Book Club Discussion: History, Mistakes, and Redemption


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Today we will conclude our discussion of David Dark’s The Sacredness of Questioning Everything with a look at his chapter on “Questioning History.” (Two more chapters follow, but I thought this one was most conducive to our conversation here.)

In Chapter Eight, Dark observes that “reading history yields the realization that deeply sincere people have gone to houses of worship, looked after their families, and prayed intensely while also participating in unthinkable atrocities. With this in mind, I read in the hope that I might participate in the redemptive movements of history, the kind that will look redemptive centuries from now.” (p. 173)

Those two sentences summarize a difficult and inconvenient truth that should keep us awake at night. I often think of Christians who owned slaves, Christians who opposed integration, and Christians who remained silent as the Cherokees were forced from their homes, and I wonder would I have joined them?

The truth is, sometimes we get it wrong.  In fact, we are probably getting some things wrong right now.

To be honest, this is why I spend a lot of time thinking about issues related to homosexuality, and why I find myself reluctant to join crusades against gay marriage. I often wonder if future generations will look at how the Church treated gays and lesbians and hang their heads in shame.

On page 173, Dark wisely asks, “How do I avoid being yet another uncaring face in a long line of blissfully ignorant people whose action and inaction are harnessed to keep other people down?” 

From this perspective, Dark makes an excellent case for the benefits of historical revisionism, arguing that “our commitment to remembering well, to the details of what really happened in tragic personal histories, war zones, and under the watch of negligent governments, is, it seems to me, inescapably tied to the struggle to think, speak, and listen redemptively.” (p. 185)

Of course, not all Christians have remained silent in the presence of inequity, and not all Christians participated in the aforementioned injustices. Some actually stood up against them, and their stories should certainly not be downplayed or ignored. However, there have been plenty of times throughout history when taking a stand against the government or the Church has been met with the charge of capitulating to culture or even denying the faith. To live a life that looks beyond the present almost certainly carries with it the risk of being criticized, even persecuted.

This chapter was perhaps my favorite of the book, because Dark takes the popular charge that one has a “biased reading of history” and shows how a redemptive bias can be helpful. It was also an appropriately uncomfortable chapter to read, because I found myself wondering how my children and my grandchildren will one day view my life, my words, and my silence.

In looking at the world today, what injustices do you think Christians might be overlooking or even perpetuating? How do you think history will judge this generation? Do issues related to homosexuality come to your mind when thinking about this?

And, to borrow a question from Dark: “Oscar Wilde once observed that the best thing one can do for history is to revise it. Is he right? Why or why not?”

Let me know what you think!

(P.S. If you enjoyed The Sacredness of Questioning Everything as much as I did, consider writing a review on Amazon!)

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