Like much of the world recently, I was deeply saddened to see the great Notre Dame Cathedral burning. It is sad to see destruction of anything historical or culturally and religiously significant, especially something that has stood as a symbol for Centuries.
Some thoughts, or rather questions, came to me while seeing these reports. Could God have prevented this fire? Could God rebuild this great building? Then followed the greater question: Would God rebuild this building? Not the question of His ability, but Why? What would be the purpose?
Destruction of Human Creations
I have read this week, the words of our Savior about the Temple in Jerusalem being destroyed and raised again the 3rd day. (See John 2:18-21; Matthew 26:61, 27:40; Mark 14:58) We of course, know that he was not talking about the physical temple, but His own physical temple, His body.
Those who heard him however, expressed disbelief that such as magnificent structure that had taken so long to build could so easily be destroyed. We have heard other similar reactions to prophesy about destruction of great cities. History has shown us that, yes the great Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed after all.
The reality is that anything man creates out of the elements of this temporal world is impermanent and can be destroyed. As much as we, with scientific knowledge and technical skill, try to create buildings to be able to withstand earthquakes, floods, fire and wind, some still are destroyed.
The building of physical buildings and creating material objects is the work of humans. At times God has commanded His people to build Temples and other structures. Whether He could create them Himself is not the point – after all He created the mountains which served as temples. The purpose and function of a building is more important than design or beauty. Part of that purpose being the obedience and sacrifice and offerings from us mortals to create something in His name.
While living His mortal life, Jesus the carpenter built things with His hands just like we do. Jesus didn’t use His power to create material things. Instead, His mortal work dealt with individuals. He healed bodies and ministered to souls. People were the subjects of His great power, glory and love. That should be a testimony to us that we, His children, are His priority.
That morning when Jesus rose from the tomb, gives perspective to our mortal experience – to creation and destruction, to life and death.
Through His resurrection bodies and spirits can be reunited and resurrected to a perfect immortal form. Through Him broken hearts are rebuilt and damaged souls healed. Through Him we can be restored to a sinless, pure, innocent state, able to live in His presence.
Ultimately, as significant as magnificent human creations may be to us, we are more important than buildings or objects to Him – the Creator of all things.
I am reminded these days about a little story I was told as a child. Maybe children of later generations missed it? It was about a chicken – Chicken Little – who ran around in a panic saying “the sky is falling”. Now we have little chickens running around in a panic saying the world will come to an end in 12 years if we don’t radically change our whole way of life.
I have a few things to say to those panicking young people. I was young once too. I believed things I was told, especially by knowledgeable professors. However, through time, more learning and life experience, I have come to see many of those things as erroneous, misguided or even deceptive.
Some Perspective from the Dark Ages – the 1970’s
I was a College student back in the 1970’s – almost the dark ages. Actually it was kind of the dark ages. I remember going to school in the dark. Someone, I think wise politicians, decided that perpetual daylight savings time would save great amounts of energy. So we went to school in the dark during the winter. I even recall the Bell Tower on campus playing “Oh, what a Beautiful Morning” as we found our way to class in the dark. I never really understood how that was supposed to work.
I also dutifully car-pooled to campus. There were seven in our car-pool who drove from across town. I had a Volkswagen bug. Yes, we crammed seven bodies into that and drove to school. Why? Because we were told that we would run out of fossil fuel, likely by the end of the century. Yes, we were told there would be no more. It would be all gone. And these predictions were based on “science.”
I also have recalled lately my Senior research project. It was titled “Attitudes of Weber County, Utah Residents Toward Government Intervention in Limiting Family Size.” I pulled it out the other day and read the summary of literature we studied at that time. It included lots of doomsday predictions. The world and its resources just would not be able to sustain increasing populations. We would all starve if something wasn’t done. And yes, there was discussion about forced – that means “anti-choice” – family planning measures.
I’ll share a little quote from the time defining Natalism as:
“The belief that individual couples have the right to have as many children as they please despite the scientific conviction that unchecked population expansion is by far the most potentially disastrous problem facing mankind in the middle of the Twentieth Century.”
(Silverman, Anna and Arnold. The Case Against Having Children. New York: David McKay Company, Inc.,1971 italics added)
What Has Happened Since
Somehow the disastrous problems facing mankind in the Twentieth Century did not destroy us. Overpopulation didn’t turn out to be the nightmare predicted. We haven’t all starved. Scientists were wrong, or at least not right. Maybe there was a reason we were deceived? Possibly it has more to do with politics than science?
The population hasn’t grown out of control without government intervention. Population growth rates have gone down. In fact, fertility rates in some countries have dropped below replacement levels.
The United States didn’t take steps to restrict family size. Legalizing abortion and changing attitudes accomplished that. Now we have young people too scared to have children because we are all going to die.
