Perspective: The Right Side Of History

Aug 7, 2019

History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes, as Mark Twain reputedly said.  


I grew up Southern Baptist; I learned well into my adulthood that this denomination was organized in 1845 by Baptists in the southern United States who split with northern Baptists over the issue of whether southern slave owners could serve as missionaries. Ouch: I was in a faith community born on the wrong side of history.  


This revelation was recently attenuated for me as I researched the lineage of my maternal grandfather, a Southern Baptist Deacon. I found a record of his father and grandfather in the 1850 census, listed on a page with the heading: The Free Inhabitants of Rhea County, Tennessee. Again, Ouch. So how is history now rhyming for me? 


My current faith community, the United Methodists, risks a schism over the issue of whether clergy can perform weddings for same-sex couples, among other related issues. Just as the biblical admonition for slaves to obey their masters was used to justify my Baptist forebears’ position, conservatives now appeal to literal readings of the apostle Paul’s writings for justification of the current status quo in the Methodist denomination. It is easier to discern the right side of history 175 years later than it is in the moment. I pray we choose more wisely this time. 


I’m Greg Alexander, and that’s my perspective.