bread and circuses

The Ancient Civilization’s ruling classes figured out the formula for management of the masses.  The concept has been stylized as bread and circuses.  It comes from a phrase “panem et circenses” which really means “bread and games.”  If they start to get hungry open up the States storehouses of grain and if they get restless make sure there is some entertainment like gladiator games.  Ancient ruins show the absolute strategic place that religion had as a unifying theme for the establishment.  There is a place for every kind of worship and the only religion that would be proscribed was one that claimed that their religion was superior to any others, which caused Christianity immediately to be suspect as it moved into areas like what is modern day Turkey.  Stadiums and coliseums were even in modest cities.  Theaters were very popular and even Jesus refers to them.  He called the Pharisees “hypocrites” which means “actor”.

The idea of sexual freedom was also important because it could even combine worship and the public good.  Bacchus, Dionysus, and other Greek and Roman deities, were celebrated and worshiped by orgies.  Ruling classes saw all of these as a whole to control masses of human beings and “keep them in line”.  Pergamum had a temple on every street corner and many theaters and stadiums and was awash in Greek and Roman culture.  The church at Pergamum was being warned to watch out for those who called for accommodation and compromise.  Remember the Roman powers that be would allow you to do just about anything if you offered a sacrifice to the emperor now and again.

Accommodation and compromise was being called for by some.  Nothing wrong with a little trip to the local temple prostitute if everyone is doing it and the Christian ideal is eccentric and strange.  Nothing wrong with the town celebrations and offering to idols and the ecumenical prayers, after all we know what we believe right?  Why needlessly offend pagans if we can go along a little bit to get along?  Ultimately the question comes more forcefully – what makes you Christians think that you have the monopoly on the truth?

Revelation answers those questions by calling the churches tempted to be tolerant of all the aberrant behavior that is authored by the world to repent and realize that the “Crucified Warrior of the Church”* will topple the citadels of the devil that exist in places like Pergamum.  He will do it with the sharp two edged sword that comes from His mouth and the One who is the truth will vindicate the truth.

*Martin Franzmann