Exploring Christians Online

At this point in the semester I’m leaning towards leading students through the question: “How did Christians resist oppression?” I think it can be narrowed down through preliminary research and I already have a corpus of documents and objects to present to the audience. I’m thinking a better formulated question is, “How did Christians resist oppression during the Decian Persecution.”
I think the digital environment will be an essential part of exploring this question. With a compendium of documents, Christian resistance seems like a letter writing campaign. Digital tools will allow me to show that the persecution was more than a flurry of strongly worded letters between gentlemen of differing opinion. It will also allow me to dispel the myth on the other side of the spectrum that masses of Christians were dragged out of their homes by the hair and tossed to the lions. A Digital space allows for a more generous exploration of archaeological material. Images don’t do objects much justice, even with scale bars next to them. I would love to incorporate 3D models and printer files into this project. By showing the graffiti, wall paintings, oil lamps and other objects in more tactile ways, I think students will be able to “read” them better.
The digital landscape also allows for documents and objects to be literally linked together. Clicking through pages of a website is like clicking through a stream of consciousness. I want to show that the persecutions were less about stamping out Jesus Christ, but more about competing identities: what was Roman? Could a Christian be Roman? Christians used the persecution to form negative identities (what we are not).
In this early stage, I envision a lot of primary documents with the interpretation of the documents demonstrated more through hyperlinks than actual accompanying texts. My thinking is that showing students material in a particular order will both encourage them to think for themselves, but towards the understanding I have in mind. It would be really cool if there was something like a digital notepad that went with them from page to page where they could note observations. Perhaps at the end I could provide an activity that utilizes this information.

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