Yesterday I commented on a video about Jamestown, the first English settlement to flourish in the New World. The narrator of the video wanted to make the point that we are in error when we credit the Pilgrims in Plymouth with being the foundation of America. “What your parents told you was wrong,”he said.
That is a bizarre sentence, aside from the fact that Jamestown contributed nothing of which Americans can be proud or even pleased. What fascinates me about the narrator’s comment is that it assumes we have all be misled about American history.
That attitude is extremely common in our day. In the video, it is a harmless oddity but in other situations it becomes truly dangerous. It is a small part of the fear of conspiracies that, in its fuller forms, causes people to lose the trust that is essential in a democracy. And it often causes them to be violent in their opposition to authority.
How many documentaries have you watched in the last few years that begin by claiming, “Now we can tell you the truth”? How many lists — even in Readers’ Digest! — tell us ten things our doctors won’t tell us? How many famous leaders have been “exposed” as having this flaw or that?
In part, of course, it is simple hubris. We like to think that we are now superior to everyone who has gone before us. Frankly, I think we are more childish than any era America has ever seen. We elect people like Ted Cruz and Louis Gommert to national office, despite the perfectly obvious fact that they are simply fools who haven’t a clue what they’re talking about. We keep shoving microphones in front of people like Donald Trump, who have absolutely nothing to say.
I would say America in the early 21st century has great cause for humilty, even while we’re are more and more likely to say we’re too good to need a God. The Psalmist said long ago, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” Now the fool simply shouts the message, while proving beyond a doubt that we need God more than ever.