T. Holland, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (2020) is accessible, well written, and a good introduction to the essential elements of the western Christian tradition for serious Quaker youth.
The author’s thesis is that the religious framework called Christianity is an entity and that entity is an active agent that created some values that did not exist before and which continue today in us all. The inclusion of an expanded scope of care for the weak, suffering, vulnerable humans influences conduct in the progressive development of accommodating global institutions and social infrastructure, including human rights
The author’s stated purpose for the book is to show the government-subversive and the culturally-disruptive nature of Christianity, Christianity’s spread and triumph in cultural influence in Europe, and the residual effect of various Christian values remnants in current, more secular, culture.
The purpose of the author is to trace the influence of values evolving during the particular Christian period in the West, to identify its governance-subversive, culture-disruptive and saturating influence on the European culture, and to show how those values have sustained influence into the current globalizing culture. The author contrasts the Christianity influence of care for the poor and weak, the intrinsic value of all humans, the value of conscience, and the role of new vocabulary with the callous values of antiquity. This story is triumphalist in tone and diminishing of other cultural and religious influences while providing the needed content for a modified theme of the universalism of global development during the time period addressed.
The book’s title does not fit easily with the book’s argument. Dominion is control, authority, command, dominance, territoriality, triumphalist, political, and military. By contrast, this book exhibits the story of a values revolution from ancient to modern. The story here does not include much recognition of the influence on world values that were evolving during the same period in other cultures. It is the story of the evolution and the regional influence of humans within Christian institutions, which evolution occurs in other cultures as well, all contributing to the global culture we recognize today. The more truthful story is that of the role of humans in the clarification and application of values in a global geography. This history does not encompass the globe.
The book does not make the case for a Christian revolution remaking the world as indicated in the book’s subtitle. The focus is on the influence of Christian values evolution on western Europe, which in turn influences world values in a chemistry of values from many sources.
The elegant book cover is the Salvador Dali crucifixion. This cover contrasts with the content of the story narrated. It is not about crucifixion or final things. It is the story of values developed in the context of stories and images evolving through time in the West.
Christianity cannot accurately claim exclusive introduction of certain values. Those values are the products of universal human exploration of linking faith about the expanding understanding of the fullness of reality and conforming practice in conduct. Humans of all cultures and their religious institutions and practices are also groping to understand the fullness of reality and the standards of conduct consistent with those values.
The author marvels that the resulting values in western culture today are actively embraced by essentially all resident humans, including those who see themselves as affiliated with Christianity and those who do not see themselves affiliated with Christianity. Those humans affiliated with Christianity are partial vehicles, rejecting, groping, pushing and supporting values, but not inventing values in any unique or proprietary sense.
This book’s author ignores Eastern Orthodoxy in this western Europe Christianity story and all other human cultures and their contributions/influences on evolution of global human values. The story is very silent about the value influences of the Goths, Vikings, Vandals, Islam, witchcraft/magic, Asian cultures and others in the development of embedded community values.
The book includes a detailed index, a massive bibliography, endnotes, and a somewhat helpful and curious table of contents. With some 500 pages of text, the book includes some 16 pages of beautiful photos of places and things to punctuate the text.
History is indispensable for listening to human experience and understanding the present. This book is a fine contribution on both counts. It is a fine argument covering a large sweep of our historical evolution punctuated by crises.
Quakers: The author situates Quakers as a minor part of the Protestant human influence, exploring the edges of spirit, conflict management, liturgy, and support for science. The Quaker star of this author’s drama is Benjamin Lay, the determined 18th century slavery abolitionist ahead of his time and sometime Quaker, Edmund Cope, the 19th century dinosaur hunter. The Quaker contribution to global standards is the focus on a vaguely defined Spirit as the source of truth and guidance.
- What do Quakers see as the Quaker role in influencing larger global culture beyond conscientious objection to war participation and continuing missionary services?
Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, Tom Holland (Basic Books, 2020)