It is the 22nd of November 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 300. Or right around 300. But it's complicated.
Before we get to the stories for today, I wanted to make a very rare front-end announcement. First: thank you. If you've been listening for 571 days straight or just found us, we dig your zeal. We are encouraged by the recent spike. Secondly: the Almanac is expanding to print! You can read the daily transcript online, but I will be returning to my weekly article at 1517 and will be telling stories and answering questions there, too! Send any church history questions. They can't be too dumb or too silly. You can send them to the firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, when a professor can condense his or her words, this is usually a victory for everyone. I'll be cutting this show by a few minutes. It will still be packed with important characters, interesting ideas, the bizarre, sublime, and Dr. Gene Scott.
So, the year was about 300. But in some ways, this character, his trusty steed, and dragon foe are beyond historical space and time. Today we remember a man celebrated throughout the world today, on the day his death is remembered. We remember St. George— the myth, national symbol, dragon-slayer, and picture of Christ.
The story goes that there was a guy named George, probably from Palestine, who joined Diocletian's army. But when he was told to recant his faith, he refused. For this, he was tortured and beheaded. The soldier martyr was a strong motif, one could be a literal soldier fighting foreign enemies, or one could be a spiritual soldier, fighting back the devil's wiles, death, and sin. The story of George expanded throughout the Middle Ages, and by the time we get the first extended stories about him, the story has changed quite a bit. You can go back to the 23rd of April, 2020, for the whole story, but he goes to Libya and frees a princess from a dragon. In saving her, he furthermore threatens to unleash the dragon on the princess' town if they aren't all baptized. It's a weird story.
Battling a foe to win the hand of royalty or to set the world order straight again is a standard trope. Horus kills the alligator, Perseus kills the sea monster to save Andromeda, and Heracles does the same. The battle metaphor was wildly popular during the Crusades when soldiers claimed George was fighting on behalf of the Christians in the Holy Land. His popularity across Europe stems mainly from this.
The appeal of St. George might stem from the universally recognized motif of "Victor-Quia-Victima," the victor who becomes a victim in the name of victory. Perhaps, even more simply, the Christian message is one of Chaos, Sacrifice, and Order—the same as the St. George cycle. Even more simply, the Christian message is one of triumph over the seemingly impossible foe. George, whose name ironically meant "farmer," was transformed frock a lowly status into a saint, martyr, and soldier. We remember the story of St. George and the dragon that has enthralled and encouraged so many with the man who is said to have died on this, the 22nd of November in the year 300.
Today's reading comes from C.S. Lewis from his "Past Watchful Dragons," his defense of fairytales for the Christian.
"I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralysed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical. But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 22nd of November 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who lives by the motto "Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus," Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.