In one large urban area somewhere between 300 and 1000 riotous war protesters were shot to death by his military. In effort to avoid conscription an estimated 120,000 boys and men hid in fear; 90,000 of them seeking sanctuary in a nearby country.
And of course there were sanctioned war crimes—unimaginable atrocities: homes and farms burned, women raped, children and old men murdered.
How do we feel about men and wars such as these? Would it alter your feelings to know that I was reading about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War? (Perhaps you’d already guessed.) Still, how are we to understand such savagery? Many don’t even try. Rather than process the past they romanticize and mythologize it.
Thus, when it comes to major portions of U.S. history, we’ve been sold a bill of goods. And we are more than happy customers; for few things soothe the conscience of people more than an idealized past. But how does one construct a national identity on mythical foundations?
I think we’ve all heard the maxim: “Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.” But do we actually believe this? Our disinterest in the past indicates otherwise. It is as though many Americans view the world as if they were born yesterday. In their minds, the “present” has no context of a past. This cannot serve us well.
Think of the amnesiac. He has no clue as to who he is because he has completely forgotten who he was. That is, he has no known history. Is ignorance bliss? Not for long. Historical illiteracy catches up to us. The individual or nation with no knowledge of the past cannot make sense of the present, cannot self-identify. And such a citizen or country is entirely vulnerable to malicious manipulation.
More to the point: Ignorance isn’t the biblical way. God would have us to be students of history. In fact, the Christian faith is rooted in history. Christ Himself is the focal point of all history and Christ Himself is the Lord of history. Thus, the past, as well as the present and the future, is vital to the Christian worldview.
So let’s not leave “history” to the agenda-driven secularists. (Think of it, how much of our understanding of world history or even American history—however limited—is practically godless; that is, we have a humanistic interpretation of the past? How does a godless apprehension of the past mesh with the idea of Providence in the present?)
The truth is we’re not rudderless. Mankind is not simply floating along, guideless and aimless. God is in control and rules over the affairs of men. This means there is a season and a purpose to all things (Ecclesiastes 3). We need to be wise and discerning so that we can properly view the past, present, and future through a biblical, Christocentric lens.
The Christian can ill afford to bury his head in the sand and let the world go by. We can’t cloister ourselves away in some sort of neo-monastic pietism and plead for the “Rapture.” Rather, we must contemplatively and consistently apply the Lordship of Christ to every area of our lives; bring the truth of Christ to bear upon a sinful society: it’s past, present, and future.
We are to be salt and light for a dark and tasteless world. This will require loving God, as is our duty, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. One cannot be spiritually, mentally or physically lazy to the glory of God.
May God bless us to be as “the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1Chronicles 12:32).