So a common theme in my life right now has been Christian history. Mel wrote a great blog (and included a video link) called “Why we need to properly understand Christian history.” Colorstorm continues this theme with a more philosophical tone, addressing an atheist’s accusation in a post called, “This is a joke right?” Nightwind77 added to the discussion with an intelligent take called, “An interesting question from the Lion’s Den”
This conversation is important to me for two reasons. First of all, I spoke to 3 young people, (Ha! Or rather I passively received their angry words) regarding the horrors of Christianity. We Crusaders allegedly slaughtered the Indians, enslaved black folks, burned people at the stake just last week, and are ten times worse then radical Muslim terrorists. Not only must Christians be pushed out and kept out, said young church historians want nothing to do with Jesus or His church. Sadly, they don’t seem near as well equipped to avoid the other temptations like, meth, heroin, porn, violence, anxiety, depression, and suicide.
So this conversation is important to me because young people especially, (although there are some older ones) often have a distorted perception of history, one often entwined with politics, sound bytes, and academic propaganda. Their questions are valid, their concerns are real, this discussion needs to happen, but to be unable to have some agreed upon history, to be unwilling to look at history objectively, creates a huge communication wall.
I am often just a listener, just a passive recipient of these words, because honestly I have no idea what to do with proclamations about how Hitler, allegedly a Christian, went and invaded Israel back in the 1950’s. Sweetheart, Jesus loves you. Please don’t believe everything you think.
But my second interest in this conversation is much more ethereal, much more spiritual. The stories we tell ourselves really matter, whether they are the myths and legends we share with others about who we are as a people, or the individual stories we tell about ourselves. The stories we tell of our own selves shape who we are, both past, present, and future.
We can learn from anybody, even fools, or perhaps especially from fools, which brings me full circle back to Ark’s question, “Can a biblical historian be thoroughly objective as a Christian and retain their integrity?” Yes, because history is not a linear, cut and dry, list of dates, rulers, and geography. History is so much more than an furniture assembly instruction sheet from IKEA. The bible is not simply a list of historical facts, it is art, poetry, music, love songs, and culture. History without cultural context is misunderstood history.
Recently we dedicated a piece of art in our town to “celebrate friendship” between us and a local tribe of long ago. Me being jaded by cynicism, plagued by what is often unseen by others, could not help by notice that “celebrating friendship ” was erected not 50 feet from where “operation eradicating the vermin” once took place. The village we pretend to now celebrate as part of our happy history together was once burned to the ground by government order. Isn’t it just sweet how we can all get along progressively and incorporate our historical diversity? Now that y’all are dead, let’s be friends….
We people as individuals have the power to write our own stories, to some extent perhaps even to write the stories of our past, of our ancestors. As the saying goes, history is always written by the victors, right? Is my version of history, the real one, the one of a torched native village that was in the way of progress more valid then the current one where we celebrate the beauty and art of our Native heritage??
A bit funny, I myself have spent many years wrestling extensively with Ark’s question, “Can a biblical historian be thoroughly objective as a Christian and retain their integrity,” and eventually come to the conclusion that that yes, yes we can be thoroughly objective just so long as we remember the concept of human depravity, the idea that there is no sin, no horror under the sun that has not already been done. The bad guys in every story are not “those guys,” they are actually us.
They are us. That is a harsh truth to confront, but it is true. Evil is a very banal thing, often rendering itself completely invisible, cleverly disguised as normal, ordinary, acceptable, just the way we do things here….
Ark, as well as my young church historians, all live in a world where they falsely believe they can just separate themselves from the darkness this world has to offer, and from the darkness within themselves, too. They falsely believe the warning signs are simple, easy, as if to rational lies, to declare, no more Christians, no more evil. Imagine there’s no heaven, above you only sky…..