But we don’t hear much about snake worship or the bloodthirstiness of ancient societies, do we? Hollywood often romanticizes exotic people living in societies without Christian influence: See Avatar,Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, and many more movies that recycle the sentimentalism kicked off by the 1690s writing of François Fénelon, whose primitive hero orates, “We abhor that brutality which, under the gaudy names of ambition and glory?…?sheds the blood of men who are all brothers.”
Abhor? The idea that pre-Christians were peaceful was common among 18th-century “Age of Reason” French philosophers and their devotees, like Benjamin Franklin. Charles Dickens in 1853 decapitated that theory, noting with only slight exaggeration that the life of “the noble savage?…?is passed chin deep in a lake of blood.?…?All the noble savage’s wars with his fellow-savages (and he takes no pleasure in anything else) are wars of extermination.”
The MFAH golden exhibit is beautiful, regardless of the bloody uses to which the items were put, so the artisans probably took pleasure in their creativity—but would a pre-Columbian ever write, and perhaps even think, what the apostle Paul famously wrote in chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthians: “Love is patient and kind”?
Yes, the 20th century included mass murders by Communists and Nazis who put into practice their atheistic and Darwin-derived beliefs. Yes, previous centuries included brutality by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and other ecclesiastical bodies. But Christ’s grace has changed hundreds of millions of lives and multiplied compassion: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5). Sadly, few students and museum-goers learn that, so we kick away the ladder of Christ that has saved individuals and also served cultures.