In Junior High School I did not look forward to history classes. I will confess to an interest in the Ohio history class we had to take in junior high, but that was the only class I can say I enjoyed. All the others were requirements to remember who, where, and when. While this information has its place, I would have been more interested in the whys of the events and the personalities behind the events.
During my senior year, I was given an opportunity to escape my civics class to take a test on Ohio history. This may be more a reflection on my personality than a statement regarding the civics class; I avoided class to take a test? It was a chance to get out of a stuffy classroom! I forgot all about the test until a month or so later when I was called into the office to be informed that I had the highest score in the school. This was followed by the 99 percentile score in history on the ACT (does this college entrance exam still exist?).
Since leaving school I have found many hours of pleasure in reading history. As a matter of fact, when Marsha was finishing her degree, I read her American history book for fun and was disappointed when she didn’t have to take the second part and thus I missed out on reading the second volume of the two volume textbook. Yes, I am completely comfortable with my strange quirks.
The first Sunday of July we will celebrate the Fourth of July for the 234th time. Do we truly remember the significance of this day, or is it merely an opportunity to have cook-outs and watch fireworks displays? We need to see the connection in history in order to fully understand many events occurring in the present. This is true not only of American history, but also applies to the history of all nations, peoples, and faiths.
Much of the conflict in our country revolves around the expectation that all decisions should reflect the will of the majority. Let’s look at this concept from one historic source.
James Madison wrote this in a letter to James Monroe on Oct. 5, 1786, during the Presidency of George Washington. This is taken from William J. Bennett’s book Our Sacred Honor, pages 335-336.
“…There is no maxim in my opinion which is more liable to be misapplied, and which therefore needs elucidation than the current one that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong. Taking the word ‘interest’ as synonymous with ‘Ultimate happiness,’ in which sense it is qualified with every necessary mortal ingredient, the proposition is no doubt true. But taking it in the popular sense, as referring to immediate augmentation of property and wealth, nothing can be more false. In the latter sense it would be the interest of the majority in every community to despoil and enslave the minority of the individuals; and in a federal community to make a similar sacrifice of the minority component States. In fact, it is only reestablishing under another name and a more specious form, force as a measure of right….”
From a Christian standpoint, we must always weigh our desires and the desires of the majority against what we understand of the Will of God as demonstrated in the Bible. When we demand authority based on majority rule that neglects what is best for those in the minority or those without a voice, we fall into the trap that Madison refers to as “force as a measure of right.” In the church, we need to not force issues, but rather work toward consensus and understanding of actions needed to be taken. As Christians, we should also encourage this attitude in political discussions and avoid the forceful and damaging rhetoric of attack that seems to be everywhere today. Once upon a time, we all heard the lesson about if you are unable to say something nice, do not say anything at all. While we must always allow people to express their opinions, we should always strive to express our opinion in ways that clarify and educate without insult or attack of anyone else. We exist as a nation because people put aside their differing opinions for a greater good; the creation of the United States of America. As Christians, let us be as willing to set aside personal differences to help form a greater good in the world; the Kingdom of God.