It’s the end of class and all the students are leaving. One remains in his seat, packing very slowly. Finally, with the rest of the students gone, he says, “Professor, when did Christians stop being good people?”
GOOD LORD. I did not say that, never, not even close. And I don’t believe it.
But my student’s been deeply affected by our discussion of abolition and the lyrics of an evangelical singing group from the 19th century, the Hutchinson family. He’s moved by their goodness, their balancing of popularity and morality, and the contrast to something he sees in the present. Young people.
More than two hours later, I finally leave that room, having tried to answer for modern Republican politics, creationism, the weaknesses of Christian rock, how he can make peace with his evangelical relatives, and why politicians can’t be agnostic.
I can’t make history answer for the present. I can’t even make my own past answer for the present. There’s no such real thing as a time line. I don’t like to say anything with certainty, as I’m never really sure of anything. I can think my way out of any interpretation and I argue with myself constantly. With every moment that passes, I think we matter less and I find that incredibly comforting.