Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Wrong Side of History

Recent news includes photos of protesters with signs warning "Don't be on the wrong side of history.." The warning is meant for those who oppose changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex partners. Maybe I just don't pay close enough attention, because I had not heard this phrase before, but a simple Google search reveals it is cliche.

The phrase has been used (and overused) by pretty much every political affiliation you can think of. It amounts to having two sides going back and forth repeating the phrase "Just wait, you'll see!"

I understand it. Most people instantly understand it. It appeals to our most insecure self by suggesting that people in the future will certainly dislike us if we don't change our minds. "Conform, or else." Or else, what? Or else the people who already dislike me and my beliefs (and not so much my beliefs as God's truths) will continue to dislike me even more, only this time they'll have a worldly victory to boast in?

I call it a phrase and not an argument because it is not an argument. Nothing is proved by the threat of ending up on the wrong side of history. Other cliches such as "time will tell" and "you reap what you sow" imply that the consequences for our decisions in the present might not be fully known, but they will be realized. I can logically predict some outcomes of some decisions, but I can't see the future. Those who would warn against being on the wrong side of history assume they know the future.

"We have seen the future, and it doesn't like YOU."

Fine. Since you don't really know the future, all you're really saying is you don't like me now. Which I already know. You've proven nothing and found a fancy way to state your continued disapproval of my beliefs.

There is an assumption there that while time marches on and thoughts "evolve," that the definition of progress is simply "what comes next." Little to no thought is put into discovering if the next thing is right. After all, it is the next thing! Majority rules, and all that.

It reminds me of a favorite quote by C.S. Lewis in his book Surprised By Joy:
" In the first place he made short work of what I have called my "chronological snobbery," the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also "a period," and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them."

Wikipedia includes the pattern of this fallacy:

"The form of the chronological snobbery fallacy can be expressed as follows:
  1. It is argued that A.
  2. A is an old argument, dating back to the times when people also believed B.
  3. B is clearly false.
  4. Therefore, A is false."
Big picture- history is a longer stream of events than simply "before and after." As if all of humanity has been fretting over this issue until this moment, when finally we decide (and by "we" I of course mean the Supreme Court which has little business "deciding" this) to redefine marriage, and any and all who opposed it are left weeping behind the times while everyone else advances to the next Golden Age.

Last I checked, God is sovereign. Call what you want a marriage and celebrate your legal victory however you like, but marriage is defined by the author of marriage. I might not like the worldly victory, but this world is not my home. The only "side of history" I'm worried about is what side of earth I inhabit after the Last Day.

"But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day" 2 Peter 3:8

In light of scripture, our decades long social battles and "landmark" court cases are so very small in comparison to the eternal truths they either glorify or blaspheme.