A New Edict of Milan in America

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Tolerance needs to begin with us and we need to start by recognizing that baseless, absurd conclusions with the intent to invoke emotional responses from its target audience is the reason why intolerance begins to take shape in the first place.  I recently ran across an article entitled, “Repealing the Edict of Milan: Obama as the Anti-Constantine,” written by either Ralph H. Sidway or Raymond Ibrahim (it’s not entirely clear which), that indicates Obama is the Anti-Constantine because he, supposedly, refuses to help the Syrian Christians against the horrific persecution they are suffering at the hands of ISIS. The argument made is weak containing unconvincing evidence that is irrelevant or inconclusive, full of emotion, yet; still, it will have no problem appealing to a conservative audience anyway.

This idea that Obama is the Anti-Constantine only adds to the intolerance (the intolerance and disdain Republicans have towards Democrats). It does nothing in the way of offering a real compromising solution so that, perhaps, we really can make a change in the Middle East forward towards a fully realized state of religious tolerance. Secondly, the “Edict of Milan,” while an important concept in the formation of our own country’s ideas towards religious tolerance, did not really exist as a historical event.

There was no real edict made in Milan. What is often referred to as being the “Edict of Milan”, instead, was a letter by the Emperor Licinius distributed to the eastern provinces in 313. Although, Constantine’s name may have been referenced in the letter, it was not written by Constantine. Dr. Timothy Barnes states in his book, “Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire:

“The surviving document often falsely called the ‘Edict of Milan’ is in fact a letter which Licinius sent successively in 313 to the governor of each province of Aisia Minor, the Syrian region and Egypt as they came under his control after he defeated Maximinus.”

In fact, Barnes makes the case that intolerance was nurtured by Constantine in his later reigning years as he consolidated power, as he began to embrace Christianity more fully and as he steered the empire towards a more totalitarianism solution to the problem of governing. So, the premise that Obama is the Anti-Constantine doesn’t make much sense if the intent of “Repealing the Edict of Milan: Obama as the Anti-Constantine” is to prove Obama approves of totalitarianism and intolerance.

How about we make real inroads towards tolerance? For example, let’s respect each other’s politics, quit making inflammatory remarks about the opposition and then sit down at the table and talk about how we can make this world a better place that includes more tolerance (much more tolerance, including the concept that the parties begin to tolerate each other more respectfully than has recently been the case).

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