When the “Right Side of History” is Actually Wrong

right-wrong

“We are on the right side of history.” -President Barack Obama

Our president began to use this language in his first term.  In the past 7 years it has trickled down into the vernacular of our nation.  It has been used to describe our fight against terrorism.  I’ve heard it used more in the past few years than ever before.  Now it is being used repeatedly to describe many moral issues as well, especially homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage.

Last year I wrote a blog post about homosexuality where I gave reasons why I believed the freshly written Supreme Court decision to adopt gay marriage was wrong, especially concerning the Christian faith.  A friend from college who differs drastically from me in politics yet shares a common faith wrote to me.  He asked me why I wanted to be on the wrong side of history.  In his opinion it was only a matter of time until most of the country accepted homosexuality as permissible.  It was an inevitable march that much of our country had accepted.  Many of the mainline denominations have accepted it.  Polls show our country continuing to accept it.  Why would I want to put off the inevitable?

When we look back at the history books 100 years from now why wouldn’t we want to be on the ‘right side of history?’  Why wouldn’t we want to grasp the opportunity while there is still work to be done, instead of coming over grudgingly later when we inevitably discover that they are right?

The Problem of Pride

To use this term is to presuppose you are right.  It is prideful and arrogant.  The pride comes from the assumption of being wholly correct without a willingness to listen.  If you are on the right side of history, then I must be on the wrong side.

I do realize a simple fact about most of us: we do believe we are right.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t believe what we believe.  Yet the challenge when we face opposing views on important topics is that when we approach them from the point of arrogance we close the door to any discussion.  So often the terms “discussion” and “conversation” are used by many to encourage understanding and unity, yet I have discovered the longer the discussion on this topic continues the farther apart we become.  To talk to someone about a disagreement requires an openness to listen, and stating that you are on the right side of history shuts down open conversation.

“History is written by the victors.” -Winston Churchill

Look at the history books today.  Why do you think a majority of the history texts in American classrooms record so much of the history of the Roman Empire?  One answer might be that they contributed a lot to the development of the western world and culture.  Another reason is because they were victorious.  They had an empire of massive size.  They conquered many other nations, cultures, and lands.  Growing up in school I did not spend much time focusing on those cultures they conquered.  Instead, we focused on those who were victorious.

History books are not unbiased.  The problem is that bias changes with the wind.  Victors do not stand at the top of a mountain forever.  The Bible is a good reminder of that.  Over the thousands of years we see powers rise and fall in the Ancient Near East, including Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria, among others.  Each of these recorded their own histories to show their own mighty histories, yet looking back now we know they did not last forever.  Each of those cultures in time was conquered.

With victory comes power.  Power changes minds and sets the rules.  Yet the rules change with the power.  Right now the left has held the power, but if we are students of history we know that it hasn’t always been that way.  Laws have changed over time.  They are subject to the will of the majority.  Yet we know that the majority is not always right.  In the realm of history we see again and again that the majority opinion is not always the best.  Peer pressure persuades many to go, but we see a different point of view from Scripture.

History is Not Always Right

We need a guide that doesn’t change with the times.  We need something that holds true no matter the opinion of the masses.  We need something that, throughout history, has been solid bedrock in guiding people.  We need God.  How does God speak to us?  In His Word.

The Bible is God’s Truth for us today.  As the words of Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus say, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.  Just to take Him at His word.  Just to rest upon His promise.  Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.”  When we trust God we lean upon His Word.  This Bible, so complex, written in 3 languages over 3 continents over thousands of years, is the written Word of God.  In its simplicity it can save the soul of someone reading it for the first time.  In its complexity it has been studied deeply by the greatest minds in every generation and is still not fully understood.

History is not always right.  God’s Word is always right.  Scripture has endured thousands of years of God’s people conquering and being conquered.  God’s Word was always true.  This Truth is absolute.  It is true for all people, in all places, at all times, in all ways.  God’s Word was written to a people who lived in real time with real culture.  God spoke to them in their specific situations.  The Truth that God shared with them is always true.  Our job is to understand the Truth so we can apply it to our culture.

What If We Do Consider History?

If we do consider history, especially Christian history, we will see a resounding answer.  The whole of Christian history and tradition stands firm on this issue of homosexuality.  If I follow the logic of those who are persuading us to be on the so-called “right side of history” then I would not choose to change my views on homosexuality or marriage.  The church has been clear on this issue until the past few generations.  With the sexual revolution of the past 70 years we see the effects of postmodernity taking effect.  The hallmark of postmodernity is this: truth is relative.  If we believe truth is individualized, then of course we can begin to do whatever we want.  It is your truth.  Yet that is not the way Truth is approached in the Bible.  Again and again God tells his people they are living in sin, need to turn from their sinful ways, and God will forgive and heal them.

Considering the history of the church we see again and again that when the church adopts the worldview of the culture instead of the worldview of the Bible the church begins to fail.  We do not need a church that looks like the world.  There are plenty of social clubs and non-profits doing wonderful work.  We need a church that shares Life with a dead world.  We need a church that shines a light in the darkness.  We need a church that is the Body of Christ.  The church can only do this if they follow God’s Word.

The World Will Not Understand

It really never has.  It didn’t understand Christ.  The Bible has been countercultural most of the time.  That is why Paul tells us to be steady in following God’s Word even when the culture tells us differently.

“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” Ephesians 4:14

We now live in the post-Christian society here in America.  The signs are all around us.  As the church we have one decision with three possibilities.

  1. Will we bend to the pressure of the world, lowering our view of Scripture and its Truth and instead accepting “new” ideas as truth for us?
  2. Will we mourn the changes in our culture and while rejecting them also preach against them so forcefully we tell the world just how wrong they are?
  3. Will we remain steadfast in our hope that we hold the Truth of God, seeing this new mission field of America as an opportunity for joy as we share the Good News with generations that have never heard it before?

The first option is the easiest.  There are many opinions that will be persuasive.  Even some leaders we trust have and will change their positions.

The second option is the one I see much of the evangelical world taking.  Mourning the loss of the majority opinion in culture, many people are surprised, upset, and even angry.  There is resentment, judgment, and hurt.  This is not the response that God is calling us to show the world, and the world is watching.

The third option is the only option that God gives us in Scripture.  This new world we face today is really an opportunity, not a problem.  For generations our churches have been satisfied with just filling the pews.  Now we must engage the culture, invite the lost, and share the love of Jesus.  The world will not come to us.  We must go to them.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2

I don’t care about being on the right side of history.  I simply want to be on the right side of heaven.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.” Hebrews 13:8-9

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Published by: Brad Kirk

I'm an ordained Elder in the Great Plains Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and serve as pastor of Leoti UMC in western Kansas. I am a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary. I love being a husband to Diana and a father to Tobin. Most of all I am a child of God!

1 Comment

One thought on “When the “Right Side of History” is Actually Wrong”

  1. Thank you for such a thoughtful and deep conversation about a current idea. Interesting reading and brought to heart.

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