Sorry for my absence. While Papa Benedetto was charming the people of the Eastern States (and a huge TV audience), I was away from all media on a father-son trip (planned long ago) to the Gettysburg Battlefield. I returned to looming, threatening, dark stormclouds of deadlines.
But there’s so much I’ve wanted to send your way.
Discovery Network has posted an interesting piece on earthquake archeology. Natural disasters may not interest you much, but they will if you’ve read Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity (and its helpful sequel Cities of God). In a long discussion of natural disasters in antiquity, Stark notes that Antioch alone suffered from hundreds of significant earthquakes during the centuries when Christianity was just emerging. These caused the population to plummet, but the Church’s numbers to rise. Why? Christianity provided the most satisfying explanation for the “Why?” of natural disasters. What’s more, the Christian ethic of self-giving created a community that increased survival rates for those who were under Christian care. And if pagans survived thanks to Christian care, they were likely to convert.
The cultural effects were seismic, causing major tectonic shifts.
Anyway, the Discovery Network article does mention some early Christian centers. Use your imagination.