1700 Years ago, Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity, ending Roman persecution of the followers of Jesus and setting the stage for the ascendancy of Western Christendom, which is now in its waning centuries.
Benjamin Wiker has written an interesting article, Constantine's Gift to Christianity. He banishes romantic notions of “pure” Christianity before The Way became The Church:
Christians were stripped and flogged with whips, put on the rack, scraped with iron combs used to card wool, and had salt and vinegar poured over their fresh wounds; they were slowly roasted to death over fires individually or thrown on great piles to be burned alive en masse (an entire town in Phrygia—men, women, and children—was set on fire by soldiers); they were strangled or run through with swords; they were tied hand and foot, put into boats, and once pushed out to sea, drowned; they were jailed, and then led into the arena to be torn to pieces by panthers, bears, boars, and bulls; they had their skin torn bit by bit with pottery shards, or they were decapitated; women were stripped and hung upside down for public humiliation, and sometimes believers were hung this way over a fire so as to be choked by the smoke; Christians had their limbs tied to trees that were bent down and then let snap, tearing their legs or arms from their bodies; sharp reeds were driven under fingernails, molten lead was poured down backs, genitals horribly mutilated, eyes gouged out and cauterized with a hot iron, and the list goes on. (Constantine's Gift to Christianity)Christianity transformed the Roman Empire and shaped our Western Civilization
To take some poignant examples, the pagan Roman culture happily affirmed contraception, abortion, infanticide, suicide, homosexuality, homosexual marriage, euthanasia, pornography, prostitution, concubinage, divorce, pederasty, and the mass killing of human beings for entertainment in gladiatorial combat.
Life drastically improved for the followers of Christ once Christianity became the religion of the empire...
Once the emperors became Christian, both the Church and the Christian imperium engaged in the moral transformation of pagan society, and the Christian moral understanding was incorporated into law in the various imperial codes. And also, quite unlike Rome, both the Church and Christian state began to care for the poor and destitute, the widows and orphans. (Constantine's Gift to Christianity)
And we are all better off for it, but somewhere along the way we ceased forward progress. We are now slipping back into paganism, with Christianity moribund on the continent of Europe and no longer holding the sway it once did in the United States…
What we notice, in the list of evils smiled upon by pagan Rome and rejected by Christendom, is that so many of them have returned today. In many respects—with our contemporary affirmation of contraception, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and so on—Christians find themselves in a society not very much different from the one in which, prior to Constantine’s conversion, Christians were so severely persecuted. (Constantine's Gift to Christianity)
I don't see Christian persecution in our future, just mocking ridicule, stigmatization and ostracizing of the dwindling band of the faithful.
But the main thrust of the article is a treatment of the pros and cons of Church-State relations. Holy Empires and Official State Religions have proven detrimental to both Church and State, but having some state protection of all religions, as we have in the US, seems to be the sweet spot. Will such constitutional protections endure? I'm doubtful.
Constantine’s Gift to Christianity is a thought-provoking article and well worth the read.