Tacitus’ Account of the Great Fire of Rome
In the year 64 AD, a great fire swept through the city of Rome, beginning in the merchant shops near the Circus Maximus and burning for over a week. The city’s inhabitants at that time lived in mostly wooden houses and shacks, which were easily consumed by the flames. When the fire was finally extinguished, two-thirds of the city had been destroyed.
Roman historian Tacitus wrote that the emperor at the time, Nero, was at Antium on the coast when the fire began. Rumors began to spread that while the fire was raging, Nero had been seen performing on a stage in a private home, singing of the fall and destruction of Troy, leading to the origin of the saying “Fiddling while Rome burns.” People even believed that Nero had deliberately started the fire so that he could rebuild Rome as a glorious new city and name it after himself.
Tacitus reported that Nero was disturbed by the widespread belief that the fire had been started on his orders, so he chose the Christians to blame as scapegoats, thus commencing the Roman Empire’s first of many persecutions against them. Christians were seized, tortured into confessing, and then subjected to various forms of punishment, such as being torn to pieces by dogs, crucified, burned alive, or used as human torches at night.
Modern Law Enforcement Agencies Blaming Christians
Fast forward some 2,000 years and history seems to have come full circle, with law enforcement agencies seemingly channelling Nero and blaming Christians, or Christianity, for criminal activity. On February 16, Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford declared that the deadly ambush that led to the execution-style murders of two police officers and a civilian on a remote property last December was an act of domestic terrorism linked to the Christian fundamentalist belief system known as pre-millennialism.
Linford added that the three Train family members who perpetrated the shooting were an “autonomous cell” that was “religiously motivated.” This conclusion, however, is the result of a severe lack of understanding of the fundamental tenets of Christianity. Remember the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”? What about the teachings of Jesus Christ, who told us to love thy neighbour as thyself and to turn the other cheek? Even as he was being crucified, Christ said: “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.” What was perpetrated at Wieambilla could be nothing further from core Christian beliefs.
Christians believe that, at the end of time, Christ will come again and undertake the final and eternal judgment of all humanity—as told by Christ Himself in Chapter 25 of St Matthew’s Gospel and so beautifully depicted by Michelangelo on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. However, “premillennialism” is an interpretation of Christ’s return, but reminiscent of any number of death cults that have sprung up over the years, which, of course, are the antithesis of the Christian message.
This is nothing more than a cheap shot by the Queensland Police. Blame the Christians, now! This is sadly a reflection of the constant attack on Christians in our culture, whipped up by a very hostile media. Just last month, the editor-in-chief of the West Australian newspaper, Anthony De Ceglie, described Christians in the Liberal Party as “bible-bashers and happy clappers, increasingly out of touch with secular, modern Australia.”
Of course, modern Australia was built on Christian values of tolerance, respect, and equality before the law, but that is an argument for another day! However, the “blame the Christians” approach seems to be a go-to for law enforcement agencies.
Fringe Extremists Don’t Represent Christianity as a Whole
Late last year, the Australian Christian Lobby was listed among 20 groups identified as far-right hate and extremism groups, in a report by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. And just last month, a bombshell FBI memo was released by whistleblower Kyle Seraphin, which sparked outrage among Catholics and other groups concerned about religious freedom. The report, written by an FBI analyst in Richmond, Virginia, published for internal agency use only on Jan. 23, is titled, “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.” It stated that “Radical Traditionalist Catholic Ideology” is a magnet for “violent extremists.” The memo mentioned the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, a religious order, which celebrates the traditional form of the Catholic Mass.
As reported in LifeSite News, the Catholic Bishop of Richmond Barry Knestout blasted the FBI in a statement. “The leaked document should be troubling and offensive to all communities of faith, as well as all Americans,” Knestout declared. “[If] evidence of extremism exists, it should be rooted out, but not at the expense of religious freedom. A preference for traditional forms of worship and holding closely to the Church’s teachings on marriage, family, human sexuality, and the dignity of the human person does not equate with extremism.”
And that is the point. The actions of a crazed few should not be used to demonise Christianity generally. Remember how, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, seemingly every politician under the sun rushed to reassure us that we should not tar all the followers of Islam with the same extremist brush? Indeed, ASIO Chief Mike Burgess in March 2021 advised that the agency would no longer refer to “Islamic terrorism.” “We don’t investigate people because of their religious views—it’s violence that is relevant to our powers—but that’s not always clear when we use the term ‘Islamic extremism,’” he said. “Understandably, some Muslim groups—and others—see this term as damaging and misrepresentative of Islam, and consider that it stigmatises them by encouraging stereotyping and stoking division.”
Why, then, can’t the same approach be applied