Rachel Stone wrote yesterday that Nostalgia Requires Selective Memory, and she points out that one doesn’t have to go back in time to see just how rough those times were because there are parts of the world that still experience hardship those of us in the developed world relegate to the past.
In response to one food writer who “bemoans the overly sterile condition of the modern world, where our ‘guts’ are no longer properly ‘colonized’ by all sorts of ‘friendly bacteria’”, Rachel responds:
I couldn’t help thinking that his was a longing that could only be experienced by someone with good health insurance in a developed country who gets to engage bacteria (friendly or otherwise) solely on his own terms. It’s a little harder to be starry-eyed about the benefits of the friendly bacteria and the evils of pasteurization when you are living in a place that still regularly sees outbreaks of typhoid and tuberculosis.
Rachel talks about cultural aspects of nostalgia as well, pointing out that some prominent Christian leaders seem to have a shortsighted desire to return to values supposedly held in earlier times:
… many evangelical values touted as ‘biblical’ are really just grounded in nostalgia for “how we think (certain) things were” in the 1950s (or the 1850s, as the case may be), all while seeming to forget—or at least, to compartmentalize—elements of culture that went right along with ‘traditional gender roles,’ like Victorian gentlemen’s tendency to keep wives ‘pure’ by visiting mistresses, child labor, and Jim Crow.
Nostalgia is for Ninnies
God often told the Israelites to remember. He wanted them to remember all he’d done for them, all the times he cared for them even when they cared not one whit for him.
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deuteronomy 5:15.)
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 8:2.)
The purpose of this remembering, though, is always about who God is, not about us, and it points to the future, not the past:
Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels.
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel. (Isaiah 46:8-10, 13.)
After all, the Bible makes clear that longing for the past is a fool’s game.
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. (Ecclesiastes 7:10.)
God is Here and Now
Under the New Covenant, too, who God is and what he has done demands a response.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 3:15.)
The word “Today” jumps off the page with an urgency I can’t ignore. God doesn’t say we should have turned to him yesterday and he doesn’t say it can wait until tomorrow. He is here and he wants us with him now.
Nostalgic for the past? No, thanks. Waiting for the future? No, not that either.
But here is something I will remember: I’m excited to be living today because this is where God is.
And here’s something I will look forward to: Every day is today with God.