Christianity and Feudalism

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Christianity and Feudalism

#1  Postby Clive Durdle » May 02, 2015 4:09 pm

Read a fascinating comment in Norman Gear The Divine Demon, that xianity is actually the religion of feudalism, and its high point was under the Sun King, with the French Revolution as the beginning of its end.

I thought that was a fascinating way to categorise religions, as core parts of political structures.
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#2  Postby iskander » May 02, 2015 9:18 pm

I have never thought of Christianity as "the religion of feudalism" , nor can I imagine what the author is meaning by that phrase .

Why does the author believe that "Christianity is actually the religion of feudalism?
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#3  Postby Clive Durdle » May 02, 2015 9:55 pm

Think about it - it really took off from the 300's with the late Roman Empire and started falling apart with the renaissance. And what was the core religious structure over that period?
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#4  Postby Clive Durdle » May 02, 2015 9:58 pm

This page is primarily about the classic, or medieval, Western European form of feudalism. For feudalism as practiced in other societies, as well as that of the Europeans, see Examples of feudalism.
Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.

Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief),[1] then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Middle Ages. In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944),[2] feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.[2]

A broader definition of feudalism, as described by Marc Bloch (1939), includes not only the obligations of the warrior nobility but those of all three estates of the realm: the nobility, the clergy, and the peasantry bound by manorialism; this is sometimes referred to as a "feudal society". Since the publication of Elizabeth A. R. Brown's "The Tyranny of a Construct" (1974) and Susan Reynolds's Fiefs and Vassals (1994), there has been ongoing inconclusive discussion among medieval historians as to whether feudalism is a useful construct for understanding medieval society.[3][4][5][6][7]


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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#5  Postby Varangian » May 02, 2015 10:49 pm

When Sweden became a Christian nation about 1000 years ago, this newfangled religion which gave rulers celestial backing was quickly picked up by the ruling elite. Religion is a way to control society, and to be the people controlling it. Small wonder second sons of rulers went to be clergymen.
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#6  Postby igorfrankensteen » May 03, 2015 12:38 am

I suggest an additional viewpoint:

religions AND government systems, are both attempts to solve problems. Everything is sourced from people, and whether you talk about architectural styles, or communications technology, or social customs, pretty much EVERYTHING is someone's idea of how to deal with their lives.

When looking at religion and government, there is some "chicken or the egg" stuff going on, as well as plenty of lying. Today too, people feign religious motivations in order to do everything from separate fools from their money, to building empires.

The Roman Empire and Christianity is an interesting story for another reason, which also may relate to the modern middle east. After the formal structure of the empire's government fell into disarray, the religious leadership gradually split off from the government, pretty much by accident of conquest. The Emperor in the East, declared the remaining leader of the Christian church in the West, to be the new Western Roman Emperor, even though the guy had zero political or military power to back it up. It was a farce in one way, and a political snub against the various usurping groups (Franks, Vandals and so on) at the same time. The Pope became the Western Roman Emperor without an Empire.

Feudalism is a term referring to the fragmented attempts to assemble an ordered world in that post Imperial time. it wasn't something which the peoples' of the time CHOSE to put into place, it was more of an organically evolved result of the inability of anyone at the time, to build a large scale state or imperial government. And as always, religion was utilized by those trying to keep order (for whatever reason they wanted to do so). As always as well, religion adapted to the times and the place it was practiced, even as it was used to try to get the people of the time to adapt and cooperate more inexpensively with the prevailing power brokers.

To put it at in the simplest terms...

the fact that you pound in a nail with a barbell (because it's handy) doesn't mean that the barbell was designed as a hammer.
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#7  Postby Oldskeptic » May 03, 2015 7:07 am

Clive Durdle wrote:Think about it - it really took off from the 300's with the late Roman Empire and started falling apart with the renaissance. And what was the core religious structure over that period?


Correlation is not causation.
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#8  Postby Blackadder » May 03, 2015 7:40 am

Clive Durdle wrote:Read a fascinating comment in Norman Gear The Divine Demon, that xianity is actually the religion of feudalism, and its high point was under the Sun King, with the French Revolution as the beginning of its end.

I thought that was a fascinating way to categorise religions, as core parts of political structures.


By that token, Christianity is also the religion of the Industrial Revolution. As others have pointed out, correlation =/= causation.
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#9  Postby Clive Durdle » May 03, 2015 9:43 am

I thought Weber had shown that sect of xianity, Protestantism was the religion of the Industrial Revolution!
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#10  Postby Zwaarddijk » May 03, 2015 10:17 am

One should also look at Christianity outside of Europe - did Christianity in Ethiopia have tendencies similar to European feudalism? Did Syriac Christianity have such tendencies until it was eclipsed by Islam? Did whatever groups of Christianity that managed to organize their own affairs in some regions in the Islamic world develop more feudalist traits than their surrounding societies?
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#11  Postby Clive Durdle » May 03, 2015 10:36 am


Another classification is by religions. The true Ethiopian, as already said, is Christian. But some of the Gallas have been at least nominally converted to Christianity. In all, the Christians probably account for nearly one-half of the population. Three-eighths are Moslems, residing in the east and southeast. In addition there are the Falasha -- the Jews of Ethiopia -- estimated to number between one and two hundred thousand; their Judaism is much corrupted and they are ignorant of the Hebrew language. The rest of the population are pagans.

