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A Book Review . . . Seven Cultural Revolutions Revisited

June 12, 2019 Featured Today No Comments

By ABIGAIL WYNNE

How Christianity Saved Civilization…And Must Do So Again by Mike Aquilina and James L. Papandrea, Sophia Institute Press: 2019; 270 pages. Available at www.sophiainstitutepress.com.

In the book, How Christianity Saved Civilization…And Must Do So Again, Mike Aquilina and James L. Papandrea clearly and persuasively lay out the similarities between pre-Christian societies, particularly Roman society, and our current “post-Christian” world.
These writers emphasize that the point of their book is not merely to show the contributions of the Catholic Church to the growth and betterment of society in the past, but also to encourage more change through the New Evangelization: “We believe that the Church can change the world for the better again.”
The changes brought about by the Church in the pre-Christian world are called by Aquilina and Papandrea the “seven cultural revolutions.” The change in the world of that time, they claim, was brought about by these seven changes in the way society viewed the individual, the family, work, religion, community, life and death, and finally government.
These changes still influence what modern society sees as good and bad. They created a real difference in the relationships among people in “ever-widening concentric circles.” These seven revolutions brought about by Christianity are discussed in detail in the first eight chapters, and it is not until the final two chapters that we return to the second point of the book: highlighting the similarities between the pre-Christian and post-Christian worlds, and the need to reclaim these seven revolutions and take concrete action in this declining society.
In chapter nine these authors further break down the seven revolutions of Christianity into two categories: “the protection of all human life” and “the protection of each person’s dignity and freedom.” This lays the groundwork for their point that the individual is of great importance to the Church. Though this should seem obvious to all Christians who know the Bible and know mankind is made in the image of God, it is a sad fact that in the modern times people give little thought to their fellowman. In the business of life, people get so caught up they can only give a passing sigh of remorse to the great tragedies which are happening far too often.
There is, indeed, a need for the Church to instigate more change for the better. A need for her to bring back to mind the meaning of true freedom, along with its responsibilities “to protect the lives, the dignity, and the freedom of the rest.” A need to remember the duty each person has to love our neighbor as ourselves. Nowadays, society is returning to the idea that some lives are expendable, and the Church has and will always stand against this idea, but again an effort must be made to revolutionize the way we view personhood.
In chapter ten, Aquilina and Papandrea lay out concrete ways to make this change in our current society. They conscientiously say that not all Christians can do all these things and make sure to affirm each person has a specific mission, once again placing proper emphasis on the individual.
They say that to reject isolationism, avoid avoiding using technology as a substitute for community. Respect the value of every human life: They place special emphasis on the need to speak up, volunteer, donate, and vote. Reject the culture we see of humiliation as entertainment: It is too similar to the violence and spectacle of the Roman Circus. Respect the humble, the laborers, and the poor just as you would those with power and influence, the authors say.
Reject the “religion of secularism”: Always respect religious freedom, because conversion must be voluntary and people must be free to worship according to their conscience. Don’t accept the constant negativity about the Church: “The Christian’s job is to speak up and defend the Church.” Respect your neighbors: In this Aquilina and Papandrea are right-on, because love of neighbor as well as God is how virtue begins. All these instructions stem from their moving affirmation that each individual is the Church: “We are the Church. You are the Church.”
This is an easy-to-read book and yet profound in its recognition of the heart of the problems in modern society. It also identifies the core of Christianity and brings back to the forefront the simple beliefs and understandings which so often get lost in the recitation of the rules we must follow to call ourselves Catholic.
There is only one small issue with the book, a claim which Aquilina and Papandrea make in the beginning of the second chapter. They appear to state that there was no notion of human equality in pre-Christian times. “The pagan world had no notion of ‘human rights’ — no idea that a human being was a person who was somehow sacred just because he was human.” However, one cannot say that human dignity is the “invention” of Christianity without denying the natural law, which has existed for all time, stamped on the hearts of men by God. Thou Shalt Not Kill is the first precept of the natural law, clearly affirming each human’s right to life and the dignity of humanity flows from that.
Of course they are correct in saying that the time before Christ was a period of great hardship for the commoners, who were put upon by the wealthy and corrupt. However, this does not mean that the poor and persecuted had no notion of their own dignity. There was great inequality in Christian times as well; man’s inhumanity to other men persists. Therefore, it does not seem Aquilina and Papandrea make that particular claim well enough in the light of natural law.
The authors of How Christianity Saved Civilization…And Must Do So Again lay out a well-articulated and compelling argument for a Christian imperative in this book, which every Christian who feels the helplessness of living in a declining society should read.
(Abigail Wynne is a student at Christendom College.)

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