China did adopt and enforce – being communist made it easy to do the forcing – a one-child policy. Now four decades later, even they are seeing that it was not such a good idea. Not only did it destroy the family structure which took care of older parents, but the whole system is unbalanced, without sufficient young workers to sustain growing older populations.
We are not all starving to death. In fact, in the US we have a huge obesity problem. Yes, there are hungry people in the US and actual starvation in some countries. But that is not because we cannot produce enough food. This also, has more to do with politics. People are starving in Venezuela, while humanitarian aid is blocked from reaching them.
We have not run out of fossil fuels, but they are still the villain. It makes me wonder if this is just another attempt to shift power and wealth, because earlier attempts didn’t produce lasting results.
Power to Control Weather
I recently re-read the bible story of Jesus calming the seas. I recommend studying that one. (Matthew 8:22-27; Luke 8:22-25) My thought was this: Yes, there is one who can control the weather. He is the Creator. He has knowledge and power over the elements of this earth. He has power to change the climate. But He works according to laws and principles which may be foreign to scientific man. Those principles include faith and obedience. The elements obey Him. People don’t always.
The world mocks God and faith. Some laugh at the mere idea of appealing to God to temper the elements, as something primitive, uncivilized people would do.
The Choice to Believe
People, especially today, have made science and man their god. They willingly put their faith in scientists. The same kinds of scientists who misled us 40-50 years ago with their dire predictions. The same science that was used to convince us that tobacco was safe and that repeated concussions wouldn’t cause permanent damage.
People are willing to obey government over God. As if government really has our best interest in mind.
Why is it easier for some to believe the word of scientists and politicians than prophets of God? The world mocks prophets, but now people are paying attention to very similar “doomsday prophesies” from men in the name of science.
How consistent is it to believe that our world came into existence through totally random forces, yet we, puny humans, who randomly evolved from lower life forms, somehow have the power to control those random forces, change the course of nature and save ourselves?
I would not recommend totally disregarding science or attempts to be better stewards of this planet. We should use knowledge to make better choices and improve our environment. But why give in to fear-mongering and put blind trust in those who would ultimately cause more damage to our freedom and way of life?
Is there really a need to panic and rush forward with radical proposals that have not been well thought out? Some scientists have actually predicted that the proposed solutions may be more disastrous than the problems they supposedly address.
It seems reasonable to me that all things are in the hands of an omnipotent creator with a plan. Why then not appeal to Him? Why then not act consistently with His plan and laws? How could that possibly put us in a worse position?
Yes, the world as we know it will come to an end. Not necessarily in the manner or the timing now being pushed by the hysterical chickens. The end has been prophesied since the beginning. It has always been part of the plan. The result will not just be an end, but also a beginning of a better world. Whether you are around to enjoy the better depends upon individual choice – whether to believe and obey God or man.
As the end of the world approaches, I don’t think we will be saved by solar panels. I believe our salvation will come as we individually choose to turn to the power of The Son.
History books have a bad reputation for being very dry and boring. Some actually are. Most of those writing history have done extensive research and base their writing on factual accounts. It is a joy for me to find a serious history book written by an author who has not only done research, but has the ability to express historical facts in ways that make it come alive through exceptional writing.
Fiction writers who have done their homework, can give us a pretty good sense of what historical events were like or how it might have felt to live through them. I very much enjoy historical fiction written by skilled writers who have done research and put forth the effort to make it historically accurate as well as compelling. Though main characters and story details may be imagined, they allow us to experience history through their eyes.
Why Reading History Matters
I am amazed and appalled at the lack of historical knowledge, especially among young people today. I realize that many of my generation slept through history classes, but at least we took history classes. So many seem to lack knowledge of basic historical events – when and where they occurred and primary people involved – let alone any understanding of the complex issues behind them. We seem set up to repeat serious mistakes of the past. Actually history has repeated itself in horrible ways. When will we learn from history? First we must learn history.
As someone who not only lived through the Cold War, but has read about communism and socialism, I find it unbelievable that so many young people actually want socialism. Why do they not get it? Maybe because they only read or listen to what we would have termed “propaganda” – the promises of utopia, equality and prosperity. History has shown us that these are illusions. Socialism and communism (one leads to the other) have always turned out badly.
I am also concerned about the lack of knowledge of the founding principles and documents of this country. After all that the early patriots sacrificed to establish this government and to defend it, some seem ready to throw it all away. Problems in America today do not exist because of our form of government, but they have become worse because we are straying from the principles upon which it was formed. We need to return to those principles, but first must learn them.
