Author Topic: How Christianity Invented Children  (Read 900 times)

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Offline Minnesotan

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How Christianity Invented Children
« on: April 30, 2015, 06:25:50 PM »
Another excellent article by Pascal-Emanuel Gobry:

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.


There's also a mention of corporal punishment (specifically, St. John Chrysostom's condemnation of it). Rather apropos considering recent discussions on this forum.
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Offline Jonathan Gress

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Re: How Christianity Invented Children
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2015, 07:02:25 PM »
Interesting, but I'm also reminded of how in icons we represent children as small adults, e.g. the proportion of head to torso is like an adult, not a real child. I've heard a priest explain this as reflecting our understanding of children as essentially the same as adults, and capable of the same feats of virtue (and vice) as adults.

Offline Minnesotan

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Re: How Christianity Invented Children
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2015, 07:05:25 PM »
Interesting, but I'm also reminded of how in icons we represent children as small adults, e.g. the proportion of head to torso is like an adult, not a real child. I've heard a priest explain this as reflecting our understanding of children as essentially the same as adults, and capable of the same feats of virtue (and vice) as adults.

Well, in either case, that's an improvement over viewing them as "more like plants than human beings".
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: How Christianity Invented Children
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2015, 07:11:29 PM »
There's also a mention of corporal punishment (specifically, St. John Chrysostom's condemnation of it). Rather apropos considering recent discussions on this forum.

from the article:
Quote
in the fourth century, the great teacher St John Chrysostom preached against it, on the grounds of the victim's innocence and dignity
I want to hear more about St John C on this.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20