The Christians belong to the Coptic Church and are consequently of the monophysite faith. Ethiopia's isolation from the rest of the Christian world has naturally led to a considerable barbarization of dogma and ritual. At the head of the church is the Aboona who is appointed by the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria and is always an Egyptian. The Emperor would very much like to have a native in this post, but traditions are hard to break in Ethiopia and the best that he has been able to obtain is the creation of several native bishops, to serve as coadjutors to the Aboona. The monastic orders are under the particular supervision of the Etcheghé, who unlike the Aboona is an Ethiopian and thus likely to stand closer to the Emperor than his Egyptian rival.

The clergy are very numerous, some writers going so far as to place them at one-third of the adult population. This is undoubtedly an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that in stagnant societies (e.g. in Tibet) the number of persons seeking refuge in the ecclesiastical life is out of all proportion to the needs of the church. The Ethiopian clergy have managed to get into their possession a large part of the land. Add to this the fact that they are ignorant and superstitious, and we can understand what an enormous conservative force they represent.


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https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles ... d-her-army
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#12  Postby iskander » May 03, 2015 11:19 am

It is very difficult for me to comment on a book that I haven't read, so I won't .

In general , every generation believes that their religion is the one best suited to the social conditions prevalent in their time , if that particular religion is to survive and be transmitted to the next generation.Christianity must have been seen as the religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine, The religion of the invaders later, the religion of the Holy Empire by Charlemagne ... the religion of the Industrial Revolution. This also applies to other religions .

When a generation believes that any given religion no longer is the one best suited to the existing social conditions , then that religion is weakened by theological and political strife.

The reformation was one such a time when society saw permanence as an inferior choice. One might say that the reformers understood the reformation as an agent for change. How far to travel along that road was the answer that divided them .

Zwingli shared in Erasmus’s belief that God intended Christianity to be an engine of change and improvement in human society


Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#13  Postby Nicko » May 03, 2015 12:19 pm

Clive Durdle wrote:Read a fascinating comment in Norman Gear The Divine Demon, that xianity is actually the religion of feudalism, and its high point was under the Sun King, with the French Revolution as the beginning of its end.

I thought that was a fascinating way to categorise religions, as core parts of political structures.


Except of course that pesky problem that the early Christian church was seen as anathema to any political structure dependent upon violence due to its pacifism. Becoming the state religion of the late Roman Empire changed Christianity a hell of a lot more than Christianity changed the Empire.

I would seem far more accurate to me to say that the RCC looks and behaves the way it does because it developed in early Medieval Europe. Just as various Protestant strains look and behave the way they do because they developed in Renaissance Europe. Just as modern "megachurches" look and behave the way they do because they developed in late 20th/early 21st century America.

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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#14  Postby Zwaarddijk » May 03, 2015 12:47 pm

Clive Durdle wrote:

Another classification is by religions. The true Ethiopian, as already said, is Christian. But some of the Gallas have been at least nominally converted to Christianity. In all, the Christians probably account for nearly one-half of the population. Three-eighths are Moslems, residing in the east and southeast. In addition there are the Falasha -- the Jews of Ethiopia -- estimated to number between one and two hundred thousand; their Judaism is much corrupted and they are ignorant of the Hebrew language. The rest of the population are pagans.

The Christians belong to the Coptic Church and are consequently of the monophysite faith. Ethiopia's isolation from the rest of the Christian world has naturally led to a considerable barbarization of dogma and ritual. At the head of the church is the Aboona who is appointed by the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria and is always an Egyptian. The Emperor would very much like to have a native in this post, but traditions are hard to break in Ethiopia and the best that he has been able to obtain is the creation of several native bishops, to serve as coadjutors to the Aboona. The monastic orders are under the particular supervision of the Etcheghé, who unlike the Aboona is an Ethiopian and thus likely to stand closer to the Emperor than his Egyptian rival.

The clergy are very numerous, some writers going so far as to place them at one-third of the adult population. This is undoubtedly an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that in stagnant societies (e.g. in Tibet) the number of persons seeking refuge in the ecclesiastical life is out of all proportion to the needs of the church. The Ethiopian clergy have managed to get into their possession a large part of the land. Add to this the fact that they are ignorant and superstitious, and we can understand what an enormous conservative force they represent.


1935

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles ... d-her-army

Next relevant question: How does/did Ethiopia compare to other nearby non-Christian countries?
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#15  Postby nunnington » May 03, 2015 2:16 pm

You could argue that the feudal era was the peak of Christianity, but I think the various bourgeois revolutions led to new forms, e.g. nonconformism. Thus, Cromwell harnessed religion to his cause. There were later Christian developments, e.g. evangelicalism, which gripped part of the Victorian middle class, see for example, Middlemarch for a view of that by an atheist (Eliot). And surely, in the US, Christianity has been an important middle-class identity.
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#16  Postby iskander » May 03, 2015 5:27 pm

Clive Durdle wrote:Think about it - it really took off from the 300's with the late Roman Empire and started falling apart with the renaissance. And what was the core religious structure over that period?


