The first half of this new book's title is fire (and brimstone, for the heretics). Cult of the Dead: A Brief History of Christianity, by Kyle Smith, recently published by the University of California Press, analyzes the cultural impact of martyrdom and death.
"Though it promises eternal life, Christianity was forged in death. Christianity is built upon the legacies of the apostles and martyrs who chose to die rather than renounce the name of their lord. In this innovative cultural history, Kyle Smith shows how a devotion to death has shaped Christianity for two thousand years.For centuries, Christians have cared for their saints, curating their deaths as examples of holiness. Martyrs' stories, lurid legends of torture, have been told and retold, translated and rewritten. Martyrs' bones are alive in the world, relics pulsing with wonder. Martyrs' shrines are still visited by pilgrims, many in search of a miracle. Martyrs have even shaped the Christian conception of time, with each day of the year celebrating the death of a saint. From Roman antiquity to the present, by way of medieval England and the Protestant Reformation, Cult of the Dead tells the fascinating story of how the world's most widespread religion is steeped in the memory of its martyrs."
Maybe Catholics and Christians will re-embrace Day of the Dead celebrations with more vigor and life after reading "The Deep History Lurking Behind Halloween," a blog post by Smith.
"Whether unaware of all this history or just leery of Halloween's supposed links to the occult, some Christians, including nearly half of American evangelicals, according to a 2015 Lifeway poll, either reject the holiday entirely or steer clear of its so-called pagan elements. Strange as it may seem, those who do celebrate Halloween are unwittingly taking part in an age-old festival that honors the bones of the martyrs."