IN THE SECOND century, Jesus’ followers were not a reputable bunch. Most people had probably never heard of Christians, but some knew the rumors: They worshipped a crucified criminal, ate flesh and blood, and obstinately refused to sacrifice to the gods. And they were notorious for hanging around prisons.
This is partly because many early Christians ended up in prison themselves. Jesus did. Peter did. Paul did. Ignatius of Antioch did.
But Christians were also known for showing up at prisons voluntarily. In one of the earliest surviving references to the Christian movement by an outsider, the second-century writer Lucian, who thought followers of Christ were laughably ignorant and naive, mocks them for the support they gave an imprisoned Christian leader named Peregrinus. Lucian describes widows and orphans loitering around the prison while their leaders bribe the jailers to get inside, bringing Peregrinus food and encouraging him with the scriptures. “It’s incredible how quickly they respond in such situations,” he remarks. “They get to work immediately, and spare nothing.”
Last night, death was interrupted when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for a Texas man convicted of a double murder in Houston in 1995.
Duane Buck was set for execution by lethal injection sometime after 6 p.m., Thursday September 15 in Huntsville, Texas. His execution would have been the second this week and the 11th so far this year in Texas alone. Two more executions are scheduled for next week.
This past weekend, Christians around the world celebrated one of our holiest holi-days: Pentecost. Pentecost, which means "50 days," is celebrated seven weeks after Easter (hence the 50), and marks the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit is said to have fallen on the early Christian community like fire from the heavens. (For this reason, lots of Christians wear red and decorate in pyro-colors. This day is also where the fiery Pentecostal movement draws its name).
But what does Pentecost Sunday have to do with just another manic Monday?
What does a religious event a couple of thousand years old have to offer the contemporary, pluralistic, post-Christian world we live in? I'd say a whole lot. Here's why:
Let me start by confessing my bias. Not only am I a Christian, but I am a Christian who likes fire. I went to circus school and became a fire-swallowing, fire-breathing, torch-juggling-pyro-maniac as you'll see here. So naturally, I like Pentecost.