What We Keep and What We Throw Away

Posted on February 15, 2015

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My wife has a bad habit of throwing out old things. She even junked a nice rainbow colored belt of mine because she said it made a political statement.

I would object if a favorite putter or driver were missing from my golf bag. That is a more serious matter.

In much the same fashion, we need to pick and choose what we keep from the old ways. What was once sacred, or at the very least, legal and acceptable, becomes years, or centuries later, something odd and out of fashion in a different time and culture.

Take slavery for example. It existed in ancient times. It is generally outlawed throughout the world today and seen as a disgrace and demeaning vestige of the past—such as sex slavery—that reflects badly on any culture where it still thrives.

Or gender equality. We are all equal today, right?

Did Thomas Jefferson really mean that “all men are created equal?” What about women, children, slaves, pagans, and barbarians? Don’t get offended if you are in one of these categories.

No, he did not mean everyone is literally equal, but it was the expression of an ideal which we, as a nation, hoped to live by. We are still working on it. Think Civil War and Civil Rights, a hundred years apart, and a new movie, Selma.

In the past women were generally subordinated to men. Women didn’t even have the right to vote until late in the nineteenth century.

In theory, all people could worship freely in this country, but a lot were persecuted because of their faith.

Those persecuted in the Old World, like the Puritans, came here to the New World, and they in turn persecuted those who were not like minded!

The examples of what we did and thought and mandated in the past that we no longer do in the present, are multiple. What we did may no longer be legal, acceptable, moral or right today: Burning heretics at the stake, which President Obama so famously referred to recently, is but one example.

He almost got it right. His historian/speech writer might have mentioned that in 1492 besieged Muslims in Granada catapulted Christian knights’ body parts into the Christian siege city, Santa Fe, to let the Christian armies of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela know exactly what they thought of Christians. If you are going to argue history, then you need to argue the whole story, not pick and choose.

Alright, without belaboring the obvious, the big question is: how do we pick what to save and what to discard?

Are truth, justice and morality as defined in the Bible still the same as in the 21st century?

I am not in favor of restoring slavery or denying women the vote or denigrating or otherwise belittling people of all stripes, races, ethnicities, religious or sexual preferences just because it was done that way in the past.

I think for example all should have a chance at making it in life. I also think all should be accountable for what they do, or what they don’t do.

We were given free will and we were also given the responsibility to exercise it within the laws and principles of civility and religion.

Scientifically we are eons away from the world of the Greeks and Romans. Instead of bleeding people to cure them, we administer medicine in such high tech environments that it makes your head spin.

But while science and technology have advanced us into an age of wizardry, drones, and nanoscience, we still struggle to define truth (try “it’s all relative” for starters), morality, virtue (what’s that?), and even the concepts of “good” and “bad” seem to have lost their moorings.

Which are the moral and ethical principles that have survived the passage of time?

We have two sources of truth in our lives. The first is the Bible, since we are still largely a Christian nation. The second comes from the Constitution and its era.

Between them they contain the foundation blocks and sinews of both our spiritual lives and our natural lives. “Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe,” wrote the author of Psalms (28:26). Wisdom and discernment comes from both Scripture and reason.

The next time you are challenged by someone who wants to force you to believe that X, or Y, or Z is right because they say it’s so, and wrap it in an innocuous-sounding package of inclusion, diversity, rights, or entitlements, test their hypothesis by measuring it against Scripture and the Constitution.

I’ll not guarantee you an easy road, but to decide what you keep and what to throw away, I’d rather be with Solomon and Jefferson, even with all their warts, than any two people you care to name alive in the world today.

This columnn published as “Know What to Throw Out, What to Keep” in my OpEd column, The Port Rail, in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015