Sometimes one brings the entire Internet down on one’s head, and then one can only pick through the rubble. Dr. Boli has just done that twice in one week, so there is quite a lot of rubble to sort through.
First, there was the article about slavery. After thousands of words in the article and comments, Dr. Boli has only succeeded in obscuring his thoughts rather than elucidating them. He has seen traffic coming in to that article from what seem to be Southern-apologist sites, which irks him to no end, because he meant it to show why radical abolitionism—a demand that slavery be ended everywhere at once and not simply mitigated here and there—was the only sound intellectual position in the time of Robert E. Lee. When it becomes impossible for even a reasonably good man to act on his better instincts, then it is time to turn the world over and give it a good shake.
Here is what Dr. Boli meant to say: If you think that, in the same situation, you would have been a better person than the average Southern slaveowner, you are deluding yourself. You would have fallen down into the same slough of evil. That’s it. Don’t judge the past from a lofty peak of self-righteousness, and you’ll understand both history and yourself a lot better. You will also understand that the fight against evil did not end with a resounding victory in 1865.
Then there was the question of the cranky Web site that proves, beyond all possibility of doubt, or even of reading to the end of the argument, that the Catholic Church apostatized fifty years ago. This brought up an acrimonious debate on the subject of Church history, which Dr. Boli now feels obliged to sort out. It is worth noting, by the way, that the author of the Web site that started it all responded to being called a “crank” with more charity and civility than the rest of us could muster, which made Dr. Boli a little ashamed of himself.
Here is the history of the Christian Church to Constantine’s time, as Dr. Boli sees it, in one paragraph.
The Christian movement began with Jesus and his small rabble of mostly low-class followers, but already by the Acts of the Apostles we see it grown so large that it needs layers of authority. There were heresies from the beginning, but it was always clear from the numbers alone that they were heresies, and that there was a main stream of Christian thought. In fact, many or even most of the heresies gloried in their exclusivity—they were the chosen few, unlike the rabble who didn’t get it. This was, of course, what led to their ultimate extinction in the Darwinian world of Roman religions: you need the rabble if your religion is going to make it to the big time. So by the time of Constantine, the Christian hierarchy was recognizably similar to what we see in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and similar branches of Christianity today. Constantine made no serious change to the structure of the Church; it had the same leaders before and after his conversion. But he made it a lot richer.
What Constantine did invent was politically weaponized Christianity. The Eastern Church regards him as a saint. The West…well, not necessarily.
Incidentally, the sincerity of Constantine’s conversion is much debated, but Dr. Boli thinks Constantine was absolutely sincere, for the simple reason that he delayed his baptism until he was near death. It would have been trivially easy to have himself very publicly baptized if he thought it was a lot of superstitious nonsense that was demographically useful. But he took the washing away of sins seriously, and he had a lot of sins planned for the future.