|Instead of despising their former beliefs,|
4th Century Roman Christians celebrated them
in artwork like this Symmachi panel
displayed in London's Victoria & Albert Museum.
In Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's novel A Flame in Byzantium, the high officials in Emperor Justinian's court may seek to protect their faith, but they hardly seem to be living up to its ideals. They see the world through a prism in which only their view of the divine--their beliefs--are true, and all others are heresy. A popular brand of Christianity, Monophysitism, is currently gaining converts in Byzantium, and threatening to infiltrate the Emperor's household. This must be protected against at all costs. So any approach that could aid in the defeat of Monophysitism, or any view of life and the world other than those they embrace, is a valid approach.
As court officials do not trust Belisarius, they cannot rely on him to support their wise counsel to the Emperor. So they use their influence with Justinian to suggest that Belisarius might use his popularity with the army to mount a bid for Justinian's throne. The fact that he is a friend to Olivia, a woman whom they already deplore, gives them something else to work with. As he is his own man, not theirs to control, these defenders of the faith begin manufacturing evidence to incriminate him in Justinian's eyes. Even if it means besmirching the honor of a loyal servant such as Belisarius.
But then, this is a society that uses religion to justify slavery, the castration of the children of slaves, and prevents people from rising above the caste into which they were born. No wonder Olivia refuses to adopt their ways, or for that matter, their brand of religion.
Like Olivia, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has chosen her own unique path to religion. Instead of accepting a traditional, ready-made religion such as Christianity, hers involves channeling spirits, astral planes, karma, and philosophical concepts like monads. In order to share her spiritual experience with others, she has written a series of nonfiction books. The first, Messages From Michael, also serves as the name of her group's website. There readers of her stories (or anyone else) can gain a greater understanding of her approach to the divine.
One of her group's central teachings is that all life is a choice. Or, to quote from the group's website:
You cannot not choose. To say "I will not choose; I will do nothing" is a choice to do nothing. Rather than regard choices as terrible burdens and impositions, you would release much of your fear if you would realize that you are making choices all the time, and the process, rather than overwhelming you, is in fact the means to freeing yourself from the bonds of fear. Of course, you may choose to deny or ignore this as well. That is as much a choice as anything else in life.
That's a teaching that sounds perfectly valid and useful in living out my life today and planning my future. If only it didn't spring from a belief system so radically different from my own! It sounds good on the surface, but it must be suspicious. Hm...maybe it's safer to choose to reject it, and spend the next few minutes reminding myself why it has to be wrong, and her beliefs must be wrong, and...
Ever wonder why those you seek to influence refuse to accept the validity of your views on life? Some of us will probably wonder about that all our lives. But then, it's always easier to see the hypocrisy in others than inequities in our treasured beliefs, or the inconsistencies in the way we put them into practice. Who knows? They seem so different from us: they might well be vampires!
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