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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Learning from history

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." This silence, at least in my limited opinion, is the product of an apathetic ignorance, that is, the unique cultural disconnect of not knowing the past. Much of the confusion so evident in our people today is the result of being historically illiterate.

There's an interesting parallel in the epoch of Israel. The period of the Judges is the record of one of the most distressing times in the history of God's people. One short passage in Judges 2 places the entire period in perspective. Take note---

And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose

another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work he had

done for Israel.

Judges 2:10, ESV

The Israelites either forgot or purposely ignored the command God had given them to teach the lessons and miracles of the Exodus to their children. Like us, their children were historically deprived. The result is the final sentence in the Judges---

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25b, ESV

It's an odd choice for me, my preference for reading history. There's little context, that is, dependence on the past, in my personal strength array. But, for more than forty years, even before answering God's call to ministry, reading and studying history has been my avocation. And when I retired and disposed of several thousand books, I decided to keep my history books, most referencing the American revolution and World War II. With all the political, social, and cultural shifts in our modern age, these books are great sources of information and inspiration for those of us entrusted with the spiritual leadership of others. So, I've poked around in them and would like to recommend five history books that every pastor and spiritual leader should read. Here they are---

1. Bringing Back the Black Robe Regiment (Volumes 1 and 2) by Dan Fisher

These are literally two books but I decided to list them as one, to be read

together. It is the history of the influence of the Protestant clergy during the

revolutionary period. Today the media and liberal politicians have threatened

many ministers and church leaders into silence about the social, cultural, and

political systems guiding our nation into a secular worldview. These books

challenge every spiritual leader to speak to these times. These are excellent


2. American Gospel by Jon Meacham

Meacham provides 443 pages of clear commentary on the influence of religion

in the life of America's founders. Revisionist historians tend to ignore or

downplay the spiritual tendencies of the first Americans. This book

acknowledges their dependence on God and the spiritual foundations that

guided their design of our government. American Gospel is a balanced and fair


3. George Washington's Sacred Fire by Peter A. Lilleback

Lilleback devoted fifteen years of intense study through the writings, journals,

manuscripts, and letters of George Washington and his family as the

background for this mammoth 1185 page volume. The research reveals a

spiritual side to George Washington that modern historians have neglected or

purposely misconstrued. It firmly answers the question, was George

Washington a Christian. The answer is yes.

4. The Jefferson Lies by David Barton

Barton is a well known conservative, boldly Christian historian. Using primary

sources Barton revealed that many of the legends and myths we've believed

about Thomas Jefferson were in fact distortions created by revisionist

historians. At one point this book was withdrawn from publication such was

the response of the historical community to Barton's conclusions. Later, after

his research was confirmed and validated by others, it was released. It is one of

the best books on the list.

5. Washington's God by Jana Novak and Michael Novak

Once again, the Novak father/daughter team have challenged the traditional

secular view that George Washington was a Deist or secularist with little

spiritual understanding. Examining new sources and Washington's own words

they have instead given a wonderful account of the man who prayed for Divine

Providence to guide him and the nation. Once again this book is a fresh look at

the data through eyes not tarnished by secular biases.

Are there more? Of course. But, these five (really six) are primers about the spiritual foundations of our nation, and should be source material for a resurgence of political fervor in those leading our churches today. They're all histories and are therefore long. But, they're worth the read and should be required of spiritual leaders today.

We're on the path that Israel took following the Exodus. Our people don't know who we were, and therefore have a hard time imagining who we are.

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