Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Heard an interpretive talk today at a major historic site on the east coast.  I was actually at a respected colonial and revolutionary leader's home but I didn't hear one thing about his or his family except negative things.  I heard for 30 minutes about the barbaric way he and his family enslaved negroes.  I heard about how the blacks in their household had to clean chamber pots, wash bed linens, cook food, sleep on floors, dress the children, and serve in that house.  About how the leader and his wife made awful decisions on the disposal of their "personal property", the slaves.  I heard about how they made those decisions based on economic and social reasons and ironically never applied the ideas of freedom and liberty to the enslaved and disenfranchised people around them.  I heard of atrocities performed by owners on their slaves in that town and the claim that such violence and wickedness happened every single day in a place considered civilized.  And so it went.

I have no doubt that much of the presentation was true.  I also understand the voice of a historian is often laced with their own personal agenda and worldview.  When history is researched and examined, it is often to acquire information to fit a particular paradigm.  I offer no excuses for the actions of the white owners.  Many of them were Christians and should have known better just from the teachings of Scriptures.  However, what bothered me most was the arrogance of a man from the 21st century judging the actions and lives of 18th century men and women.  How can we of this century self righteously make judgments when we didn't live in those times, culture, or ideological frameworks?  How can we, who are guilty of even far greater crimes, fully condemn people who were trying to manage the conditions they faced?

In the 21st century, people of all races commit heinous crimes everyday against a group of people they consider their own "personal property".  They make awful decisions about the disposal of that property for economic and social reasons, denying that group of enslaved and disenfranchised people the very liberty and life those making the decisions enjoy. 21st century humans perform atrocities against fellow humans claiming they have the right to do so.  This, in a time when we consider ourselves so advanced and wise when it comes to human rights. 

The people who are considered personal property these days are infants in the womb.  This entire group of humans, for more than two generations, has been victims that 20th and 21st century humans have justified in killing and maiming for economic and social reasons.  These unborn humans have been denied liberty, freedom, and life.  I ask, what will the humans of 3 centuries from now say about us?  How will they condemn us?  Or are the facts that we have learned nothing from history, nothing from the 18th century treatment of slaves, nothing from the Scriptures and God's Laws, nothing from our "modern mind"---are these actions going to show that we are just as barbaric as that interpreter described our 18th century forbearers? That we are, in fact, even more barbaric because we have the technological means to do more good but we use it to inflict more harm?  That our society is becoming more barbaric even while we decry what happened in history? "Don't judge, lest ye be judged."

History needs to be told.  It needs to be honest and balanced.  Historical accounts in God's Word are starkly direct about people's sins.  Yet, God also offers forgiveness and grace to fallen people.  We are those fallen people and we need to learn history, learn mistakes of the past, learn how God deals in the affairs of mankind, and we need to consider what we learn and apply it to ourselves.