Monday, October 18, 2010

Belief Systems

Following the power vacuum that Roman withdrawal generated, local "kingdoms" emerged that patterned closely to those of the pre-Roman tribal groups. These kingdoms were essentially a return to the Celtic tribal system with distinctive leaders identified. Oral traditions were again brought to life by these rulers who wanted their name and accomplishments remembered. The positions of poet and bard returned to the forefront.

It took about 200 years for the dust to finally settle, and for folks to start writing down their stories. Gildas (ca.494-570 AD)was the first to record post-Roman history, and had a few strong opinions about what had just happened to the people of Briton. His book De Excido et Conquestu Britanniae had some pretty harsh words regarding the leadership left after the Roman withdrawal. To understand his writing it is helpful to describe the context of his environment and its own evolution.

As discussed before, Christianity came to the island as a result of persecution. This same persecution had help spread Christianity to Asia Minor, Italy, and Africa. By the time Christianity became the state religion, there were different views and opinions on how to live this Christian faith. In the Egyptian desert, individuals saw self-denial and spiritual asceticism (the practice of strict self-denial) as the highest Christian ideal of right behavior. This was often done in isolation from the world. (hermits and monks) On the other hand, prosperous Christian communities needed to develop activities surrounding large gatherings. These involved activities such as singing, preaching, sharing life experiences, and eating together. These larger groups also needed organization, leadership, direction and a shared belief system. This was to develop into the organized church and its traditions centered at the city of Rome. Thus, by the time the Roman empire had collapsed, Christianity had grown and branched into two major belief systems. More to come!

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