Join us sundays at 9:00 or 10:45am

There Have Been Bad/Good Days Before, Part 1

In a previous post, I discussed the importance of remembering and retelling God’s stories. Explicitly this includes the stories of the Bible and the Story of the Bible, the story that points to and is Jesus. Also explicitly such storytelling includes the “smaller” ways God works in individuals’ lives like the stories Lori Day told at the Gala. But I would like to add a third kind of storytelling to this that I think is overlooked to the detriment of our faith (and might I say our prayers): history.

I’m going to generalize here, but I think culturally we don’t “do” history very well. I’m sure there are many reasons, but Neil Postman suggests an interesting one in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. He argues that America’s “television culture” has literally changed the way we think and communicate, so much so that we have lost the capacity to remember history well (p. 137). This, Postman says, is because the television culture (and now the internet culture) has essentially removed context: all the bits of “information” bombarding us are largely unconnected to each other. If we are to truly remember anything, we only do so within a larger framework, but our culture’s way of thinking removes such systems of remembering. If the postmodernist’s dream was to remove all meta-narratives , then the television/internet culture, it seems, succeeded on his behalf.

I have seen two extreme responses from Christians to the sort of self-absorbed “forgetfulness” displayed in culture. On the one hand, Christians might simply be clueless; on the other hand they may despair. I will discuss the first response here and the second in a later post.

There are those who are happily clueless (or at least not unhappily clueless) to our culture’s forgetfulness and focus on the present. These Christians swallow cultural changes and the going philosophy of our day without much chewing. They don’t know much about other historical periods or other cultures or other cultural beliefs so they hardly consider how our culture might be different and whether the beliefs of our culture or time in history are in line with God’s Word or not. Pastor Josh has pointed out one such challenge in the realm of technology. Do we swallow without chewing? Or do we prayerfully consider? The “clueless” Christian has no context for consideration in so many cases because he/she literally has no idea what other people are like in other places or were like at other times/places or how God was working.

With the risk of repeating my previous post, let me say, this is not the kind of remembering we see in the Bible. The Bible retells both God’s glorious acts and the people’s failings so that future generations could hear of God’s great trustworthiness and believe. Remembering in the Bible is proactive. So, for the happily clueless Christian, the Bible calls you to be a rememberer. We are to be transformed by the mind of Christ rather than conformed to the patterns of our culture’s ways of thinking or remembering. We are to welcome God’s good gifts and use them wisely but shun the evil our culture embraces. To do so requires the keen eye of the Holy Spirit ultimately, but also at least a cursory understanding of where we fit in the grand scheme of history. You cannot tell a story you do not know.

I admit, I have been guilty of this attitude, but such “cluelessness” is unacceptable for the Christian because God has called his people to oppose forgetfulness and, instead, to understand the story of the Bible and God’s meta-narrative and rehearse that to each other and to our children and to our children’s children. And our storytelling should include stories from history, the ways that God has moved in different cultures in different times. Unfortunately, many today have only a spotty understanding of history and I include myself in that number. Such lack of understanding of the “big” picture only deepens an apathetic attitude. When our culture is amusing itself into forgetfulness, to borrow Postman’s language, we are to be active rememberers of God’s great stories. There have been good days before and there have been bad days before, and they are all worth remembering and repeating in ways that glorify God and his work in history especially as we seek to understand how God is working in the right now.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:2, 21