Additional detail in Stark’s Triumph of Christianity, chapter 7, where he discusses early Christian history with regard to women, he gives some eye-opening specifics.

I’ll admit I’m biased toward marriage. It seems clear that marriage and a nuclear family are essential to society in all forms we know. Without it, we are probably looking at something like the Borg (of the Star Trek fantasy universe) to expect humanity to continue rather than go extinct.

Stark points out that the Greek’s considered Roman marriage practices to be cruel, but Greeks were little different, mainly only ensuring the young women were past puberty before given in marriage.

The fact was, Christian women could expect to be physically and emotionally mature before being married, and they would have at least some say in who they married. They also had much more secure marriages, since men were also expected to be chaste and faithful, and couples were not allowed to divorce, except for marital infidelity.

Dr. Stark sites studies estimating that men in Rome outnumbered women 131 to 100. That is a lot of frustrated dudes. (Such is often suggested as a significant factor in wars. Killing the young men in battles tends to lower such troublesome ratios.) He also indicated that in most of the empire, the ratio was closer to 140 males to 100 females. The state even penalized women under 50 years of age who didn’t remarry if widowed or divorced. He gives examples, including Tullia, Cicero’s daughter, as married at 16, widowed at 22, remarried in a year, divorced at 28, remarried in a year, divorced at 33 (I assume she was pregnant) and she died at 34 after giving birth.

I think it worth mentioning the gruesome abortion procedures advised by Roman medical writer Aulus Cornelius Celsus. Relatively recently, historians have established that contraceptive methods were known and available, and generally effective. It is sad that women were of such low regard as to be subjected to such harsh and crude medical procedures to extract an unborn baby, especially when it was legal to just abandon the infant after it was born. I can only suppose most of the men of the era felt it shameful to do so. Or, perhaps they knew it was harder after seeing the baby. Regardless, it is disgusting and sad that men subjected women to such harm.

While many ancient philosophers justified abortion and exposure, even arguing it should be mandatory for women over the age of forty, the Jewish and Christian voices denounced it. “The second chapter of the Didache orders: “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born.””

I comment from time to time that I am willing to compromise with regard to abortion. It seems clear that even societies that condemned abortion allowed for it very early on, primarily, they would allow for no penalties or criminality if an accident or negligence (or violence) caused the miscarriage of a child if the child was unrecognizable as such. This is where I am willing to compromise. If we can societally and legally agree upon a demarcation in pregnancy  where before it is not considered, and after, we accord full personhood, individuality, and due process, I believe we will help our society. We will get along better. We will flourish more.

However, objectively, there is no way to demarcate a human being after conception. Once a unique egg and sperm join, that is a living human being. There is nothing easy about it, but we all like to think of ourselves as fair. There is nothing fair about arbitrarily taking another human’s life. “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.” Clint Eastwood line (as Will Money) in Unforgiven.

Continuing with the hard stuff, I consider rape the same.

Accordingly, I’m willing to afford a raped woman more latitude than most of the rest of us.

Finally, while I can use history, pretty much all of it, to justify some allowance for abortion, at least from secondary causes, the same can be said of slavery, and hopefully all of us alive today hold slavery and human trafficking to be intolerable abominations, reprehensible evils that justify the harshest punishments. We are also justified in making stern effort to quell such activity, and protect every person from such, and to seek out all such purveyors of such evil.

So, I hope we will all take stock of the past and resolve not to let such happen again. I pray for the time when abortion will be considered the same as slavery, considered simply unconscionable. We are not there yet. Some advancement of ourselves or our society or of our technology seems likely to accomplish it. I believe the day is far off but will come. In the meantime, let us work together, discuss publicly and reasonably, let us debate in our legislatures, and let the courts stand down. We the people can work this out. We can compromise and live together on the subject.

Revisiting my marriage bias, I am convinced the key is for those who believe in the value of the traditional family to live as exemplars. Family in most of our societies is far better off than in most of history. I hold family as key, but society seems to have a wide tolerance. Those who hold different views and values can be tolerated! We simply can accommodate. Nontraditionalists (excluding the violent) are no threat.

White Heart gave the indictment many years ago, “Are they working harder at what we think is wrong, Than we are at what we know is right?

With Gandalf (JRR Tolkien), I believe that it is the common folk doing the small kindnesses and simple toils. I believe it is everyman standing for his belief. This is how we progress toward rightness. Live as Micah prophesied. We know what is right. God has shown us. It is only this He requires of us: live justly, love mercy, walk humbly.

We simply have no standing to hold differently. I must do what I know is right and work to teach others what is best, but I have no justification whatsoever to impose or coerce. If I am right, I must show it by proof of action and result. I cannot enforce it by power, by violence, by politics. No.

Every single person must be respected as such. To each his own, and we all owe it to protect that.