21 November 2006

The Light, The Glory, and The Frustration

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

At church the other day, I had a conversation about American history with a middle-aged homeschooling father. It went a lot like most of my discussions on that topic with that particular demographic (including my own father, whom I love dearly and respect deeply).

In this case, though, the discussion centered on a pseudohistorical text called The Light and the Glory, which I would encourage you to take a look at if you can manage to do it without putting money into the pockets of certified nutcases David Manuel and Peter Marshall. Basically, their argument is that the Puritans were spot-on in their idea that God chose America to be a "City on a Hill," his modern-day Chosen People. This, of course, implies that it also was God's will for Western Europeans to brutally force indigenous peoples off their lands and gradually annex an entire continent from one end to the other because it was their "destiny" to do so. Here's what Tim LaHaye, of Left Behind fame, has to say about The Light and the Glory: "[It]reveals our true national heritage and inspires us to stay on God's course as a nation."

The fact that Sunday's "discussion" focused on that book made it very hard for me to adopt my normal strategy for dealing with politics at church (smiling and nodding until they stop talking at me).

Homeschooling Dad: So, have you read The Light and the Glory?

Me (desperately wanting the answer to be different): Well, yeah.

HD: Boy, isn't it great to see how God's finger is in American history all the way through, shaping us into what we've become today?

Me: Hm. It sure is neat that God cares about us.

HD: I really think that's what's wrong with our society, ever since the '60s when they started taking all of that stuff out of schools. That's why we're so evil as a nation today.

Me: Hm.

HD: So, what did you think about the book?

Here's where I'm faced with a dilemma. I know that telling him what I really think of the book has the potential to generate a whole lot of heat and not much light. But, quite frankly, it's not a very good piece of historical writing.

For one thing, the authors constantly and insidiously insert their own ideology into their narrative of events. I know that any scholar will be biased in her account of a particular event, but she should at least make an effort to discuss those biases and try to minimize them, if history is to be told in any kind of objective way.

For another thing, the sources they use are frequently a.) taken out of context, b.) extremely biased toward the Puritan view of American history, and c.) gauges of individual convictions rather than historical events.

On top of that, the authors' proposed solution to what they see as a biased, secularized American history is a polar opposite that only serves to reinforce a problematic binary. Ultimately, I decide to err on the side of not laying the issue down quietly.

Me: I didn't really like it, actually.

HD: Really?! Why not?

Me: It doesn't seem to be very balanced, for one thing.

HD: Well, after 40 years of imbalance, isn't it about time that we had our say?

Me: But I don't think the answer is to create an oppositely biased account. That's like letting the other side define you.

HD: Oh, so you just disagree with the approach they take to fix the problem?

Me (frustrated): Sure.

Marshwiggle: OK, time to start Sunday school, everyone. Let's open in prayer for Luaphacim's liberal soul.

No, I did not make that last part up.

Tee hee. I love that Marshwiggle guy. :-)


Anonymous said...

Mr. L. then proceeds to pray for Marshwiggle...and in doing so, heaps burning coals. It's a great friendship.

-Mrs. L.

Unknown said...

heh. I was trying to help Mr. L escape the conversation.

(But we didn't pray for him.)