Why I Love History

History is a great teacher. It gives us a perspective about human advancement and development that we can’t get without studying it. If we take notice, there were time frames for things to develop and advance naturally, meaning by way of discussion, debate and appropriate give-and-take.  The Declaration of Independence was ratified in 1776. The constitution was secure by the ninth state in June of 1788. None of the delegates arrived in Philadelphia with the document in his pocket. The apostle Paul spent 14 years in Arabia after his conversion before he began his ministry. His wasn’t an overnight evangelistic journey.

We have been too geared to fix everything now. We either simply forget or choose to ignore how many times the perfect government or institution has been attempted and failed. We fancy ourselves so much more intelligent and advanced than past generations, so sure we can do it by the end of the week. Human behavior doesn’t work that way. The Affordable Care Act was passed assuming people would automatically sign up for health insurance, but by and large, they didn’t. They didn’t get regular checkups from an established physician like it was assumed. Congress forgot human behavior can’t be forced or changed by a stroke of a pen.

History has a flow that takes us through the human journey step by step. If we can learn again to think long-term, we will approach today’s challenges with a more studied and thoughtful approach. Why do people resist being herded like cattle into doing things they don’t want to do? Is it possible they would rather have shepherds (who lead) instead of cowboys (who drive)? Trust must be developed, not demanded. No one generation has finally “figured it all out” and can invent answers before we even know the questions or the need for answers. I love what history teaches us: that there is truly nothing new under the sun.


Topics Rather Than People

While reading a biography of John Adams, I recently came across a phrase describing an attitude that I believe would do us a lot of good in our daily life. Abigail Adams’ father was a Harvard graduate and a minister. He taught his children how to conduct themselves, including the phrase, “Make topics rather than people the subject” of your speech. That is obviously good advice for preachers’ kids, but for all of us. That one phrase struck me as such a simple and profound concept that it caught my attention.

How much of our political and religious debate either includes or even centers on personal attacks and diminution of another person or people? The volume of such encounters seems to have increased in recent years, but is certainly not new. Newspapers, pamphlets and speeches have always contained personal references to people rather than their ideas or beliefs. Those made fun of personal appearance, ways of walking and speech patterns. Yet in more honorable times, the content of the speech took precedence over any distractions about a person. Not so lately.

I have quoted others who I believed had valid ideas and observances only to have an attack on the person quoted as the first reply. The value of the quote (either to agree or disagree) was never mentioned, but only the person making the original statement. This left the point unanswered, and seemed to be an inability to respond to its validity. This is unfortunately all too common, and is even a strategy (if unconsciously) of those who are willing to engage in debate. In the process, the back-and-forth breaks down and no longer a legitimate discussion of differences based on topics but a series of derogatory claims designed to harm the personal reputation of a person or people.

I need the “Make topics rather than people” concept as a reminder. It is not too late to elevate a healthy discussion to a respectable level. I will fight the urge to make things personal, and recognize a good point when I hear or read it, even if I disagree with most or all the rest of a person’s beliefs.

Honor to Whom It is Due

One thing we need to recognize and never let go of, is honor. Sometimes we overuse the word “hero”, maybe because we need them so much, to the point we call anyone who does anything out of an ordinary day a hero. This tends to inflate the term to the point that it is not really special anymore. It is important for us to realize how grateful we should be to those who have done extraordinary things on behalf of other people to truly rise to the rank of hero.

People who do good and valuable things each day to help individuals should be regarded with honor for those things. Not necessarily a parade, but a certain respect for the glue they provide in holding together families, churches and communities. In fact, most of them would be uncomfortable with parades because they were raised and bred to help. They know their forebears have handed down to them a cause larger than themselves. They are wired to be of value, simply because that is what we do. The parts of the whole need glue to hold it together, and they are more than willing to do that task.

I see those individuals everywhere who stick through thick and thin. They are people you will not notice until they are absent. Something is amiss and someone else must step in or things will go wrong. They do not expect anything, but there is something we can do for them and for us all, show them honor. By doing so, we remain faithful to them and their like who provide the continuity for us to pass down good and permanent things to our children and their children.


Keeping it Simple

It’s not hard. We make it so. We tend to complicate things we want to avoid. My sister used to say she didn’t know how to run the vacuum cleaner. Yet, she could figure out how to get around the tallest girls and make all-state in basketball as a high school sophomore.

I probably did the same thing in algebra class. I was enamored by the girl across the aisle, so algebra was too hard to contemplate. The chairs were situated so I had to look right past her to see the teacher. I hardly ever saw the teacher. I heard him a few times, saying something about “x and y”. I got by, with her and with algebra, but I didn’t get an A in either.

