Four Reasons Early Christians Were Totally Awesome Punks!

Today is Good Friday. And Easter is this Sunday! The day Jesus Christ rose from the dead! To celebrate this most holy day in the Christian calendar, I’ve compiled four reasons why early Christians were totally awesome and the first punks of history. Learn some history and show some respect to your non-conformist historical brethren. Happy day of resurrection!

Punk Christ and Conformist Pilate
Nikolai Nikolaevich Ge

1. Early Christians helped kickstart feminism.

In ancient societies, women had only one role in society – docile puppets to their husbands. They served as wives and bore children. That’s it. There was no other possibility for a woman. Christianity changed this. Early Christians made it acceptable for women to not get married and have children, to detach themselves from men and simply be “brides of Christ.” It dosen’t seem like a big deal today, but it was revolutionary for gender relations back then because it was the first real alternative lifestyle choice for women. As evidence, consider this passage from The Acts of Paul and Theclea: 

Blessed are the bodies of virgins, for they shall be well-pleasing unto God and shall not lose the reward of their chastity, for the word of the Father shall be unto them a work of salvation in the day of his Son, and they shall have rest world without End.

Do you know how blasphemous this was in its historical context? Not only does it say women could opt to not get married, but it says women are capable of understanding God and doing his work independent from a man (“the word of the Father shall be unto them a work of salvation in the day of his Son”).  This is incredibly progressive for a society that believed women were only good for child bearing.

2. They had really, really weird art projects.

Benito Mussolini said it best — “The history of saints is mainly the history of insane people.” Look no further then the two main architects of Christendom: Jesus Christ and Saint Paul. Jesus was a madman who hung out with prostitutes and other outcasts all day and told them weird stories. Saint Paul was a schizophrenic who, inspired by the freakishness of Jesus Christ, decided to write the bulk of the New Testament — basically the weirdest and most influential philosophical and art project of Western civilization.  Not to mention the best selling book on the planet.

3. They were the first atheists (kind of).

You know how atheists are all smug about their beliefs because they think they’re smarter than the stupid, superstitious theists? That’s how early Christians acted toward their polytheistic contemporaries. Christians were all like, “Stop worshiping the sun, you idiots!” And “WTF are you doing paying homage to stones?” In other words, early Christians were the atheists of their time but instead of screaming “Don’t worship some grey bearded man in the sky,” they were screaming, “Don’t worship that chair, moron.”

4. They were realistic romantics.

Christianity is an incredibly romantic and hopeful religion. This is probably why it’s so popular even to this day, particularly with immigrants in the United States and other impoverished people throughout history. At its core, Christianity holds that human life is sacred and that humans with hope or faith will one day be saved from this storm of violence, disease, and pain that is called life. Of course, early Christians realized that the idea that humanity is good and even worth saving is as unlikely and absurd as their theology. But that didn’t stop them from having hope. As the great theologian Tertullian wrote about a hundred years after Jesus’ death, “The Son of God died: it is immediately credible — because it is absurd. He was buried, and rose again: it is certain — because it is impossible.” TC mark

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  • Ryan O'Connell

    this andrea guy is insane but he probs has a ten inch dick so hey gurl hey!

    • Contra

      I love you O’Connell-clone

  • Anonymous

    You know how Christians are all smug about their beliefs and love alienating people? 

    • JM

      Don’t be racist. 

      • Anonymous

        Creedist*

    • Lawl

      You know how all internet users with the display name Babeniss are females with moustaches?

      :-{D

      • Anonymous

        “Babeniss” is a parody of the White Girl Problems Twitter meme Babe Walker and America’s new obsession with Katniss from “The Hunger Games.” 

        Valiant effort at attacking the looks and psyche of a person you’ve never met or seen via the Internet though. I can only assume you’re super funny in real life, too. 

  • Michaelwg

    “You know how atheists are all smug about their beliefs because they think they’re smarter than the stupid, superstitious theists” I know we don’t put much stock in “beliefs” at all.

  • DJ DINGUS

    Please refrain from using the word “punk” to describe Christianity. You are overlooking many things as you lay out the evidence for your “totally awesome” thesis. First: early Christians “kickstarting feminism” is utter nonsense – just because they were able to opt out of a material marriage, that which is tangible and involves child-rearing, does not mean the early Christians advocated the rights of women. Rather, they flung women into even less fruitful circumstances: marriage to some “transcendental” dead guy. Please ask yourself: what’s more ascetic, being married to a human being or being the bride of a messiah – literally the Platonic Form of patriarchy? I feel you perfectly answer this question when you use the phrase “simply be brides of Christ.” Second: Jews were the first “kind of atheists” – they were the ones to realize how absurd it is to worship the false idols of which you speak. Christianity built upon those ideas. Third: “Realistic romantics”? Absolutely not: they did not have, and still do not have, an idealized version of reality. This life, the one which you and I are currently living, is and has always been simply a stepping stone to another life, a better one, compared to the ‘shite’ of existence. And as for “really weird art projects,” the marginality of Christ’s life and the mental ailments of Saint Paul does not necessarily entail art. As well, the fact that the bible is best-selling certainly does not entail art – do you think Twilight is a “really weird art project”? Don’t use the word “punk” is all I’m trying to say. The existence of the word already defeats its purpose, and articles like this make it even more trite. 

    • Andrea

      Love the phrase: “Platonic form patriarchy.” And yes, Twilight is a very weird art project.  

  • Lee

    I was expected this to be valid — but it is not.
    Christianity did nothing for feminism! And continues to do nothing for women, in general!

    • Andrea

      Good point.  You changed my mind about this completely.   Christianity has done absolutely nothing for feminism ever! 

      • http://christophermluna.com Christopher Michael Luna

        I’m all down with the tenuous evidence that we have that suggests that early Christianity did provide empowering alternatives for women.

        Calling that kick-starting feminism is kind of ridiculous, though. I mean, look at Jerome’s letter to Eustochium, for example, where one of the great sufferings that Christ endures is described as a kind of horrifying imprisonment in the necessities of childbirth:

        “For our salvation the Son of God is made the Son of Man. Nine months He awaits His birth in the womb, undergoes the most revolting conditions, and comes forth covered with blood, to be swathed in rags and covered with caresses. He who shuts up the world in His fist is contained in the narrow limits of a manger.”

        Jerome (translator of the Vulgate, right, pretty important in the early church) may be a particularly repugnant example, but we wouldn’t have to search very far in Tertullian or the desert fathers to find examples of the female body and mind identified as a kind of spiritual cesspool, and I’d say that’s the rule rather than the exception for the better part of Christian history. For discussions of the medieval period, we could look to Amy Hollywood’s discussion of the way that male hagiographers transformed the experiences of medieval Christian women in order to present them as more vulnerable, less rational, than their male contemplative counterparts, and my readings of Luther, Calvin, Erasmus, the fast preachers of the English Civil War, etc., give me fair confidence that this position extends throughout the Reformation and much of the pre-modern period at least.

        So, I get what you mean, and while I can take seriously your post-script that “it’s better to present ideas in bold strokes than to be wishy-washy about it,” I’m not so sure it’s better to overstate your case so profoundly, even in the service of humor, when this is obviously a continually touchy subject to American readers who are inundated on a daily basis by contemporary Christian fundamentalists who use bad theology to attempt to erode women’s rights.

      • ANDREA

        Thanks for the great comment. And 1 Timothy is extremely misogynistic and the whole Christian tradition is generally speaking – no doubt.  But on a more particular level, it hard to deny  there were certain segments in early Christian communities (as represented by Thecla and Perpetua and maybe even Jesus) that respected women in radical ways given their time. They were definitely stifled though as the church became more organized and political.  Provoking point re: oversimplification. 

      • http://christophermluna.com Christopher Michael Luna

        From what I remember of Paul and Thecla (it’s been three years since I read it), the story has all the components of a story that uses Thecla to prove Paul’s superiority over Thamyris. Thecla achieves whatever spiritual currency she does by throwing herself on Paul, not sexually, but in a way that is at least highly sexualized by the author. If memory serves, then, the story can be read almost as easily as a story of the competing masculinity of the Christian Paul versus the non-Christian Thamyris, playing as it does with Roman conceptions and portrayals of masculinity to show the Christian male ascetic as ultimately superior.

        Jesus is an interesting example, sure, but our best evidence about early Christian practice, rather than early Christian stories, comes from Paul et. al, not from the Gospels; and in the Epistles, efforts are already underway to provide an interpretive framework that would, I don’t know– soften– some of the more radical elements of Jesus’s teachings as they appear in the Gospels. This is understandable, because there’s a lot in Jesus’s absolutism that seems to chafe against Paul’s desire to build sustainable community.

        I think the best argument you can make here is that, even if a text like Paul and Thecla is ultimately about competing masculinities, women could have and did latch on to the female protagonists and interpret them in ways that men (Tertullian, for example) neither expected nor fully approved of. But in that case, it’s hard to make a fair comparison of what “Christianity” did for women against the classical world. Because we do have examples in the Roman world of ways that clever, resourceful women were able to turn discourses to their service in unexpected ways.

        It seems like a wash to me.

      • Andrea

        Good points. 

        Though Paul comes off like a piece of shit in the story.  Thecla comes off like a God.  Give it a read again. Paul is completely emasculated by Thecla.  

  • Bernie

    Loved this so much. I know it’s oversimplified like crazy but I enjoyed your humor. Especially, “stop worshiping the sun, you idiots!” hahaha! Thanks for this!

    • Jill

      I agree too. This was really refreshing!

  • Androgynoise

    Your knowledge of (ancient) history, prehistory and ethnography is astoundingly vacuous. The ‘feminist’ lifestyle of an Anchoress which you praise commonly lead to insanity through ascetic starvation and a morbid sexualised obsession with the imagined flesh of Christ (see works by Roberta Gilchrist). BTW, other reasons why Christianity is big with impoverished people and immigrants to the US include Western Colonialism and the Inquisition. Basically, fuck this propaganda. 

    • RASH

      Are you saying immigrants are too stupid to decide for themselves what to believe? 

      • http://nonegenuine.blogspot.com/ Scott

         isn’t everyone?

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  • Axel O

    I’m religious and this made me laugh. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Maybe people should stop being so uptight about everything.

  • Sara

    I enjoyed this. Nice write up in my opinion.
    It’s always weird to me that on any other topic this kind of referencing would be fine but because it’s about religion people love to throw stones and scream false.

  • guest

    I think you’re missing out on some of the pagan women philosophers like Hypatia who had so much power (wasn’t forced to marry, had the chance to study and teach) until the Christians took over and stoned her to death because she was a woman. 

    • Sambodeen

      True. But this article is specifically about early Christains, by the time they “took over” many of their ideals were corrupted.

  • Sophia

    I found this super refreshing. Loved it, especially this weekend. Thanks!

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