Traditionalist Christians who oppose same-sex marriage and other cultural developments in the US wonder why they are being forced to bracket their beliefs in order to participate in public life. This situation is not new, says Steven D. Smith: Christians two thousand years ago in the Roman Empire faced similar challenges and questions.
Starting with T. S. Eliot’s claim that the future of the West would be determined by a contest between Christianity and “modern paganism,” Smith argues in Pagans and Christians in the City that today’s culture wars can be seen as a contemporary reprise of the basic antagonism that pitted pagans against Christians in the late Roman Empire. He looks at that historical conflict and explores how the same competing orientations continue to clash today. Readers on both sides of the culture wars, Smith shows, have much to learn from seeing how patterns from ancient history are reemerging in today’s most controversial issues.