Sunday, June 21, 2015

Putting the past in the past

i) Whenever there's a crime like the Chas church shooting, you always have social commentators, including some evangelicals, staggering under a white guilt complex, who treat the reader to the de rigueur, push-button history of antebellum slavery and segregation. They think contemporary whites are supposed to atone for the sins of dead white men.

ii) There's always a conspicuously lopsided aspect to this exercise. When a black commits a hate-crime against a white victim, the same social commentators fall strangely silent, or even excuse it.

They don't blacks should feel black guilt for Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe. They don't think Chinese youth should feel "yellow guilt" for the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution. They don't think American Indians should feel "red guilt" for one tribe massacring another tribe. Should Japanese youth do penance for the Bataan Death March and the Rape of Nanking?

iii) Frankly, this is playacting. Projecting yourself into the past–as if as if you and your contemporaries lived back then. But that's just a flight of the imagination.

iv) In many ways the past might as well be fictional vis-à-vis of our relationship to the past. It's like my Viking forebears who conquered Normandy in the 10C. Yes, I'm causally linked to them and that event in a very attenuated way, but that's not my world. That's long gone. I might as well be reading a novel or watching a movie. 

We're talking about the remembered past. It's the influence of memories. And that's circular. It feeds on itself. 

v) Finally, all this vicarious guilt and vicarious repentance is bad theology. 

That's what the Day of Judgment is for. It's not incumbent on the living to apologize for what dead people did to other dead people. That's so cheap and easy and meaningless anyway. 

There are things that happen in this life, things that happen in the past, that can't be fixed in this life. It's too late to repent or adjudicate in this life. Too late to restore what was lost. The culprits are long gone. The victims are long gone. But that's what Judgment Day is for. There's a day of reckoning. 

So there's a point beyond which we need to put the past in the past. Commit the issue to God. Leave it in his hands. It's not our responsibility to repent for the dead. 

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