“Who Controls the Past Controls the Future”

George Orwell from the novel “1984”

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.                                                                                                                                                                        Acts 17:11

This provocative and somewhat frightening quote from George Orwell applies today as much as it ever has. In a day when people read from headlines produced in abundance all over broadcast news and the internet, there can be a significant lack of depth of understanding about our current culture.

History is not a simple, linear parade of facts and dates. There is a context to our periods of history, and we need to read it from several sources and from several viewpoints. Americans have a proud history, but there is also a current of racism and division that has helped to shape our current culture.

Past actions such as the expulsion of Native Americans from their home lands, the evil of slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow laws, the land grab we called the Mexican War, and the colonial ventures we undertook after the Spanish-American War, are just some examples of a history often not explored deeply enough.

Honesty in looking at that past does not diminish us. Indeed, the truth can set us free to make needed changes. Being able to see that there were actions that disenfranchised many of the people who lived before us should be a sobering fact. When the Ku Klux Klan had a revival in the 1920’s, they helped to reframe a history that even found its way into many of our history books- the myth of the “Lost Cause”.  The movie The Birth of a Nation was a wildly successful early movie which some people actually took as a documentary film of the Reconstruction South after the Civil War. President Woodrow Wilson viewed the film in the White House and acclaimed it.

In fact, the movie was a sordid collection of racist tropes.

Unfortunately, some people simply assume that whatever they read in the headlines is true. Failing to explore a topic in some depth can lead us into some dangerous places.

George Orwell painted a very dismal picture of a leader that was able to lie often enough to make what he said sound true.  Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels used the tactic of continual promotion of lies which, after prolonged public exposure, began to be taken as truth.

The apostle Paul praised the Bereans because they took the time to search out the truth. They did their research and made sure that Paul was speaking truth, based upon the context of the Scriptures that they based their faith upon.

We would do well to follow their example.

Prayer: Lord, help us to search for truth, and to be diligent in that search, Amen

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