A foolish nostalgia

Every so often I’ll get an e-mail that has been chain-forwarded featuring a slideshow of nostalgic pictures from life in the “good old days.” There will be pics of freckle-faced kids in cuffed blue jeans riding in a red Radio Flyer coaster wagon, a family sitting around an enormous console radio in the living room, and gigantic heavy cars with flying tail fins at a drive-in movie. The fantasy is that life back then was safer, healthier, you know, better.

The past has always been a place of mental and emotional escape for people who are stressed out by the present and fearful of the future. Nostalgia, however, is usually a selective slideshow. Former times weren’t always that hot. You won’t see nostalgia slides of black folks being abused by Jim Crow laws, the millions of people suffering in Stalin’s mass starvation, or Holocaust SS death camps.

Solomon was aware of the lure of nostalgia: “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). It’s one thing to study the past and appreciate it. It’s another to use the study of history as a dreamy way to run away from the challenges, dilemmas, and work of today.

History is important because it is the record of God’s working out of his magnificent plan of salvation. History also informs you about how to make decisions right now.

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

 

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