Why, then, do we avoid things that are permanent? We make those permanent things a matter of “interpretation” or “philosophical viewpoint” to be debated and then left on the dining room table to be picked up when we have nothing else to do. The permanent things: love, truth, beauty, heaven, hell and eternity are things essential for us to consider both now and for the future. They are not complicated. Facing them is not torture, but ultimate liberation. Each can deliver us from the delirium of “here” to the divine of “there”. That’s worth spending our time on.

The New Way

If you want to be considered part of the cool, elite, smart and progressive circles in our society, you might give some consideration to what you will leave behind.

First, you will abandon tried and true methods that gradually change because of need for improvement in outcomes. To change these overnight is to lose the structure that gave us the platform and place to stand both politically and morally. So, you will be constantly experimenting with “new” ideas (which have been tried and failed many times) and resolve that someone has a better idea. You will believe you know who that someone is, and you will be aligned with their thinking, regardless of success or failure.

Second, you will abandon the very things that brought you into the world and sustain you in your “right” to push the envelope. The envelope should be pushed, but not destroyed. You will ignore history and fail to learn from it. You will now be certain your group has a better ideology; a better system and an overtly “benevolent” country that treats everyone alike, even if they want to destroy us. You will feel better about yourself by advocating that there are no winners and losers, despite the fact that real life doesn’t reflect that. You will forget that your mother had enough morals and unselfish maturity to carry you to term and deliver you so you can aspire to be smarter than others. You will likely regard those who look at history and use it to determine the way into the future as small, petty and outdated.

Third, you will learn new applications of words such as “hater” or “extremist” for those who disagree, and you will jump at the chance to add these labels to those who hold on to tradition in any form. You will also seek to silence those who agree with freedom of speech if they do not follow your intelligent worldview. You will abandon the ability to hold rational debates and ignore the natural and theological fact that humans are prone to seek power and fail when they get it.

There could be more points to this subject, but you get the idea. To heck with wisdom from our ancestors! To heck with the old white men who disagreed, argued and sought to find a form of government that would serve the people, and not the other way around! To heck with everything prior to the last century when the cool, smart and progressive leaders really began to transform our nation into a global community! So, you can race ahead of the traditionalists who are a drag on society and lead the way toward big brother who knows everything.


Losing It

What will they do? Those coming completely unhinged over what has not yet happened will someday face the reality of the real world. No amount of screaming, whining or seeking safe places will prepare them when life catches up and they realize they cannot make it go away. Refusal to acknowledge the world as it is will only prepare them to seek the fantasy world of standing on street corners dressed as body parts. That will not get them jobs.

I thought about the resumes of those who throw fits for a living, and what success they will have at an interview. “Tell us about your experience.” “I have protested in various places and shouted profanity as loudly as I could, and was voted the best creator of private parts of the group.” I would guess there would not be much market for that kind of experience.

Just like the hippies of the ‘60s, they will eventually have to face the real world. They will have to support their families and recognize that no matter how much they worship the “anti-everything” god, they will still have to step up to something and contribute to the common good. They simply do not know how to learn from loss. They would rather refuse to believe it exists, and tear up property and abuse those who voted differently than they did. This is lack of character at its deepest and most obvious.

I say let them yell till they run out energy. Then, while they try to recover from their worst nightmare, show them what working and living is all about.


Basic Civility

The recent gathering of women in Washington was nothing to be proud of, even if you agreed with some of the ideas presented. Actually they weren’t presented, they were screamed using profanity and insults that totally wiped out any “message”, if there was one.

So far, I have seen no cohesive message, other than they were really angry, beside themselves, aimless and followers of whoever commandeered the mic at any moment. If there had been a message, it was lost in the parade of howlers that pretended to be leaders of something incomprehensible. I would have felt more comfortable in any federal prison that day than in that crowd. Whatever they feel they lost in the election, they lost any semblance of respect or dignity. About 98% of their anger was about things that have not happened yet. Their pre-emptive nightmares haven’t yet unfolded; yet they implode.

Maybe we should give them a safe space to regain their ability to think clearly and operate within the system that allows for such nonsense. Meanwhile, the rest of us have work to do.

Know the Game

Those who advocate the encouragement of abortion as an option to unwanted pregnancy firmly believe they have covered themselves with enough layers of justification for their stand. Further, they defy anyone who deigns to question or differ with their view. There are several things they have forgotten along the way as they continue efforts to protect the practices of organizations such as Planned Parenthood, or more accurately, non-parenthood.

