Discussion: Christianity in Roman Culture
Roman culture had a very high level of development influenced by religion. Even though many different religions coexisted in Roman culture, Christians were persecuted.
Christianity in the Roman Empire did not have a stable status; it was officially considered to be an “unauthorized religion”, which theoretically put outright supporters outside the law (Schaefer, 2005).
The history of the relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity supporters on its territory was a complex set of theological, legal, religious and historical issues. These complex issues are analyzed in great detail in the prominent work of Schaefer (2005), titled How Should We Then Live, which also serves as the foundation of this discussion.
One of the reasons why Christianity was not tolerated was incompatibility of the Christian worldview with the Roman beliefs (Schaefer, 2005). During the early years of Roman Empire, Christianity stood in stark contrast with the Roman Empire values, paving the way for long-term conflict between Rome and the Jews.
During later periods, the Christian church became one of the social movements, on which various political forces could rely; at the same time, the church was subject to prosecution for political reasons (Schaefer, 2005). Tolerance of the Romans of other religions and traditions on the territory of the empire was only possible if the institutions recognized the Roman power, which acted through Roman religion and authorities.
The State, as the bearer of tradition, principles of law and justice, was considered by the Romans as the most important matter. Serving the State was perceived as the meaning of human life and one of the most important virtues. Obviously, Christianity did not conform to such values and did not obey the requirements of the Roman state.
In sum, Roman culture tolerated only those religions that recognized the power of the Roman State. Christians had been persecuted because of political and religious reasons. The values of Roman religion and Christianity were different. Furthermore, the Christians did not adhere to the Roman requirements and values. Finally, there were ongoing conflicts between the Jews and the Romans, represented by social movements related to the Christian church.
Schaefer, A. F. (2005). How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought
and Culture. New York, NY: Crossway.