by Rev Ralph Smith, Theopolis:
Jeffrey Epstein called our bluff.
Writing in the New York Times, James B. Stewart reports Epstein’s opinion that “criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable.”
What’s wrong with what Epstein reportedly said?
To begin with, he was too generous. What we now condemn as statutory rape didn’t just occur “at times in history.” The unpleasant truth is that, historically speaking, using children, even relatively young children, as objects for men’s sexual satisfaction has been the rule, not the exception. What we call “child abuse” is a recent category. It is not at all part of the way ancient peoples thought or acted.
[…] So, what happened to change all of this? Why is modern Western culture sensitive to this matter? What made our modern/postmodern world different? This is the question. But no one is asking it. Why not? Because the answer is too embarrassing to admit.
One thing and only one thing happened to provoke a cultural revolution in one part of the world — though its influence has reached others. I suspect anyone reading this essay will know very well what this revolution was: Christianity and only Christianity transformed the way people viewed human sexual relationships by universalizing the standards of the Old and New Testaments.
The “revolution” was a slow process and the changes it brought varied from place to place. Often, the revolution was only in the thinking of the Christian elite, like Augustine, whereas other sorts of elite — kings and men in power in the middle ages, for example — gave lip service to the ideas of the revolution but in practice followed the good old ways — satisfaction of sexual lust with little discrimination about time, place, or means. The history of Europe includes too many examples to even begin to offer a short list.
But there was a real, even if gradual, change in thinking and social life. Men in Europe were educated by the Christian church of every denomination to understand sex as a gift of God intended for married man and woman. Within that sacred bond, it was — or should be — holy, good, and beautiful; outside of that sacred bond, it was forbidden.
The evolution of beliefs and laws about the proper age for marriage is too complex to even touch, but suffice it to say that this was and is the result of Christian influence and Christian influence alone.