First, they still use the term “abortion” and do not deny that. The problem is they claim many of these “procedures” are not done on babies. Yet, that is exactly what is being done. They acknowledge a pregnancy, but do not say what the girl or woman is pregnant with. If it is only “tissue” or a “mass”, use of the term abortion is inappropriate. If a person has a tumor or anything that does not belong in the body, the term abortion is never used. To remove cancer is not abortion. An appendectomy is not an abortion. The surgery or other treatment done on an intruding entity is just that: surgery or treatment. By definition (apart from the common definition as termination of human pregnancy) an abortion is “arrested development”. This term is used for such situations as military operations. We say “abort” when things are going badly and we need to halt the mission. In the womb, if allowed to continue, the baby will be born and grow into an adult, barring disease or accident. During an abortion, the human life is killed while still in the womb. There is no way around it.

Second, as the repeated claim of doing “much more other good work” is the defense, why not simply discontinue the abortion services, and continue the rest? If only three percent of the services are abortions, why not avoid the public outcry by focusing on the other 97% and continue being supported by federal funding? The truth is, they could never give that up, and money is to be made on the practice of abortion.

Third, not only Planned Parenthood, but most of the other healthcare providers leave out one specific, practical bit of advice. Having sex can lead to conception. That is not news, but is dismissed as advice for those prior to becoming pregnant, or for those who have become pregnant for future reference. If we leave out the moral and spiritual angles, the practical approach seems still perfectly obvious. Too many times we are made to feel we have treaded on a person’s personal believes, so we fear being labeled as prudish or a Bible-thumper. We encourage people to quit smoking due to the risks to their health, yet we are afraid to encourage abstinence for those who would become pregnant and treat the baby as a disease.

I don’t expect Planned Parenthood or its supporters to change their thinking, but I do hope we can continue the battle for those who did not make the decision to be conceived or the decision about whether to live. We should not be fooled by their attempts to legitimize a brutal practice.


Keeping Watch

On the night Jesus was born, the shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks by night. After the Lord’s birth, they were the first to get the news from the angel. They came and saw what they were told, and then told others what they had seen.

Keeping watch, a simple task, or so it would seem. While not an educated position, it required what most of us would likely not be able to do. It required presence. This is not a job that could be done from a distance. They had to actually lay eyes on the sheep and their surroundings to see that they were safe. It also required vigilance, so nothing foreign not belonging in the flock crept in. A quiet flock tended not to pay attention when danger was near. These men led their flocks from the front; they did not drive them from the rear, as cattle. They spent much of their lives in isolated places, looking for green grass, always for the sheep. It was their job, and often their life.

It seems conservatives are “watch-keepers” as well to a large degree. They realize that change is natural, but also are concerned that change comes naturally. If things move too quickly, the past gets left behind, and history is forgotten. The permanent things will be abandoned for the latest utopian idea of fixing all the problems of the world. Each new generation of “fixers” brings a reflexive experiment or two, or six that is supposed to make everything wonderful. It may look good on paper, but they tend to forget two important things: humans devised the plan and humans are expected to implement it as written. Both are fraught with error. Change comes as needed, not as forced. It takes a large entity (such as a powerful central organization) to force the change, immediately.

Looking back to history, we find that there is “nothing new under the sun” and that most quick fixes have been tried, many times. Stability has its advantages, and to throw it to the wind is to invite chaos. The French revolution is the classic example. The overthrow of the royalty resulted in thousands of deaths in the utter anarchy that resulted, and the effects are still being felt. The same thing happened in Russia with the overthrow and death of the czar and his family. While not the best ruler, the ones following conducted purges that killed millions of people and locked many countries into a slave-oriented lock-step existence. Those in power considered themselves to have the “best” answers.

Conservatives know that they do not have the best ideas over anyone else, but they also know that no one person or small group does either. As with the shepherds, we cannot keep watch from a distance, but can keep watch more effectively locally, where we can sit at tables and counters and talk. Thinking people need to communicate, and not throw phrases at each other from across the country.


Guessing Game

What did they miss? Those who were confident in the outcome of the election before the polls opened were stunned when those polls closed and the returns began coming in. What happened? Part of the explanation is that Christian voters turned out to make their voices heard. Among other reasons (such as wishful thinking), there was the outright misunderstanding of what Christian voters would do.

Some of those who expected Christians to vote a certain way just do not understand the Christian mindset at all. Others, who have had just enough Christianity to make them miserable  (like a flu shot), and have a preconceived idea of what they believe Christians should do based on their little experience and learning  likely never got it in the first place. This is not to doubt that stereotypes do exist, and often with good reason, but they do not deserve a blanket categorization of what ought to be.

The fact is there is no predicting what Christians will do and how they will vote. There will be a general worldview that most will follow. Yet, they are human, and subject to fallibility. In spite of those who believe Christians think themselves as being always right, we know differently. Additionally, we also receive the expressions of anger and frustration from those who think they had us figured out, and we didn’t respond as they had expected. It will be more productive when others realize we are not the enemy. We may be voting our conscience, but only the individual believer and God know what that is.