Friday, May 15, 2015

Seven Revolutions~

Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again




"Seven Revolutions" is going to be one of my favorite books of 2015. It's a history lesson and a course-correcting challenge all at once. 

First, here's a list for you. What do these things have in common?
The inherent dignity of every individual. The concept of universal "human rights" that stems from such belief. 
Philanthropy. Care for the poor, the sick, the immigrant. Reverence towards the dead. 
Freedom of religion and conscience. The basic notion that God is love.   

All these concepts may seem disparate at first, but one thing is evident: These ideas permeate Western society. 
Everyone I know believes these ideas are all true and good, that they're something to be guarded because we recognize they're precious.
We Americans can't picture our country without these undergirding. Indeed, they're what made us great. 

Yet where did these concepts come from? Where they latent in every fine civilization? Did they flower at some point in the evolving human consciousness? 
Do they spring from the Enlightenment? How about the French Revolution?
Did George Washington invent them for America? Can we trace these ideas back to a discernible beginning?

Mike Aquilina and James Papandrea are here to make a fascinating argument: It was the Church that first began to burn with these ideas, and it lit the culture on fire soon afterwards, and the world as we know it is warmed by the Church's flames. 

Now, that's quite a claim- that human rights and religious freedom came from the Church. Humph! 
Some people will spit milk out their nose just reading it. 
The repressive, bigoted, backwards, totalitarian Church is to be credited with positive, progressive things? Never! 
So, Messers. Papandrea and Aquilina, you'd better have some facts to back this schtuff up. 
{This book has over 150 footnotes, so yeah, you can spy on their research if you're interested.}

The authors make their case in ten chapters that are both dense and extremely readable. The topics are Human Dignity- A Revolution of the Person,  the Home- a place for loving relationship, Work- Labor being holy, Religion-Worship by choice and conscience, the Community- love for our neighbors, Death, and then The State-Government as Stewards. 

In each case, they look at what we know of the Roman world first. After all, the Church was birthed in the Roman world. If the Church was going to have some spectacular effect, we should see it in comparison to Rome. 
A small band of people, claiming to follow the Resurrected one, in an empire that was the height of culture and a veritable beehive of competing philosophies. 

Historians disagree as to whether life in Rome was a "paradise" or a purgatory. It probably depended on what class you were in- and how you defined pleasure. Although no culture is homogenous, there were mainstream schools of thought and majority attitudes. 
The tenets of Christianity came in conflict with many of these attitudes. So what would have been compelling about the Christian vision and the converts' lives? What did the Christians have to say that was relevant in Rome? 

A great deal, it turns out. 
I suggest that if I've piqued your interest at all that you go get ahold of Seven Revolutions. It will be far more fun for you to argue or agree with the authors than it will be to read more of this review. I thank Image Books for providing me with a complimentary copy. 

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