When the virus called Corona hit Southern California’s shores, I was determined to practice the spiritual principles I have learned in recent years. Believing that God is in charge of every molecule under heaven, I had good reason not to get all stressed out. The equation added civil unrest and political monologues, destroying joy and fellowship on Facebook and social media. I consciously tried not to get caught up in what seemed like so much folly in the dialogue.
Disengaging is not in my DNA, so I focussed my attention on learning more about the history and background to provide meaningful context to the authentic human history we are living. My mental meanderings ended up taking me to a place I wasn’t expecting, and a time I wasn’t expecting, and through a location, I prefer to avoid, Washington, D.C.
Follow my thinking here. We are a nation founded mostly by English malcontents, or Christian refugees, or adventurous, restless pioneers, depending on what version of the story you want to tell. Yet when my overly visual mind travels to Washington, D.C., my senses are assaulted not by Christian symbols or architecture at all. There is nothing uniquely British about the city either. Then I remembered, this signature American city was designed by a Frenchman, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who preferred to be called Peter. Now don’t get me wrong, just because he has a fancy French name doesn’t mean he wasn’t a patriot. He was with General Washington at Valley Forge as part of the Continental Army. No other credentials are needed. Few dispute his dominant influence on the design of our capital city. He also was commissioned by General Lafayette to do a portrait of George Washington and became good friends with Alexander Hamilton.
What visual images are coming to your mind as I bring up Washington, D.C.? Certain buildings? You know architectural design 101 you were taught in 7th grade. Come on. Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Ringing a bell.
To see if this mental meandering can take us anywhere, I’ve invited back to Church Hurts And a London Tour guide. His specialty is the classics, so welcome back to Church Hurts And Englishman Ben Virgo.
Listen to this Podcast or watch on YouTube.
We have a new category or movement in recent days, which has the label “Cancel Culture”. Like many new categories, it takes on definition over time, gains followers and opponents, and morphs into the history books through the author’s eyes and perspective. It has become associated recently with the tearing down of statues, rehearsing key historical figures’ sins, and villainizing previous historical icons.
I strangely have an appreciation for both sides of this more -than-rhetorical battle. In a speech before the House of Commons on Jan. 23, 1948, Churchill said: “For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.” We can find truth in Churchill’s humor. In a real sense, victors do write the history.
I’d suggest that canceling culture is the wrong answer to incomplete history. There is so much more to be gained by learning more and digging deep to learn the lessons history provides. In case you haven’t been told, let me let you in on a secret.
History is never neat and clean. There aren’t just two sides, there are usually more than that, and they aren’t of equal weight. If your knowledge of history is to divide countries and people and movements into one of two columns, good and bad, you will miss reality by a long shot.
Englishman John Locke made terrific contributions to intellectual thought in philosophy and politics, and American founders admitted their indebtedness to him. He was a pioneer of significant proportions. John Locke also participated in justifying slavery.
Some like to think our founders had in mind a country like what the United States is now. I seriously doubt it. For them, religious freedom meant keeping the government from telling you to which church to go. It included not excluding Catholics. Do you know what that meant? One, count it, one Roman Catholic signed the Declaration of Independence. Charles Carroll. The founder’s idea of diversity? A group of Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians with a couple of Deists and a couple of Unitarians. In other words, this was a group of very white, very English, and very Christian men who somehow came up with a document setting the foundation for the most diverse inclusive nation the world had ever imagined.
Did they get it all right? Nope. Were they perfect? By no means. Was there room for improvement? They even included ways for that to happen.
From a church perspective, history tells me that sometimes the church speaks to the culture, sometimes the church imitates the culture, and sometimes the church becomes the culture. Ironically the same is true of individuals. What is the right thing now? Perhaps the time to take a lesson from Ecclesiastes.
It is easy to be wrong. It is easy to be arrogant. It is easy to get impatient with those who know less than we do. And it is certainly easy to criticize the church as those sinners continue to try to find their way in the world. I think I’ll join them. It is better than going it alone.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And you?
It’s Worth a Thought…