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Christmas: The Greatest Revolution

There have been many many revolutions in the history of humanity. Some more famous or infamous, depending on your point of view. Some were political and violent, such as the American, French, Russian, and Irish Revolutions. Some were not limited to the political sphere.

Revolutions can take many forms; they may change things far beyond political systems and geography. There have been revolutions in the arts and letters, in medical breakthroughs and scientific miracles, in the technology to send men from deep sea to deep space, in the music of Beethoven, in the Renaissance architecture of Rome and Florence and the modern architecture of London and Los Angeles. All were revolutions; all had the furtherance of human progress as their aim.

It is for this reason that they are all incomplete.

Progress in any arena — technological, artistic, cultural — is inevitably limited. As a result, these revolutions have invariably been limited in their impact.

Yet one event was immune to these limitations: a religious revolution that began 2,000 years ago with the birth of a child in a cave outside the village of Bethlehem. To this day, it continues to change the lives of billions of his followers. It has done for twenty centuries. It was the Christian Revolution.

The great Orthodox Christian theologian, David Bentley Hart, wrote in his masterful work, Atheist Delusions:

“Among all the many great transitions that have marked the evolution of Western civilisation … there has been only one—the triumph of Christianity —that can be called in the fullest sense a “revolution”: a truly massive and epochal revision of humanity’s prevailing vision of reality, so pervasive in its influence and so vast in its consequences as to actually have created a new conception of the world, of history, of human nature, of time, and of the moral good.”

 

In the past two thousand years, Christianity has bequeathed to us through its followers some of the finest art, the greatest literature (counting its own books as amongst them), and the most magnificent architecture the world has seen. It gave us modern science: Its followers launched the Scientific Revolution. Believers created the university system and gave us charitable institutions previously unknown to the world — from orphanages and soup kitchens to hospitals and monasteries that cared for the sick. It even gave us the idea of the separation of church and state, unknown to the pagan world.

But more important than all of the above — and that is saying something — it took the Jewish idea that every man is made in the image of God with a dignity that may never be undone, and gave it to every Gentile. No matter their class, status, wealth, sex, physical deformity, or their age, every human being is equal in the eyes of God.

This was a profound transformation. Contrary to secular propaganda, it was not a natural, common-sense view. It was inherently a theological idea and a Christian belief. Christianity invented the individual.

It is true that Christians have often failed to live up to these ideals. We in Ireland know well how clergy and laity failed to live up to the Christian ideal. Yet the actions of the wicked or ignorant do not cancel out the plain truth. Christianity gave us the ideal. It changed morality, ethics, politics, culture, and (of course) religion; it changed the values of every nation it touched; and it still does to this day.

Some two thousand years ago, the world changed for the better. The world still has a long way to go. But it did get better. Something changed. Jesus’s birth occasioned that change for all of humanity. It changed the world for millions of souls across the world, and changed it for me.

It’s as if a Light came into the World. And a Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.

Merry Christmas — and I hope you have a great time.

 


Pat Sheehan

 

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