It’s always amusing when secularists speak of traditionalists being on the “wrong side of history.” We heard this recently after the vote in North Carolina upholding marriage; liberals said that the state was on the wrong side of history.
Now, these people are circling around something that is absolutely true, and it's only charitable to help them understand exactly what it is. What they really mean is that traditionalists are on the wrong side of fashionable trends, and the polls on marriage certainly bear this out. But as G.K. Chesterton said, “A fallacy doesn’t cease to be a fallacy because it becomes a fashion,” and one fallacy secularists have fallen victim to is that they actually grasp history.
History isn’t merely what has happened in the United States during the last century, which has certainly seen the seemingly inexorable advance of moral and intellectual decay — or, as some people like to call it, “progressivism” — through our institutions and social fabric. History isn’t just that same time period in the whole of the West or even the world; it is, rather, the story of Man from the very beginning of recorded time.
Now, history is invaluable because it actually is the record of a grand series of social experiments. Through it we can learn what works and what doesn’t, what stood the test of time in the laboratory of life and hence is timeless, and what are merely old mistakes masquerading as new ideas. But as with science, we cannot learn from it if we, so to speak, lose our data. This is what some call forgetting history but actually is a failure to learn it in the first place. It also could be called progressive education.
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