Today I am thinking about history…
I love Ancestry.com! Especially because I am stuck on this one man…my dad’s, dad’s, dad’s, dad’s dad…My 3rd great grandfather. He is there, I can see him, I just can’t find where he came from! Who are his parents? Were they born in the United States? If not where did they come from? I have spent hours looking, researching possible birthplaces, counties, and states. Considering the size of this industry, I know I am not the only one that does this kind of research.
Which always leads me to ask why? Why is this so important that I would spend my breaks from school trying to find this guy’s parents? Would knowing the name of my 4th great-grandparents really make a difference in my life? I wonder if I traced my family line all the way to the first humans: would their names make a difference?
As I prepare to write a theological paper, as I study mission, evangelism, and colonization, I keep circling back to the questions about history. When exactly does an event change from one that shapes and forms me…into “history” or “in the past?” At what point can I say…” that is history and does not matter” and be telling the truth? I know my parents’ lives affect me, so I would have to go back at least to their birth. Their lives were in turn shaped by their parent’s past…and my grandparents were shaped by their parents…so wouldn’t I have to go back at least that far?
What if I leave my direct family line and talk about the societies that shape us. I think most people would agree and say at least as far back as the writing of the U.S. Constitution, we know that document affects our lives; but then, of course, I have to acknowledge that the men who write it were shaped by their history, families, and society.
I would be shocked to hear anyone say “that’s history and we should just let it go” in a discussion about Jesus or the New Testament. But we couldn’t stop there since the New Testament was shaped and formed by the people and writing that came before it. We can clearly see that Judaism shaped Christianity, and of course, Jesus himself was Jewish.
I somehow know that the life of my 3rd great grandfather and the parents that raise him have some effect on me. Maybe slight…but then again maybe greater than I know. When is history … “history?”