May 24, 2019

This week end, for my US family and friends Memorial Day week end, basically launches the summer season. For me, this week end also marks my annual short-term departure from Another Voice. I will return in time for the Fourth of July!

True to my personal history, I will escape from my computer to spend more time reading and reflecting. And to relax and travel with my wife. This June we celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary. Now THAT celebrates important history.

History is a slice of life that we observe and interpret, it is always through the observer’s eyes. We need, therefore, many historians observing and interpreting……Just like we need many theologians observing and interpreting. Once again I will be an historical theologian in Eastern Europe: enjoying the salty and clear waters of the Adriatic and taking another look at religion and values after Communism. It intrigues me. The questions of course are about the role religion plays in people’s lives today in that part of the world.

A couple years ago, in a small town in Eastern Europe, I learned that the most prominent and influential members of a local Catholic parish, were once important (anti-Catholic) Communist Party bosses……Today they are still in control but now they make a pious sign of the cross and receive communion on Sunday mornings……Is it a matter of socio-cultural identity, political expediency, or Christian faith?

Not so strange perhaps when one sees how Vladimir Putin uses Russian Orthodoxy to grow his empire.

Last week a friend observed : “History continually repeats itself. Life is a repetitive cycle…” I basically disagree. We do have control over our lives. Our “history” is not predetermined. Yes people sometimes repeat the human mistakes made in the past, acting out of ignorance or an unwillingness to confront life as it is. Today we are indeed caught up in a tremendous wave of cultural change. It takes time to decipher what’s happening. Millions of people are now banding together in forms of xenophobic populism. This week’s European elections underline that with a red pencil.

It takes time to make sense of what’s happening. It is all part of the human journey. Even when people are confused, chaotic, or uncertain about tomorrow. Growing pains.

I resonate with Martin Luther King Jr. who said “history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” History shows how we take or reject personal and group responsibility for the world in which we live. We can grow in our understanding of human existence, life, morality, sacred scriptures, faith, and religious traditions. Or, we can close in on ourselves, wither, and dry up.

I am not ready to dry up and I do plan to be back in contact with you in a few weeks. And….when I return, I hope I will have something worthwhile to share with you.

Take care!

Jack

7 thoughts on “History in the Eye of the Beholder

  1. Re; the local Communist bosses turning Catholic: it reminds me of a visit that ten of us from Leuven made to the theology faculty in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1993. Our hosts told us that a number of former teachers of Russian had re-branded themselves as religion teachers. After 1991 Lithuanians couldn’t rid themselves fast enough of everything Russian, including the street signs, and of course no one wanted to study Russian any longer.

    Warmest congratulations to you and Joske on your upcoming anniversary!

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