Friday, July 3, 2009

The Early Church: How Christians Elevated Culture

To be a devout, practicing Christian in our day and age (especially a devout, practicing Catholic) is to be truly counter-cultural. It is to run against the rough grain of popular opinion and what passes for modern culture and values. It is to defy "conventional wisdom" and to resist succumbing to the vulgarity, juvenileness, tinny clamor for "fame" and the overall cheapness of the day. As Gilbert K. Chesterton once quipped, "The vulgar man is always the most distinguished, for the very desire to be distinguished is vulgar."

That's why I find the "Politically Incorrect Guides to..." series of books so humorously refreshing and factually spot-on. Here are several examples:

A recent offering is "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization," by Anthony Esolen. He has an extended excerpt (entitled "The Early Church: How Christians Elevated Culture") over on The Catholic Educators Resource website. Here is an excerpt from the excerpt:

They raised the status of women.

It's dogma in our public schools today that women in ancient times were oppressed, because women had no voting rights, women had not the same opportunities as men, and so forth. You will be mocked if you deny that this spells oppression. If you're a college professor and you deny it, get ready for the stake.
But the charges are anachronistic and chauvinist. People who make them never imagine what it was like for people of another culture to put food on the table, a roof over their heads, and clothes on their backs, never mind bearing enough children to keep the population stable. The Romans in general treated their wives with esteem. The matron of the house had better be consulted along with the important males if the paterfamilias was going to make a decision. Still, the Christians preached that there was no separate baptism for men and women. All were one in Christ. If Christ was Himself the Holy of Holies, then that inner sanctum was thrown open for all. Jesus had been seen on Easter first by women, then by his apostles. The Gnostic heretics, who disdained the body, have Jesus saying that one could not be blessed unless one were made male; Christians condemned that nonsense. They did not expose baby girls (or boys, either). They did not divorce their wives. They shunned sexual practices that put them and their spouses at risk. They honored women who defied emperors, centurions and soldiers to witness to the faith. In his Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote the first tribute in history to an ordinary woman, his mother Monica, without whose love and faithful prayer he would never have known the love of God. (9.8–13)
Even so, early Christians were 'sexist' because they, like everybody else who has walked the earth until now, did not treat women as indistinguishable from men. That indifference is our politically correct ideal, though it's hard to name a time and place wherein women would not have decried such treatment as insulting.

Other excerpts are:

--They palliated pagan cruelties.
--They thrust a dagger into the heart of the State-worship.
--They took up the burden of civic responsibility.
--They ennobled manual labor.
--They "baptized" the paterfamilias.
--They elevated the "barbarian" cultures from which they came.
--The truth about heretics
--The Good News brings charity

See the entire article here:

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