Those Who Do Not Remember History…
By Mark Harris
I really enjoy reading history. Curiously, I never did in secondary school. It felt arbitrary and I didn’t like being coerced into memorizing dates without any real context.
That all changed in grad school. I had the good fortune of having a few professors that made history come alive. The more I understood history, the more current events made sense.
I have been watching the current events of our nation with a great deal of interest. Trying to make sense of things, I asked some of my clergy friends how they are interpreting the times in which we are living. Some shared that they believed that we are seeing the end of times. From others I heard that we are witnessing God’s judgment on a nation that has turned away from Him. And still others shared that our nation is righting the sinful wrongs of our nation’s past.
The one thing that seems clear to me is that there is no consensus within the Christian community on how to interpret the times or agreement on what actions Christians in their congregations should take.
To help gain perspective, I have been reading American history, particularly in times of uncertainty and unrest. Do you remember the Coercive Acts of 1774? These were four oppressive laws from the British Parliament that restricted the rights of the colonialists. These laws sparked strong resistance in the colonies. The oppressive laws imposed by the British government became the impetus for the First Continental Congress to meet in September and then again in October of 1774. Less than two years later, the colonists declared their independence from the British Crown. Thirteen fledgling colonies began the arduous journey toward becoming an independent nation. Interestingly, it was the church during that time that served as the epicenter for political debate and discussion of current events of the day. Pastors from across the colonies provided clarity and encouraged their congregations to fight for independence and liberty.
Fast forward to 2021. It appears that our nation is facing another season of uncertainty and unrest. History may one day record that it was this period of time that proved to be the most significant test of our Constitutional Republic. This time around, it is our own government leaders who are enacting laws that oppress and restrict the Constitutional rights of her citizens. Today's church leaders are uncertain how to respond to the challenges to individual freedoms, even religious freedom.
In 1 Chronicles 12:32, the Bible says the sons of Issachar had understanding of the times and knew what to do. Pastors today are afraid to speak out. They don’t know what to do. For fear of offending someone, many pastors seem to have lost sight of the importance of understanding our times through a biblical lens and teaching their congregations what to do.
I am hearing actual U.S. citizens claiming that they want to destroy the American system and rebuild it into something else. I haven’t heard anyone explain to me what that “something else” would be. The voices of revolutionaries seem to mute the voices of reason of average citizens who don’t agree with their stated purposes. Differing views are now called “misinformation” and are being censured by the those controlling the public narrative.
It has always been helpful for me to keep a proper perspective when assessing ills of our nation. Before we had a Constitution or a Bill of Rights, our founding fathers had a dream for their new nation. That dream was articulated in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution. I’m sure you know the this, but for those who may not have read it recently, it states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
I am all for each generation striving to move us toward that ideal of a more perfect union. What I am not for is historical arrogance that presupposes that we are wiser than our predecessors. I believe history refutes the naïve belief that dismantling the current system to build a new one will turn out any better. A new system will still be created by imperfect people with their own agendas. No matter how good their intentions, it will still be imperfect.
I have read several iterations of this statement, “Those who do not remember their history and who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat their mistakes.” It seems we are at a time in history where the wisdom embodied in the statement is worth considering.
With the benefit of hindsight, the next generation will judge the wisdom or foolishness of our generation. I am praying that as we navigate this season the next generation will not be as harsh in their assessment of our decisions as we seem to be with previous generations of Americans.
I am interested in hearing your point of view on the state of our nation. What do you believe is happening in our generation? Whether you recognize it or not, we are participating in one of those defining moments in history.
If you would like to share your insights, send me an email at [email protected]
Please join me in praying for God’s grace to be shed on America.
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