The EU

Google says the EU requires a notice of cookie use (by Google) and says they have posted a notice. I don't see it. If cookies bother you, go elsewhere. If the EU bothers you, emigrate. If you live outside the EU, don't go there.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Blame The Christians

For John, BLUFIt is funny how assumptions about a person's place in society can change over time.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Week we have an ambitious suggestion by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, "How Christianity invented children".

The basic thrust is that in society before Christianity life was a series of concentric circles, the privileged on the inner circle and privilege diminishing the further out you got, with children on the outer rim, or at least one of the outer rims.  The author suggests that under the influence of Christianity children became people.

We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought.  In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was:  There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn't exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely.  Take, for instance, the idea of children.

Today, it is simply taken for granted that the innocence and vulnerability of children makes them beings of particular value, and entitled to particular care.  We also romanticize children — their beauty, their joy, their liveliness.  Our culture encourages us to let ourselves fall prey to our gooey feelings whenever we look at baby pictures.  What could be more natural?

In fact, this view of children is a historical oddity.  If you disagree, just go back to the view of children that prevailed in Europe's ancient pagan world.

As the historian O.M. Bakke points out in his invaluable book When Children Became People, in ancient Greece and Rome, children were considered nonpersons.


While I can see Christianity spreading this view, I do think that the Jews saw this also.  It seems to me to be part of the argument in Maccabees.  Also maybe the story of Abraham and Issac.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff


Craig H said...

I think it's presumptuous to perceive a certain devaluation of children in certain cultures adjacent to recorded history, and then jump to the conclusion that only one culture (or two as you suggest) treated children, not to mention the rest of their members, with care, value and compassion. Numerous Native American traditions, for one nearby example, were far more humanistic and caring for all their members than those of the "Christian" Europeans who conquered them.

This kind of narcissistic tripe is especially galling to me for it's obvious historical ignorance, but doubly so for the delusion it conveys that "Christian" civilization is somehow free of the same pervasive bigotry, exploitation, barbarism and abuse of almost all other cultures.

We can ask a good segment of the Catholic clergy from even just a few years ago what they thought of innocent and defenseless children entrusted to their care. The answers hardly flatter.

Craig H said...

As for "nonpersons", well, baptized or not, it takes Confirmation to recognize a child as a member of a Christian Church, and, last I checked, the age for such has been steadily ratcheted upwards in search of an "age of reason", or "age of discretion" since before the Middle Ages, and that hardly speaks of an enlightened recognition of the value of a child. Sure, the Catholics do better than most (around age 7), but the premise of the limited humanity of children is littered throughout Christian Dogma. When we stray to the subject of the treatment of female children, things get even uglier.

This should be a subject of shame, not pride, in the Christian tradition if you ask me.

C R Krieger said...

So, are you saying we have Christians doing female genital mutilation?

I think this is a look at tradition amongst the lactose tolerant, sometimes called Caucasians.

I am thinking we should be encouraging every little sliver of better behavior, rather than demanding perfection.  And, we should be living in fear of the Professor Peter Singers of the world, who would extent the "nonperson" status of infants out months, or. Perhaps even to a couple of years.  With the fear of climate change and over-population we could find society in retrograde.

Regards  —  Cliff

Craig H said...

I'm ALL for cheering each move in a better direction than worrying about perfection. I just cringe that someone would suggest the last 2000 years of "Christianity" ought to serve as a comparative ideal. The Abrahamic tradition institutionalizes slavery, treats women as chattel, and celebrates parental imprimatur to murder ones children as one might feel so inclined. Contrary to Christ's teaching, organized Christian churches have all happily endorsed and perpetuated all three abominations throughout centuries of cultural horrors. Bakke's cheerful credit to Christianity for the achievements of the Enlightenment deny the first 1500 years of the Church and its perpetuation of all those "Pagan" traditions the Church so conveniently adopted as its own. How someone can possibly view the history of the Church as the single philosophical step forward in how children are valued and treated is beyond me.

C R Krieger said...

I am open to alternative ideas (I would have said hypothesis, but I am not sure how to spell it).

Regards  —  Cliff

Craig H said...

Confucianism, for example, starts from the basic belief that man is born good, but becomes corrupted by exposure to society. Parents and caregivers are held responsible for respecting, teaching and caring for each child, and for any and all bad behavior that might result from teasing or other cruelty.

Buddhist tradition reveres children as the issue of their parents, and teaches that to harm a child is to harm ourselves.

If Greeks like Aristotle were hard on children for their imperfect intellects, that's hardly the only measure against which we must compare Christianity. The world is full of traditions (I cited Native American traditions in my first comment) that predate Christianity, and which value, respect and provide much better care for children than was ever common in the Christian tradition. Writing a "researched" book about only the "lactose tolerant", while possibly amusing, is flawed science, and somewhat embarrassing. (Much like Americans holding "world championships" in our national sports).

Craig H said...

In describing Texas Indians back in the 1500's, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca observed that, "Those people love their offspring the most of any in the world, and treat them with great mildness".

If anything, in far too many instances, Christianity has set back respect for children instead of advancing it.