“You’re on the Wrong Side of History!” — — Christian Faith Under (Im)Moral Attack, Part Three


Challenge Number Three: “You’re on the wrong side of history — gay rights is an idea whose time has come.”

(Third in a series of ten, from my new book Critical Conversations!)

Time keeps marching on. Science and technology move forward. Does that mean everything progresses over time? No. Today’s poets and playwrights haven’t exactly progressed beyond Aeschylus and Sophocles the way our physicists have advanced beyond Archimedes and Aristotle (speaking of Aristotle strictly as a physicist, that is.)

Even “scientific” progress sometimes turns out not to be what we expect. Here’s an example you might not have known about: eugenics. Suppose it was 1911 right now, and you believed that scientific opinion always illuminated the right way into the future. If so, you probably would have agreed with Scientific American’s case for preventing “unfit” humans from “propagating.” (Yes, this really appeared in Scientific American that year.)

We know enough about the laws of heredity, we have enough statistics from insane asylums and prisons, we have enough genealogies, to show that, although we may not be able directly to improve the human race as we improve the breed of guinea pigs, rabbits or cows, because of the rebellious spirit of mankind, yet the time has come when the lawmaker should join hands with the scientist, and at least check the propagation of the unfit.

This was during the day of the eugenics movement for the scientifically based “improvement” of humanity, through sterilizing and/or eliminating the “weaker specimens” among us. If you had believed in being on the “right side of history” then, you would likely have believed in sterilizing the “feeble-minded.”

If you had opposed eugenics in 1911, American intellectuals would have told you that you were against science and the forward march of progress. This was, tragically, the same march that led straight to Hitler’s “life unworthy of living” and the eugenics-driven plan to rid the world of its so-called lesser races, especially Jews.

Where has history gone since then? What happened to eugenics? What happened to its “forward march of progress”? It’s marched right off the map. History has almost completely forgotten about it.

Now, undeniably progress does happen. Our society has advanced ethically in important ways, most obviously in our treatment of ethnic and national minorities. There is such a thing as getting better over time, but it isn’t time that makes us better. Ethical advance comes by way of moving closer to a true ethical standard, not just by coming along later in history.

There’s more in the book!

In Critical Conversations I develop and extend the answer to this and other challenges, and I share practical relational guidance on how to share the answers in conversation. For parents, pastors, and other Christian leaders wondering what to say to children in their vulnerable years up through high school or even college, the book clears away the awkwardness and confusion. It clears a path toward conversations that can strengthen not only your teens’ faith but also your relationship with them.

It’s available at Amazon.comBarnes & Noble, and other booksellers. Order your copy today!

Image Credit(s): Keith Evans via Wikimedia.

3 Responses

  1. I agree!

    However, I think that the eugenics movement, far from disappearing, actually became assimilated into our culture quite well. We can find it in the pro-abortion rhetoric, a mindset which has been swallowed without reflection. Something like 93% of Down’s syndrome unborn are aborted; the vast majority of Planned Parenthood clinics are in African American neighborhoods and just try bragging about your bigger-than-two-kids family on social media. Even acquaintances are no longer shy about questioning, more or less, whether your last three or six kids aren’t unnecessary and your lifestyle irresponsible.

    The eugenics mindset succeeded and is alive and well.

  2. JAD says:

    From where do secular-progressives get their idea of progress? Judaism and Christianity are the world views that gave us the linear idea of history and progress. Ancient pagan and oriental cultures tended to see history as cyclical and recurring. Like so many of their ideas the idea that history can actually lead somewhere is one that has been co-opted without credit from its Judaeo-Christian roots.

  3. Andrew W says:

    Ethical advance comes by way of moving closer to a true ethical standard

    And yet we lack the wisdom to refuse to argue over details until we have decided what we’re actually trying to build.

    I get why we wish to argue over points of disagreement. And some of those arguments are useful. But from a philosophical and moral standpoint we need to argue less over points of disagreement and more over points of seeming agreement.

    Modernists lack a robust metaphysic. Modern society was built on Christianity, but since then they have removed the foundation are a left with a thin shell of dried sand. Their moral and philosophical foundation is nothing but vapour. But because their foundations had a roughly Christian shape, we fail to challenge them on it, which emboldens them to press further and remove yet more foundation. It’s much easier to fight where the foundations still partially exist than where they have been fully removed.

    Because – except at the points of conflict – our “surface” and their “surface” look similar, they assume that we basically agree with their worldview except on the points where we are currently intransigent. And thus, our intransigence is painted as “evil” or “hate” or “bigotry” or any number of other barbs. What we need to do instead is engage them at those very points where we seem to agree. Take a position where we have common cause – and thus our challenge cannot be seen as attacking the cause – and then demand they mount a rigorous defence of the position.

    And these positions exist. Adultery, murder, slavery, child sacrifice. Or maybe something less contentious (being polite to passers-by?). Don’t accept their position based on its result; make them defend it from first principles. We really want a discussion about the nature of humanity, but to only point out the fundamental differences once we’ve let them use our world-view to build momentum is like bringing the ball into our own goal-area before starting to defend.