When Alexander the Great died, his kingdom was divided among his four generals who warred with one another. Smaller cities and nations that got caught in between these larger warring factions had to guess which side would win out and to throw their devotion with that ruler so that they would be seen to have been “on the right side of history” so to speak. If they misjudged and the other side won, they could be killed or ostracized if they didn’t make the switch of loyalties immediately after the regime change to give appearance of long-standing fidelities.
The same thing happened when Roman Caesars would go out and conquer smaller peoples. The same thing happened in the French Revolution when the Ancien Régime was instantly replaced with Equality and Reason – where people were freed against their will. The same thing happened for the people in Hitler’s Nazi Germany and in Italy’s fascism. Not keeping up one’s Nazi magazine subscription, for instance, would warrant a letter saying, “We will keep sending you our Party’s magazine in hopes you will continue your support for die Fürer. We would not want unfortunate circumstance to befall you or your family.”
For Christians particularly this happened during the time of later Roman persecutions. Around the times of Augustine, all Roman citizens were forced to pay homage in Caesar as “kurios” or Lord, which connotated divine titles, by offering incense on a pyre to his name. Calling Caesar “Lord” meant affirming that Jesus was not. Yet, refusal to pay Caesar homage ended with a severed head. However, one could “get on the right side of history” by obtaining a “libelous”, a piece of paper that said one had already paid homage. Many “Christians” ok advantage of this while others said to do so was a denial of Christ by silence. They would neither confess nor deny – they were the silent majority. However, after the persecutions were over and the church reestablished- after the regime changed – many of these “Christians” suddenly wanted to identify publicly with Christ and his church by gathering in worship, having their baptisms validated, and so on. Some groups allowed them back in, while others did not. But the point is that regime-change has always been a test of fidelity, loyalty, and integrity.
And the same thing is happening again today. The Supreme Court recently announced a new regime change and many who have heretofore been silent have come out in timely support of the ruling. How convenient for them suddenly to be on the right side of history the second after it changes. The only difference between all these examples is that while all the previous instances occurred during overt military tyrannies, this one is happening under the banner of freedom, democracy, tolerance, and love. Are you on the right side of tolerance?
For further discussion, check out this list of 40 Question for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. They were tough to answer and I’d love to hear your thoughts.