While observing the gay marriage debate or the legalization of pot issue or other such ‘progressive’ trends, I constantly hear those favoring change charging their counterparts as being on the wrong side of history. Cloaking one’s self in the robes of enlightenment while painting the opposition as living in the dark ages is a most common debate tactic designed to shut down reasoned argument and thus ‘win’. It works well because it touches on our deep longing to be accepted. Who, after all, wants to be the ugly duckling, the fifth wheel, the out of touch fuddy duddy living in the past?
Inherent in these conversations is that humanity is advancing, ever advancing. Our technological skills and our standard of living combined with our natural inclination toward arrogance cause us to look down our noses at what once was and to see ourselves as architects of what might come. Humanity is getting better and better, we believe, and if we could just get the uninformed sluggards holding us back to get on board there is no end to the good we could do politically, economically, physically, spiritually, in every sphere of life.
The church is not immune to this kind of thinking. The builder generation apparently did church all wrong so the boomers reinvented it and used the new forms as a critique of the old, only to be blindsided when the busters reinvented it again and critiqued the ‘church light’ their parents had created, and then along come the millennials who turn the world upside down again. All in the name of progress. All in the name of being on the right side of history.
Progression toward utopia is a huge draw. What if our generation finally gets it right? What if we finally create the perfect world? No disease. No war. No hunger. No issues around sexuality. No airplanes crashing into the French Alps because some poor pilot neglects to take his medication or decides that he’d rather kill himself and others then lose his dream job. “One of these days when the air clears up, and the sun comes shining through” claims the old Merle Haggard tune, “we’ll all be drinking that free Bubble Up and eating that rainbow stew.” The thing is, I suspect old Merle was singing the song with tongue firmly in cheek.
If you believe humanity is on a progressive train towards utopia you have to explain away a lot of things. Or you have to just paint one side of the picture. Look at all the diseases we have cured you loudly ballyhoo, while whispering about the new ones you can’t understand. Look at the Arab spring, you shout, until it all comes undone in a violent backlash. There are things that can’t be explained away, of course, so they need to be demonized. Those on the right side of history aiming toward utopia can’t tolerate stragglers or those who are counter culture. Silly Christians who live in the past when marriage was between a man and a woman are hopelessly out of date and need to catch up. Pot is safer than booze, claim the adherents to the progressive way. Sin is an outdated concept that shamed people and made them feel bad about themselves and it needs to be replaced with positive thinking and improved self image. Religion is a silly holding on to ancient story and superstition by the weak and the ignorant and needs to be eradicated and replaced with glorious science, the god of the intellect and the wave of the future. Out with the old. In with the new. Don’t be on the wrong side of history or people will make fun of you.
So, Jesus, God over all, coming and entering the world he created, to live the perfect life, and then lay it down in death for the sake of humanity, only to rise from the dead on the third day, blah, blah, blah… well that is just a ridiculous story. It is just an epic myth. Who would believe such a thing in this post religion age? Hold on to such a belief and you open yourself to ridicule or worse. You will certainly place yourself on the wrong side of history. Who, in this enlightened age of science, could believe that a human being, dead three days, could walk out of a grave, be seen by hundreds of people, and then in the height of ridiculousness, rise to some utopian place where true believers will someday join him? While there is historical evidence that a man walked around Israel making such claims, we can scientifically prove that all such claims are false or downright impossible. You don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of history on this debate, folks. People will laugh.
Sadly, I’m on the wrong side of history on this one. I’m one of those stupid people who buy the story, hook, line, and sinker. Worse, I think others should believe it as well. I think it is truer than any other story. I think it is the only story that matters. It’s crazy, I know. I recognize it is ludicrous to the enlightened. I know I can’t prove it to the progressive. I know I’m on the wrong side of history. I just don’t care. Even more strangely, I believe I’m on the right side of history. I believe that real life is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I actually believe it to be the anchor point of all of history. I believe it even if you pat my head, give me a benign, enlightened smile and pity me. I believe it if you mock and scorn me. I believe it if you hold a gun to my head and ask me if I’m a Christian as they’ve been doing to my sisters and brothers in a college in Kenya. So very sad that they died for their wrong side of history belief.
Sin is real. Sin is everywhere. Sin permeates every aspect of our enlightened, progressive ways. Sin can’t be eradicated by science or positive thinking. We all fall short of the mark. History records our rebellion against God from beginning to end. We stood on the wrong side of a utopian future until Jesus comes and offers to place us on the right side of history. We’re dead until he makes us alive. We’re doomed to become history until he gives us a future.
I’m thrilled and grateful to be on the right side of history because of his awesome sacrifice. I hope you are to.