Christianity

November 25, 2012 8:51 pm

Christianity has more followers than any other religion. It centers on Jesus Christ, whom Christians consider to be the Son of God. His birth marks the first year of the Christian calendar, the one most people use today.
HOW DID CHRISTIANITY BEGIN?
The story of Christianity begins with Jesus. He was born about 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, a town in the ancient Middle Eastern region of Judea.
Jesus preached that God is love. He told people to love even their enemies. He also spoke about the Kingdom of God. Jesus said God was coming to Earth to be with his people in the Kingdom of God. He urged his followers to ask God to forgive them for their sinful ways so they could enter the Kingdom of God.
The teachings of Jesus were popular. He won many followers. But the Roman rulers of Judea feared Jesus. They thought he wanted to overthrow their government, and they accused him of treason.
Jesus was crucified, or nailed to a cross, to die. Crucifixion is how the Romans executed criminals. But Jesus’ followers believed that he came back to life and rose into heaven. This event is called the Resurrection. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are central to Christianity.
Christians honor the anniversary of the Crucifixion on Good Friday. They celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
WHAT IS THE BIBLE?
After Jesus died, his followers, called apostles, spread his message. They gathered everything they remembered about Jesus into a collection of writings. This collection is called the New Testament. Christians refer to Hebrew sacred writings composed before Jesus’ birth as the Old Testament. Together, the New Testament and the Old Testament form the Christian Bible. The Bible is the holy book of Christianity.
WHAT DO CHRISTIANS BELIEVE?
Most Christians see God as a Trinity—a being that exists as three persons. There is God the Father, Jesus Christ his Son, and a guiding force known as the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that anyone who accepts Jesus as the Savior will live forever in heaven after death.
People accept Jesus in a ceremony called baptism. During this ceremony, they are sprinkled with water or dipped in water.
Most Christians go to religious services on Sunday. This day is known as the Sabbath. It honors the resurrection of Jesus, which most Christians believe occurred on a Sunday.
A community of Christians with shared beliefs is called a church. The building in which they worship is also called a church.
HOW DID CHRISTIANITY GROW?
The first Christians were poor people living in the Roman Empire. After a time, richer Romans started converting, too. As Christianity gained more followers, Roman leaders began to see the religion as a threat. Christians refused to worship the Roman emperor. The Roman leaders treated the Christians cruelly, but their actions only strengthened the beliefs of Christians.
In ad 312, Roman emperor Constantine himself converted to Christianity. Rome became a Christian empire.
MANY KINDS OF CHRISTIANS
After the year 395, Rome split into two empires. There was one branch in the east and another in the west. Gradually, Christianity developed two branches, too. In the Eastern Empire, it became the Orthodox Church. In the Western Empire, it became the Roman Catholic Church.
Priests called bishops had special authority in both the eastern and western churches. In the west, the bishop of Rome became the top religious leader. He is known as the pope.
In 1512, a man named Martin Luther protested against the power of the pope and the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther believed that the church had strayed from the teachings of Jesus. He said people needed only faith and the Bible to live Christian lives. His ideas spread.
Groups that left the Roman Catholic Church to form their own churches were called Protestants. In England, King Henry VIII led the protest. He established the Protestant Church of England and made himself the head of it.
The movement to reform Christianity is remembered as the Protestant Reformation. As a result of the Reformation, there are Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and many other Protestant groups. Today, about 2 billion people in the world call themselves Christians.
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