The “wrong side of history?”
Recently, a picture has been making the rounds on the internet featuring a protest sign which implies that opponents to same-sex marriage will be on the “wrong side of history.” Without getting into the actual subject of same-sex marriage, I propose to you that such rhetoric should not be convincing for a Catholic, or any clear-thinking individual, on any subject.
Think about the implications of there being a “right side” (and therefore, a “wrong side”) of history: it means that history is a continual march forward in progress, and/or it means that it is important to be judged by future generations as being correct.
The first implication is manifestly false, for while we certainly see some progression in the arts and sciences, culture is by no means tied to a train that only goes up. Society can regress as much as it can progress… or, it can progress off a cliff (a Chestertonian way of viewing progress).
The second implication, that one should desire to be judged well by future generations and should form one’s opinions based on the future state of things, is icnredibly short-sighted. As noted above, the future has the possibility of changing, and one generation’s vice is another generation’s virtue. The next generation may view Position X as “right,” but fourteen generations later, they’ll be noting in their textbooks the barbarous culture that took Position X.
No, it is much better that when presented with a choice between two stances, we should choose the one that most closely represents the truth, not just as we know it, but as much as we CAN know it. This means that perhaps instead of getting into debate after endless debate, we should educate ourselves more on the topics. I, for one, am guilty of getting caught up in debates, both online and in person, where there is much heat and little light. Instead of continuing in old habits, I’m going to try to use that time to grow in knowledge and wisdom and understanding. Certainly there is a time and place for such discussions, but that time is not always right now.
So, the next time an opportunity for debate pops up in my life, I’m going to ask myself if it is better for me, the other, and the Kingdom if I engage in discussion, dialogue, and debate, or if it is better for me to use that time and energy to pray and to learn from intellectual giants, past and present, and so be ever more prepared to respond in charity in the future.