

How often is it said, “our thoughts and prayers are with you?” But what would happen if someone in a secular setting said, “Holy Jesus, we ask your help for …?”

We speak carefully in our cancel culture. No one will torture and kill us. But we might lose our jobs or good name in society if we, even accidentally, use words that challenge a group or popular values. Outward conformity to our American zeitgeist, our current culture trends, is not threatening. Refusing to go along with popular sentiment puts one at odds with the majority and may land one in court. How much are you willing to speak and live out the Gospel?


Today we call it the Eucharist or Communion. Early Christians celebrated a “love feast.” Critics of Christianity imagined many dreadful goings-on at these feasts. A popular misconception was that Christians who took babies left to die in the elements (a really late-term abortion!) did not care for them as they claimed. No indeed. They cannibalized them at the love feasts. Absurd? What about Pizza-gate’s pedophilia/cannibalism conspiracy theory?

Subtle shifts

We don’t live the way our parents or grandparents lived. We do not share the same views on life because the way we live has changed and so we adjust. Just the brief history I’ve read so far makes me realize that Christians and our orthodox beliefs are challenged by our “free” society. We pay a price for living our beliefs, because that makes others uncomfortable and poses a threat to the status quo, just as in Rome centuries ago.

How brave are you, Christian?


Copyright © 2023 Sue LeDoux

[1] It’s Dangerous to Believe-Religious Freedom and Its Enemies by Mary Eberstadt,Copyright © 2016 by Taberg Productions LLC, Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers