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.



  1. Anonymous says:

    I hope that Dr. Boli continues to enlighten us with the wisdom gained from 200 years experience, and I trust he is handsomely rewarding his secretaries for filling in the missing words.

    If he has, in some small way, shaken up part of the Internet and brought it crashing down on his head, still what is unshakeable will remain, after the rubble is cleared.

    I don’t doubt Constantine took the Christian Faith seriously, factually at least, for the reason Dr. Boli pointed out. But did he sincerely honor Christ as his Lord if he wanted to postpone repentance till the end of his life? And I would say the same thing about the slave-owners.

    But we all suffer from the same reluctance to purge evil from our lives, which is what Dr. Boli has been at pains to point out, if he is even capable of pain anymore.

    But if it’s true that God brought Nebuchadnezzar to see the light, there is hope for Constantine yet.

  2. Anonymous says:

    American slavery not only enslaved the Southern masters, as Dr. Boli said, but it enslaved the North as well. Abraham Lincoln, who believed slavery was evil, could not even declare this straightforwardly in his first inaugural address, for the sake of averting war. That is the cruel moral dilemma that the institution of slavery put him into, as it did to many politicians of the day.

    This is why Lincoln is reluctant to judge in his second inaugural address. The war was God’s punishment upon both North and South, because everyone was complicit in the web of evil.

    A few cranks like John Brown, who renounced slavery altogether, fell instead into the trap of violent rebellion against the government.

    In short, it was a system that left people the freedom to do evil, but little freedom to do good. The Southern states were fighting for the right to remain in bondage to moral corruption. Yet in God’s Providence, as Lincoln said, this brought about a quicker end to slavery than anyone anticipated (though much racism remained).

    The proper response was one of humility: “With malice toward none, with charity toward all…” If only we took Lincoln seriously enough to implement this.

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