Dan Popp
Christians at the altar of Jupiter
By Dan Popp
March 3, 2014

Now if you are ready...to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands? – Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:15, NAS95)

There's nothing "progressive" or new about the state demanding that all bow down to it, or else. That's as old as Babylon. Christianity was born into persecution because it was born into part of the pagan Roman Empire. And while truth will at least sometimes tolerate those who are in error, those in error seldom allow the truth free expression.

The trouble with the first-century followers of Jesus, you see, was that they just wouldn't go along with the Roman Diversity program. Then, as now, you were welcome to worship the god or gods of your choice – as long as you also worshiped the state gods. To refuse this reasonable accommodation was tantamount to a confession of treason; if you were loyal to the Empire, why not just do a little make-believe bow to Caesar and go on your way?

Early Christians were imprisoned, tortured and killed because they would not simply throw a few grains of incense on the altar of Jupiter and swear to the genius of Caesar.

A word about these:

If any supreme god you happen to prefer is equivalent to the real God, then these Christians died for nothing – no, worse than that, they were false witnesses in their deaths. Ignorant people today still say that Jews, Christians and Muslims "worship the same God." Of course the YHWH revealed in the Bible has a different name, a different origin, different scriptures, a different character, different doctrines and different requirements than Allah. But except for being totally different, they're exactly the same.

The Greek philosophers had already said that whichever is the boss of the gods (maybe we could call him the "godfather") is the One God, since the other, lesser gods had to serve him. So the more forward-thinking pagans were already endorsing a kind of monotheism. Now, if there is only one "God of gods," and if any name for this God is as good as another, then the name Jupiter would serve just as well as the name Jehovah. There would've been no harm in worshiping Jupiter, since that's just another way of saying "God."

My brothers and sisters in the first few centuries died to attest that this is a lie.

But now to the point that touches us more closely. We use the word "genius" to mean "a smart person." But genius is the word from which genie comes. Each human was believed to have a genius – what Christians would call a demon – assigned to him at birth. Each nation was thought to have a genius as well. So the "genius of Caesar" was not a compliment about his brainpower; it was a reference to a spiritual entity that was supposed to inspire and guide him.

By the way, the "guardian angel" idea probably owes more to this pagan concept of individual, generative spirits than it does to the Bible. I'm just saying.

The god(s) of Rome, the state of Rome and the emperor of Rome were bound together in the political religion of Rome. Not to swear to Caesar's genius meant that you weren't a true patriot. The God-Man Jesus couldn't be allowed to take the throne of the man-god, Caesar. This would be anarchy and wickedness.

This deification of the state as personified by the Head of State explains the left's contempt for Christianity today. Barack Obama is lord, and anyone who claims to have a higher Lord is not One of Us. Many believe that this President is imbued with a special animating spirit worthy of our obedience and reverence. He is the Chosen, the Anointed, the Special – in Jewish and Christian terms, the Messiah. Anyone who points out his many failures is persecuting the One Hope for the World.

As it was 2,000 years ago, the Christian is seen as a traitor and a blasphemer. His religion is intolerant; therefore it shall not be tolerated. Such an apostate to the state religion is a pebble in the sandal of humanity, a monkey wrench in the machinery of Progress. He is an enemy of the Common Good.

Christians shed their blood in the Roman Empire to testify to the fact that Caesar is not God; that the state is not God; that society is not God; that only YHWH is God; and that only Christ can reconcile us to God. Their allegiance was to the Creator first, Country maybe about third or fourth. This is not a threat to the proper power of government; that is, to a "nation under God." But it is a grave danger to the nation-as-God.

Do we see things as clearly as they did?

Anyone who still thinks that the US has a "secular" government should ask why it so closely resembles the god-man-state of the crumbling Roman Empire. Why is any criticism of President Obama seen as an affront to morality itself, and any concern about government overreach a ploy to take food out of the mouths of widows and orphans – as if there were no possible religion but the state religion? And of course, if the government has no reference to religion, why doesn't it allow Christians to practice our religion in peace?

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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