Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Suffering in Dominion

Written by: on March 28, 2024

In his book Dominion, Tom Holland draws readers into a historical account of Christianity’s powerful influence by beginning his chapter on the Enlightenment with a murder mystery story. I was deeply moved by the account of Jean Calas, the father of Marc Antoine, who committed suicide by hanging. The riveting story reveals how local “magistrates” framed Calas as the murderer of his son who chose to kill him as a way of preventing him from converting to Catholicism. [1]  

The story of this father who was accused of murdering his son, was innocent and became a martyr for his faith. This story spread throughout Europe and caught the interest of Voltaire. Voltaire was a “most celebrated writer and viewed Christianity with a hatred that bordered on fixation but viewed Calas’ death as unjust.”[2] Due to Voltaire’s writings about this story, Calas was exonerated in 1765, 2 years after his torturous death.[3] Voltaire mocked Christians, but the account he provided of Calas proved a “paradox that weakness might be a source of strength, that victim might triumph over his torturers, that suffering might constitute victory,” and this lies “at the heart of the Gospels.”[4] 

All of Europe was impacted by how Christ-like Calas had been, dying on behalf of his son, for the sake of his belief in Christ. I agree with Holland’s thesis of his book: “Christianity is the most revolutionary ideology that ever existed and saturates Western thought.”[5] How is the fact that Christ was crucified and resurrected reverberating throughout the millennia? In this blog post, I will look at how Christianity provides examples throughout history on suffering and how Christ’s example advises us on how we are to suffer well.


D.W. Bebbington focuses his historical account of the Evangelical movement from the 1730’s to the 1980’s and describes the suffering that came with the spreading of the gospel. He describes the initial response of those who heard the preaching of John Wesley. “Wesley endured mobbing when he first preached in Staffordshire in the 1740’s. His followers were violently assaulted.”[6] Bebbington goes on to describe how Christians responded to this persecution. “Evangelicals created their own community life.”[7] 

Suffering alone is unbearable, but sharing burdens sustains a person in the face of great pain.  Jesus wanted to be with the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane and encouraged them to pray. Jesus did not want to face the cross alone (see Mark 14:33). In life’s greatest challenges, it is best to be found among those who will be prayerful (see Ecclesiastes 7:4). 

Serve Where God Has You

Holland provides a story of Charles Grant in the 1780’s. He initially had business in India to make a profit until he had his own life crisis where “his children died of smallpox within ten days of each other.” [8] Holland recounts that “due to the depths of his agony” Grant comes to Christ and has a new life objective of converting Hindus to the Christian faith.[9] In addition to his evangelizing, he wanted to banish the Indian ritual of sati, “self-immolation of widows.”[10]  

It is interesting to see how a man who once had self interest in his work with India turned to serve this country out of the painful experience of losing his children and coming to Christ. Pain and suffering can spring new life purpose. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” [11]

Unique Lament

Anger is a closely related emotion to grief. The author uses strong language to communicate pain. How many times have people not felt like they can express their grief because anger is an emotion their friends or family cannot handle? Listening to people’s rage is a healthy response. In Vroegop’s book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, he provides a caution. “Without lament, we won’t know how to help people walking through sorrow. Instead, we’ll offer trite solutions, unhelpful comments, or impatient responses.”  [12] Giving God anger in prayer is a healthy alternative that has the least harmful effects. Often anger is best released when shared out loud with another person as this promotes validation in a relational context.  

Hollands provides an account of the death of James Foley who was murdered at the hands of the Islamic state on August 19, 2014. [13] Holland writes with righteous indignation, stating, “little was made of the Catholicism in which he had been raised.” Holland says “it’s bullshit.” [14] The story that was promulgated was focused on the executioner’s nicknames which were: George, Paul and Ringo (the English rock band, Beatles). James Foley’s life was more than “love is all that anyone needs, “and that peace should be given a chance.” [15] His life held to a Catholic tradition and this was not recognized in the media. When someone dies a martyr’s death, recognition needs to be brought to the reasons for this evil punishment.

Holland’s lament is fitting as he recognizes that in the Catholic tradition “the Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” [16] History needs to accurately account for people’s deaths. In Holland’s anger, lament is recognized. Christianity suffers when lament is missing because a person’s death holds meaning. [17]

Personal sufferings impact

My family’s circumstances are currently marked with suffering, and the current pain we are facing will have historical ramifications. I am personally learning how to navigate this suffering. I am finding that I need to be surrounded by community, focus my work in serving others, and entering into lament.


[1] Tom Holland, Dominion (Basic Books: New York) 2019, p.388

[2] Ibid. p.394

[3] Ibid. p.394

[4] Ibid. p.394

[5] Tom Holland, How Christianity Gained Dominion/A Secular Historian Loses His Faith (in Liberalism), You Tube, Oct 11, 2020

[6] D.W. Bebbington, Evangelism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730’s to the 1980’s, (Routledge: New York),1989, p.23

[7] Ibid. p.24

[8] Tom Holland, Dominion (Basic Books: New York) 2019, p.417

[9] Ibid. p.417

[10] Ibid. p.418

[11] Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, (Crossway: Illinois), 2019, p.90

[12] Ibid. p.21

[13] Tom Holland, Dominion (Basic Books: New York) 2019, p.315

[14] Ibid. p.513

[15] Ibid. p.513

[16] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (Harper Collins: New York), 1940

[17] Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds Deep Mercy:  Discovering the Grace of Lament, (Crossway: Illinois), 2019,p.17

[18] Ibid. p.21

About the Author

Kristy Newport

4 responses to “Suffering in Dominion”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Hi Kristy,

    Thank you for your take on Holland’s tome. I am writing this post on Good Friday – a day of lament, sorrow and reflection on the suffering of Christ on the cross. This quote of your stood out to me: “Christianity suffers when lament is missing because a person’s death holds meaning.” My wife just told me of a Good Friday service she attended in which the worship music was too “triumphalistic” and did not adequately lead people into a posture of lament and repentance. Oh how right you. We miss something when we do not lament.

  2. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Kristy, Great job writing your Holland blog and isolating a topic, suffering, around which to focus your thoughts. I so admire how you lead the way in tackling the books we are reading.

    I was particularly struck by your use of C.S. Lewis’ quote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I am encouraged that God is always talking to us, no matter the circumstances.

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience of suffering and entrusting us with your pain. You said, “In life’s greatest challenges, it is best to be found among those who will be prayerful.” We will be prayerful, friend.

  3. Michael O'Neill says:

    Outstanding post, Kristy. I feel your pain this season and continue to pray for your comfort and wisdom. He is so close to you right now. Try to “count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” More will be revealed. Walking in faith is always worth it. Even when it is scary and hurts.

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