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Thursday, July 18, 2019

History is no judge

If one wants to fundamentally transform America, one must also find a way of describing that transformed America as morally acceptable.

Around the time the Supreme Court handing down its latest gay marriage decision, a phrase prominently entered the American political lexicon: “the right side of History.” It's as if to say, “We had it wrong before, but now we're getting it right, and future generations will see it our way now.”

The problem here is “History” is not a thing of its own. History has no agency. History is the story as written by whoever won and gained power. That doesn't necessarily make it right.

This phrase has a built-in bias of favoring a change from the way things have been. It implies history has “sides,” that we're on a different side now, and this new side is good or right. If the change in question is away from good things, then this phrase is an excuse for corruption.

Conservatives should understand the semantics here before they adopt use of this phrase in their direction. If it's fundamentally rooted in an idea of “might makes right,” then adopting and using this phrase attaches the idea of might-makes-right to their ideas, too. If “right” is nothing more than who won and writes the history, this inevitably forfeits any argument about underlying principle.

There is one thing that “the right side of history” gets right: It is wise to consider how things will be viewed in the future.

There are important underlying principles. God created the world with natural laws, and gave us His moral Law for how we should live. He has already told us what the right side is, and He will be the Judge of whether or not we follow His Law. God also had written what this will look like. Prophecy is better than history.

Jesus told the story of a man in hell who begged him to send Lazarus “to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.” He replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them,” and, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

Peter wrote, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

It's tempting to alter the phrase from “the right side of History” to “the right side of Eternity.” This would further extend the time perspective given by the phrase, but Eternity, too, has no agency nor is it a thing of its own. God is the great Judge of history. We, and what we do, should be on His side.

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