Will your anchor hold?

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace." John 16.33


Christians make a big deal of ours being an historical faith. By that we mean it is based on real events that involved real people in real places and, indeed, that it continues to have an impact on the real world. That gives Christianity substance, rather than being merely about ideas or rules.


But how can we be sure about these historical "facts"? And how can we be sure that we are interpreting them correctly? For example it is often said of a conflict that it is the victors who write the history, which implies a biased account. And then when we add our own prejudices, especially those we are not even aware of...


For example, those of us born after it happened sometimes reflect on the Second World War from the perspective of its outcome, reading our understanding in light of the Allied victory. But, for those who lived through it, the outcome changed dramatically during its course and was only settled at the end.


The much more recent explosion of protests occasioned by the Black Lives Matter campaign highlights another difficulty we have with history and that is how to accommodate its implications as our perceptions change? These changes may be fuelled by fresh knowledge or social developments, or a mixture of both. This is what seems to have happened in relation to the way we view colonial history. Pillars of the Empire are now derided as racist monsters and their memorials are vandalised, even destroyed.


What is going on and what are the implications for other products of history, such as the Christian faith? Like so much else that the recent pandemic is teaching us, the first lesson is that we are realising that history itself matters - more than we realised. The second lesson is that it is dynamic - just as the events it describes look different according to our perspective upon them, so their influence continues to affect our lives today and, indeed, may continue to have an impact on the decisions we make in the future.


The implication for religions which consider themselves as "historical" is that we should expect that "anchor" to be more like a sea anchor than one that secures us to the land. While the latter does not move, the sea anchor offers stability but moves with the currents and the tide.

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