“What goes around comes around,” says a familiar adage that keeps coming around and around.
Old sayings aren’t the only things to depart only to return again and again. There are boomerangs, the McRib sandwich and Brett Favre — to name a few.
But, as some have long noted, history can be seen as circular rather than simply linear. Or as another adage puts it, “ History repeats itself.”
It is an unawareness of history that allows for such repetition — possibly even an intentional failure to learn from the past.
Discrimination works that way. It grows out of the same fear time and time again, but finds a fresh target to demonize.
Many Americans (including those who profess to be Christian) now look back with a disapproving eye (at least publicly) at the ghastly mistreatment of Native Americans and African Americans — yet tend to use the same fear-based justifications to demonize and discriminate against Hispanic immigrants or Muslims or LGBTQ persons.
In each and every case, history is ignored or reinterpreted, and rationalized as, “But this is different.” When, in reality, the new approaches to discrimination follow the same old path.
The Bible is used that way as well. Few (though some!) would argue today that the Sun rotates around the Earth. But there was a time when all biblical truth hung on that belief — which made life quite miserable for the good scientists who proved the hardened biblical position to be otherwise.
Yet, for many, the larger lesson of how to view the Bible in regards to scientific matters was not learned. The Bible is still misused according to the same illogical and defensive approach that equates biblical truth with what one wants to believe.
Oddly, such “firm faith” is actually a very fragile faith. It rests and risks the whole of truth — including the claims of Jesus — on the defense of one’s narrow scientific, historical or ethical beliefs about lesser matters.
These range from holding (despite clear evidence) to belief in a 6,000-year-old earth to the literal interpretation of biblical stories not meant to be literal, to advancing male authoritarianism, to reducing moral outrage to a couple of social issues that were not even part of the biblical revelation.
Beware when someone insists, “but the Bible says…” to advance a perspective worthy of critique.
Such proposed “truth” might well be a rerun — used to justify discrimination (gender inequality, religious bias, demonizing immigrants, denying equal rights to LGBTQ persons, etc.) or to deny scientific discoveries or to advance a political agenda.
See if there are familiar grill marks on such claims. It could be the ever-recurring McRib Effect playing out in the arenas of faith, ethics or politics.
If one truly yearns for echoes from the past, a good one to revisit is what Jesus called the greatest commandment: To love God with all one’s being, and one’s neighbor (broadly defined) as oneself.
Those words of the resurrected revelation of God can’t be repeated or heeded enough.
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Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.