(RNS) — Debates over important race principle are usually not nearly historical past; they’re additionally about the way forward for the nation.
At their extremes, one aspect desires to gloss over the evils of our previous whereas the opposite excessive desires to rub our noses in it. One aspect claims to be patriotic; the opposite argues that, at its core, the American experiment is corrupt. One aspect promotes the established order; the opposite requires revolution.
Is a center place potential? Can we be each sinful and good?
There’s a pure tendency of countries to trumpet their successes and virtues moderately than their failures and vices. Some even deify their leaders, or a minimum of declare that they’re divinely impressed. They’re heroes struggling in opposition to their enemies till they’re victorious.
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Till the mid-20th century, the Catholic Church adopted this similar sample. Catholics have been the great guys; Protestants have been the dangerous guys. We ignored the Renaissance-era chaos of the Borgia popes and centuries of church corruption and solely talked in regards to the saints. (Protestant church buildings did the identical factor, not speaking in regards to the wives murdered by Henry VIII or Martin Luther’s siding with the princes in opposition to the peasants.)
For each nations and church buildings, historical past was propaganda.
There’s one nation that didn’t observe this sample when taking a look at its previous, and that’s historical Israel.
The Bible experiences that Israel’s previous is stuffed with corrupt and silly kings. Even one of the best of them — Moses, David and Solomon — have been sinners who strayed from the trail God set earlier than them. Israel’s elites ignored the plight of the poor and acquired into silly wars. Nor have been the folks all the time trustworthy. They too turned away from God and embraced false gods.
And when Israel turned away from God and his covenant, it suffered defeats and disasters.
The historical past of biblical Israel just isn’t the story of an awesome folks however of an awesome God who stays trustworthy to his folks regardless of their sins. He continuously calls them to return to the covenant, to return to him.
Can we study from the Bible how to take a look at American historical past?
If Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon have been sinners, why are we shocked that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Kennedy have been additionally flawed? The Bible can honor Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon for his or her achievements whereas on the similar time noting their sins and failures. Can we do the identical with our historic figures?
If the Bible can criticize Israel for silly wars, can we not query the knowledge of our wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan? Can we honor the bravery of our troopers whereas condemning the errors of their leaders?
Can we acknowledge the unique sin of slavery, whereas recognizing nice progress has been made in opposition to racism whereas nonetheless extra must be executed?
Within the Bible, we hear not solely from historians, however from critics within the prophetic books and from students within the knowledge books. A wholesome nation has a steadiness amongst political leaders, critics and students. When the politicians dominate, we now have authoritarianism. When the false prophets dominate, we now have the chaos of faux information. When know-it-all students dominate, we now have elitism.
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Within the Bible, God calls on Israel to repent and return to rules articulated in his covenant with them. If we checked out American historical past by way of a biblical lens, we’d see our failings and the decision to return to the rules of freedom and equality articulated in our founding paperwork.
The folks of Israel by no means acquired it proper, however God didn’t abandon them, and every technology stored attempting. The folks of America won’t ever get it proper, however every technology should attempt once more. That’s what the Bible teaches us.