Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Historical Perspectives

A particular topic that I have been mulling over is the concept of historical perspectives. Be they religious, secular, scientific, particular viewpoints and presuppositions have an effect on how we perceive and evaluate not only events in our lives, but in the lives of those in the past.

What got this line of thinking started was a particular comment from a friend of mine regarding the "Catholic" view of history from the "secular" view of history. The comment was not important so much as the idea of competing views of history. As if there was one view of history that was fundamentally religious in nature and another that was secular, and that these two views compete for the title of "The Truth."

To me this view was troubling (not the view of my friend but what my friend's comment seemed to suggest) for a number of reasons. Primarily it posits the idea that there is a "Catholic" narrative to history. While it is true in the overall sense in that history is the story of God's plan for salvation of mankind, this comment seemed to indicate that there is a specific viewpoint on events in history that is the "Catholic" view. The Crusades were just wars I suppose would be one example.

This is incorrect primarily because it forces a viewpoint on the Catholic faithful that leaves little room for exploration. There are Catholics that repute and abhor the Crusades, just as there are secularist historians that show sympathy to the Crusaders. It may be a surprise to the reader that a Catholic can, if the opinion is truly honest, believe that the Second World War did not happen and still be a Catholic (however delusional that opinion may be).

The comment however does indicate to me a number of things that I think illustrate the problem the modern mind has with history, and the confusion that surrounds the proper use of history and what we hope to gain by studying it. I hope to explore in future posts these issues and in doing point out what I consider to be how our current society handles history and the problems that result from it.

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