I have been thinking about it and this is it:

Charlemagne made the pope the “emperor maker”; after the coronation the emperor owed the crown to the pope and every emperor after that will have to ask the pope to crown him.

The Church became the master and the Emperor the servant. The Emperor became a Patrician of the Romans, a title which obligated the holder to defend and protect the Roman Church as rex et sacerdos .

There was an almost continual tension between the vassal kings of Europe and the Pope of Rome. This struggle for wealth and political power between the pope and the European kingdoms proved a bad thing for Europe; the pope used armies, excommunication, interdiction, inquisition, burning of dissenters and heretics, papal crusades, and above all he used his God-given power to threaten his enemies with eternal hellfire to maintain his wealth and power.

I therefore place the beginning of religious feudalism at the Coronation of Charlemagne.

When did religious feudalism terminate?
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#17  Postby igorfrankensteen » May 03, 2015 5:53 pm

Another interesting aspect of the story of religions, especially Christianity, is that it has been a religion of rebellion, as much as it has been a religion of conformity and control. Often simultaneously.

In order to utilize it to try to give additional control of the populace to the king or emperor or other local ruler, the ruler often had to adjust their behaviors and methods to make their claim to represent the religion to the people, stick. This was true for all religions which were utilized by governments.

I have not read this particular book, and I am unlikely to. Not because of any adverse prejudice I have about it, rather simply because of time and monetary constraints. I do have concerns about HOW it proposes that feudal times were the "peak of Christianity." In addition to the debatability of what "peak" means, I would hope that it might go into the evolution of HOW religion was used by governments, and more importantly, how the exact mechanisms of using religion in government, demonstrated whether it was Christianity that was at peak power or influence, or it was the concept of religious leaders as secular leadership, that was at it's peak then.
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#18  Postby Clive Durdle » May 03, 2015 7:33 pm

French Revolution?
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#19  Postby Nicko » May 04, 2015 10:46 am

igorfrankensteen wrote:Another interesting aspect of the story of religions, especially Christianity, is that it has been a religion of rebellion, as much as it has been a religion of conformity and control. Often simultaneously.


It's almost like religious people use religious belief to justify any view they happen to already hold.

igorfrankensteen wrote:In order to utilize it to try to give additional control of the populace to the king or emperor or other local ruler, the ruler often had to adjust their behaviors and methods to make their claim to represent the religion to the people, stick. This was true for all religions which were utilized by governments.


Much fun and games ensued in the 1500s when Martin Luther translated the Bible into German and the general populace found out what Jesus has actually* said about poor people vs. rich people. And by "fun and games" I mean utter social chaos and a lot of people being made dead.

We're talking about religion, remember?

[shameless plug for something I'm a pathetic fanboy of]Really good podcast on this period from Dan Carlin here. It focuses mainly on the Munster Rebellion (bunch of Anabaptists rebel against the tyranny of the RCC, and promptly replicate the tyranny they thought they were escaping) but has some interesting digressions on the Protestant Reformation generally. Also here, for Carlin's take on the "Dark Ages" (although that one's not free) with a bit of discussion on the radical changes that Christianity needed to undergo before it could become "the religion of Feudalism".[/shameless plug for something I'm a pathetic fanboy of]

igorfrankensteen wrote:I have not read this particular book, and I am unlikely to. Not because of any adverse prejudice I have about it, rather simply because of time and monetary constraints. I do have concerns about HOW it proposes that feudal times were the "peak of Christianity." In addition to the debatability of what "peak" means, I would hope that it might go into the evolution of HOW religion was used by governments, and more importantly, how the exact mechanisms of using religion in government, demonstrated whether it was Christianity that was at peak power or influence, or it was the concept of religious leaders as secular leadership, that was at it's peak then.


:nod:





* Assuming that Jesus existed and the Gospels are an accurate record of what he was about. Which people in this period obviously did, of course.
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Re: Christianity and Feudalism

#20  Postby iskander » May 04, 2015 11:49 am

Clive Durdle wrote:French Revolution?



Was the French Revolution the end of religious feudalism? no, not at all. In fact Napoleon was crowned Emperor by the pope as Charlemagne had been many years before him, but this time the Coronation meant very little to anyone.

The papal lordship over the kings of Europe was made possible by the willingness of the faithful to obey the one who speaks for God , and is the keeper of the keys.
The Lutheran reform was the " beginning of the end" . The people of Europe were made free from slavery; heaven ceased to be the private property of the Romans and hell was no longer the personal weapon of the torturer. God escaped from the bottle where the Romans had incarcerated it and evolved from an enslaved genie to the giver of the gifts, for all that and more is what sola fide, sola scripture meant to the reformers.

When did religious feudalism terminate? The end of religious feudalism is the Treaty of Westphalia.
The Treaty declared that the individual sovereign state would henceforth become the highest level of authority; putting an end once and for all to the claims of the Holy Roman Empire. The treaty also declared that the head of each state would have the right to determine the religion of the state, again thus putting an end to the claims of a single church.
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