Ancestry

by David Melton

I’m a history guy, not only by innate interest but by training, so I always cringe when a student here in Boston gives me the “I don’t like history” line.  Ugh.  I know they DO like history…they just don’t know it.  Everybody likes history.  If you bother to look at your pay stub to be sure they got your salary right, you are looking at a historical document.  Ever celebrate a birthday?  You are celebrating history!  Even if you try to remember what you wore two days ago, you are doing historical analysis.

Nothing proves that we are ALL historians to some degree better than the growing interest in ancestry.  The website searches, the DNA profiles, the nostalgic television shows…all of those and more address our desire (I would argue our “need”!) to understand where we come from – as a part of who we are.  A friend of mine had me rolling recently when he told me about his trial membership on an ancestry website.  He got back three of four generations only to find that the limbs on his family tree crossed awkwardly…two cousins turned out to be spouses!  My friend ended his search and canceled his membership immediately.

I find students and others who sometimes treat church history similarly.  A quick look can be confusing, even maddening, so we stop.  Bad move.  More and more we all agree that our physical health cannot be best understood without knowing our genetic history.  Why would we think our spiritual health would be otherwise?  Church history is rarely simple or tidy or embarrassment-free.  But it is our story.  And it is HIS story.  Our ancestry is what it is, mingled with dollops of grace.  You can’t “not like history.”

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