I am hearing more frequently the charge to “be on the right side of history.” I don’t know who invented this notion, but it’s said all the time.
It has been said about presidential campaigns–vote for my candidate and be on the right side of history. Don’t vote for the candidate that’s going to lose. History will show my guy was the awesomest.
It has been said about gay marriage–not allowing gay people to get married is like being against the Civil Rights Movement. You don’t want to be one of those, do you? So join us, and get on the right side of history.
It has been said about foreign policy–we like to bomb people because we are on the right side of history. Those guys are wrong; we are right, join us and future historians will sing your praises.
It has been said about the transgender bathroom confusion–this is the way society is going. You have to accept it. To not is to be a stick in the mud and end up on the wrong side of history.
It’s been said about the Confederate flag hubbub, the dealings of Russia or Germany, global warming, and on and on.
Here’s some questions about this “right side of history.”
- Who are you who knows the future so well to know that your side will win and be right when we look back on it as history? There is something very egotistic about this slogan. Not only do you assume you are right and that all future historians will agree, you assume your little pet project will actually be of import in the future. There are way more people in history that we don’t know about than those we do know about. Your life or cause may not be all that significant.
- What’s this “right” thing you speak of? Morally right? I find it intriguing that those who say this statement are largely of a mindset of people who also think there is no right or wrong. Being on the “right side of history” is largely a progressive mindset, and progressives believe we are progressing past old hangups about morality. The side who is desperately trying to help us get rid of labels such as “right,” “wrong,” “sin,” and so forth, are the same ones who claim to know what will be deemed right in the future when we are history.
- What is this “history” you speak of? Again, many of the progressive minded people who say this phrase also bash history. “History is written by the winners” is the common trite, dismissive phrase, which typically means, “history is only about dead white guys.” How is it, that the group who belittles history is also the group that cares what future historians will say about what they are doing?
- What is this “side” you speak of? Combining a couple previous thoughts. By “right” I assume they mean “what the majority will accept.” History is written by the winners. We will win and be right. In other words, being on the right side means, being with the side that wins. If Hitler had won in WWII and his system still prevailed, would this mean his extermination of the Jews and his form of government would have been the “right side?” Certainly you’d have to think twice before writing a history critical of his still raging regime. This is classic “might makes right” thinking. This is a poor basis for moral judgment.
- Why don’t we care about being on the right side of now? It seems to me this slogan is trying to distract you from what is going on now. This slogan tries to focus us on some nebulous future that looks back on now. Shifting our gaze into the future seems like smoke and mirrors to get people to forget about what cost we are paying now. This is particularly true of the foreign policy issues this phrase gets stuck on.
- Who is defining the right side of history? Historians must then be our moral guardians. Future people will decide what they think about our lives and generations. In the end, who gives a rip what they think?! We’ll be dead anyway! I don’t see how any Christian could go through life being concerned about how future historians will think of them. I’ll let God be the judge of my rightness, not some self-appointed, sanctimonious historians.
- Why do you feel the need to borrow future authority? The whole issue boils down to one of authority. If you knew you were right today, you don’t need to borrow future historian authority to bolster your case. The statement smacks of intellectual weakness. The only reason you are bringing it up is because you know there is no consensus that what you’re doing now is right. Why does this bother you? Why do you need future morality?
If a person knows they are right, they don’t care what others think about them. Those who need others to pat them on the back, are typically people who are unsure of themselves. This is even more the case if you need to force a majority of people to agree with you. Your insecurity is showing.
If I were alive in the 1950’s I do believe I would have been involved in the Civil Rights movement. I believe it was a clear-cut right and wrong issue. The Jim Crow laws and other forms of institutional racism were wrong. I wouldn’t have needed future history to tell me what to do; I would have read the Bible and clearly seen racism was wrong.
People care way too much about people caring about what they are doing. You will stand before God someday. What people now think of you does not matter, nor does it matter what future historians will think of you.
Just do the right thing before God NOW and don’t worry about it.