by Nancy Pearcy
"Sexual hedonism is another expression of a low view of women. In ancient Greek and Roman culture, it was widely accepted that husbands would have sex with mistresses, concubines, slaves, and prostitutes (both male and female). An ancient Athenian saying was, “Wives are for legal heirs, prostitutes are for pleasure.” In Rome, the taxes collected from prostitution constituted a significant portion of the royal treasury. (This may be one reason Jesus hung out with prostitutes: There were so many of them!)
By contrast, the church fathers wrote sermons urging husbands not to have sex with slaves or prostitutes. These practices were not easy to eradicate. In the fourth century, John Chrysostom was still preaching on why it’s not okay for married men to have sex with their slaves. An ancient Christian treatise on the sufferings endured by married women included the “humiliation” of being replaced by servants in their husbands’ affections.
And what about the humiliation of those female servants who were coerced into sexual slavery? In Roman culture, sexual violence against poor and powerless women was widely accepted. Because they were regarded as social non-persons, they were not thought to have any legal rights that could be violated. Beginning in the fifth century, Christian leaders finally began to wield enough political influence to pass laws against sexual slavery. The church fathers called it “coerced sin.” How could the church preach against sexual sin when many women (and men) had no choice? For a slave to resist the sexual advances of her or his master meant death. One historian notes that the most reliable index of the Christianization of an ancient society was the recognition of the injustice of sexual slavery. “Because prostitution was at the center of an ancient sexual culture . . . the progressive realization of its injustice is a privileged index of Christianization.”
Let that historical fact sink in: *The* most reliable index of how deeply Christianity had permeated a society was whether it outlawed sexual slavery. Today, as sex slavery and sex trafficking are again becoming widespread, modern Christians must recover their rich moral and humanitarian heritage. As the Western world sinks back into pre-Christian morality, followers of Jesus must once again become countercultural."
Excerpt from Love Thy Body. Posted with permission of the author