My History List
These are some of my favorite histories and historical fiction. These are books that made an impact on me. Your reactions may be different and that is okay. Some of these are classics recommended by many. Some I just happened upon and you may not have heard of, but they impressed me. Many of these have been made into movies that you probably have seen. I always recommend reading the book. Books give more detail, often the prose is beautifully written, and frankly, too often movie makers alter books to fit their own agendas.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Some good ones may have slipped my mind for the moment and I hope to add more in time. They are kind of grouped, but in no particular order. Please feel free to mention your favorites in “Comments.”
Early American History
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick I read this after I joined the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and was interested to learn more. Not only did it cover the migration to America and the early years here, but the interactions with Natives and the wars with them were very enlightening.
Young Washington by Peter Stark This book gives a good portrait of George Washington and how events during the French and Indian War influenced his life and future. It provides good background to understanding the roots of the Revolution.
Strange and Obscure Stories of the Revolutionary War by Tim Rowland This is an easy and often humorous read about a number of incidents during the Revolutionary War. If you think history is boring, read this.
Miracle in Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787 Catherine Drinker Bowen This is an excellent book about the laborious process of writing the Constitution of the United States. It truly was a miracle that this group of strong willed and opinionated men were able to discuss and come to a workable compromise that has endured. (A process today’s lawmakers could learn from) It makes clear what the constitution was intended to do and what it intentionally did not address. The book includes the full text of the constitution and amendments for study.
Books about Slavery and the Civil War
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe This book is a classic which should be required reading for everyone.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero Bound for the Promised Land by Kate Clifford Larson
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin This is an excellent book about Abraham Lincoln and the political process of the time. We could use leaders like him now.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell Many are familiar with the Movie, but the book is well worth the read.
Native American History
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brow
Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, The Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure by Julie Flynn Silver
Into the 20th Century
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck I love Steinbeck’s writing and this classic picture of human dignity in horrible circumstances. It has also been made into a movie, but I recommend the book.
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan This is a non-fiction work about the Dust Bowl and those who stayed and lived through it. The other side of the story presented in The Grapes of Wrath but featuring real people.
Books about World War II
The Hiding Place by Corrie Tenboom
Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally The movie was popular, but the book allows you to spend time pondering and processing.
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer This book is an enjoyable read, but it highlights serious issues of living in occupied territory and resisting a war.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand This is the moving true story of an American prisoner of war in Japan.
The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw This shares examples of character and values of those who lived through trying times.
Anne Frank Diary of a Young Girl The classic we all read in school, but maybe not so much anymore.
Books Dealing with Other 20th Century Issues in the World
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjallan I just happened to find and read this book as we marked the Centennial of the events portrayed. I was amazed that not only do very few people today know anything about the Armenian genocide, but at the time it occurred, news of it was essentially buried because of the larger World War I. It makes me wonder if more people were aware, would such horrors have been repeated?
Shanghai Girls & Dreams of Joy by Lisa See I discovered Lisa See with her book On Gold Mountain which is basically her family history – a very interesting family history beginning with a Chinese immigrant who married an American. Shanghai Girls is fiction set in China and California about two sisters who become brides to paper sons of a Chinese immigrant in California. Dreams of Joy is the next generation sequel about the 19 year old daughter. Upon encountering radicals at an American University preaching the glories of socialism, she goes to China in 1957 to become part of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” into the “New Society”. Her mother heroically saves her from being one of the millions of Chinese who starved to death during this period of “prosperity.”
The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam I just happened upon this book, but found it compelling. It’s central character is a Chinese man running an English school in Saigon just prior to and during the Vietnam War. It overlaps the time period of See’s Dreams of Joy, which picture was still in my head when I read about this Headmaster sending his son to China. It gives a sense of the way Communism creeps in and takes over.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry Set in India, this book reveals the injustice and cruelty of the caste system.
A Thousand Splendid Suns & The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini These books provide some insight into the history and culture of Afghanistan which is helpful in understanding more recent events there.
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi This book not only gives a glimpse of life in Tehran during trying times but also reinforces the value of books.
I am feeling somewhat burdened by stuff. Having lived in the same house for 36 years where my husband and I raised three children who have since moved out, I fully realize that we have accumulated a lot of stuff – way too much stuff. I and my siblings have also been encouraging our 90-year-old father to get rid of some of the stuff he has acquired during his long lifetime and stored over 50 years in the same house. My father grew up during the depression and has a deeply instilled sense that things should be kept in case there is a future shortage or they may again be useful to someone. He is now willing to give away things to family members, but there are definite differences between what he thinks might be useful and what they might really want.
My children are of a generation which seems to be able to easily dispose of stuff. If they find later that they need something they got rid of, they just buy another. I personally am somewhere in between – I really want to rid myself of unnecessary stuff cluttering my home and life, but I also see value and meaning in some things, which makes it harder to let go.