Tom Holland’s Dominion is truly is an epic work, telling the story of how Christianity came to create the modern, western soul.
One of Holland’s central points is that Christianity was a sexual revolution, placing restraints on men’s sexual appetites whereas previously a powerful man might have taken any slave girl he liked while engaging in worshipping a bunch of rapists.
Now, as Paul had commanded, every human body was sacred.
Christianity had brought “revolution to the erotic” in a quite spectacular way.
Divorce was prohibited, and to leave a wife was to “render her an adulteress”, as Christ had said. Even more radically, couples could no longer be forced into marriage and priests were instructed to join couples even without the permission or knowledge of their parents. “The Church, by pledging itself to this conviction, and putting it into law, was treading on the toes of patriarchs.”
Dominion traces the influence of Christianity up to the present-day Great Awokening, a political movement with a hugely religious strain to it.
The social justice theory of intersectionality is just the latest sub-strand of western thinking that owes its origins to Christianity, a hierarchy of victimhood that could be best summed up as “The last were to be first, and the first were to be last”.
Even the #MeToo movement is heavily Christian in origin. For Holland the likes of Harvey Weinstein (pictured) are like figures from Ancient Rome, a return to old sexual norms; whereas Pauline Christianity had used shame and guilt to tame the sexual activity of men, today sexual freedom tends “to be, as in antiquity, the perk of a very exclusive sub-section of society: powerful men”.
This aligns with an idea Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry made a while back that the 1960s actually saw a “sexual reaction”, a return to more traditional sexual norms before the revolution of Christianity.
The #MeToo movement is a corrective to that, conservative in the Christian sense, aiming as it does to restrict the behaviour of powerful men. St Paul would certainly have approved.