Winston Churchill put it this way: The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.
I like to say it as follows: Short memories breed short-sightedness. Or it’s corollary: Long memories breed far-sightedness.
Both these quotes express the reason why my wife and I, each summer, jump in a van, bus or cars with a bunch of new-found friends for a discovery trip through Europe. And we’d like to invite you to join us again this summer on our Share the Heritage Trip (27 june-11 July).
I’m concerned, for example, that in the charismatic world, we tend to be aware only of the here and now. As evangelicals, we hark back to the days of Wesley, Wilberforce and Whitefield. Lutherans and Calvinists look to the golden sixteenth century; while Catholic and Orthodox believers stretch right back 20 centuries.
Messianic believers remind us however, that our roots go deep into the Old Testament, to Genesis chapter 12, to the calling of Abraham. And rightly so.
I’m oversimplifying, of course. But largely, we have become creatures of very short memories. And that makes us easy prey to the increasingly aggressive secular mentality of our times. Just last week, ex-PM Tony Blair lamented this ‘age of aggressive secularism’ and encouraged believers to have the confidence to go out and make their case by persuasion.
I was appalled recently, when writing about the UN Declaration on Human Rights, to read the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on that subject-a thoroughly secularised account totally ignoring the Judaeo-Christian roots of the concept. Natural law was the origin of human rights, the essay argued. But Nature, as Francis Schaeffer pointed out, is both ‘cruel and uncruel’, and thus is no reliable foundation for law, or human rights.
Are our memories long enough to remember that there is only one source of the concept of human dignity? One of the many gifts of the Jews to the human race is the revelation that all of us have been created in God’s image. All of us. Not just believers.
It only takes one generation to lose centuries of understanding. Unfortunately, that’s happening fast. We simply take for granted the origin of so many institutions and traditions in our western lifestyle. Why do we have seven days in the week? and one of them a rest day? Why do we think in terms of past, present and future? Is the ‘truth’ that all men are equal so ‘self-evident’, as the American Constitution declares? or do we have to concede to post-modernists underlying Judaeo-Christian presuppositions in the drafters’ thinking?
The old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, with its huge Portuguese and Spanish synagogues, remind us on our Heritage Trip of our deep and long roots. As historian Thomas Cahill writes in ‘The Gifts of the Jews’, it was this tribe of desert nomads who taught us how to live, in areas like law, family, government, healthcare and education.
Each trip we make convinces me more that it is the story of Jesus that is the single greatest factor that has made Europe ‘Europe’. Yet our ignorance of this heritage makes us vulnerable to the attempts of secularist fundamentalism to sideline, or rather, silence, the faith community.
Several readers responded last week to mention of my plans to step down at the end of the year as director of YWAM Europe, asking what I plan to do after that. The answer is: more of what I’m doing now!
That is, without the line leadership responsibilities. We’ll continue to give oversight to the local multi-ministry facility, Centrum ‘s Heerenhof, here in Heerde, Holland, living in the same house, working in the same offices. But our framework will be new. We are setting up a Centre for European Studies-I’ll write more about that soon.
Our summer activites are already preparing the way for this future. For following the Heritage Trip, we hold two other weeks to make a four-week Summer School of European Studies (July 13-17, 20-24). After looking at Europe’s past, we look at challenges and opportunities in Europe’s present (secularism, Islam and new spirituality.) The next week we address Europe’s future (what sort of Europe might God want? or should be pass on to our grandchildren?)
I can’t imagine a nicer environment than the grand mansion in Einigen, looking out over a Swiss lake and the Bernese alps as we study.
Check it out on www.ywam.eu/sses-and join us this summer!
Till next week,