My Church History Perspective 1 – History & Me

Since I frequently discuss and engage aspects of Church history, I thought it might be helpful to do a series that explores how I interact with history. In order to do that, I think I need to begin with the way an interest in and exploration of history in general has intersected and shaped my life. That flows into a variety of different areas so the series will continue until I’ve explored some of those nuances.

I’m not sure there was ever a time when I was not interested in how things came to be what they now are. Some of the earliest things I remember exploring include the formation of planets (and earth in particular), development of life, dinosaurs (of course), and some of the basics of how things came to be. The earliest encounter I clearly recall with specifically human history involves a big, highly detailed and illustrated book (probably one of those Time Life books) on the US Civil War my grandfather got me as a gift. I spent hours poring over it and remember becoming fascinated trying to imagine different perspectives of the experience through the lens that a letter or a battle report offered.

Not too much later, when I was in the 4th grade, I encountered Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and fell in love with it. I quickly read the Illiad and the Odyssey next and was hooked by ancient Greece. I followed that up reading about the various city states, the culture, and, of course, their theater, which was always interwoven with their religions. That sparked an interest in ancient Greece that has continued over the course of my life.

In fact, my primary and enduring interests over the course of my life have been the ancient Greco-Roman world and cultures that are a part of my own heritage such as the Celts, the Angles, the Normans, the Gauls, and the Saxons. However, I’ve often wandered off on tangents for a period of time. For instance, I recall an interest in ancient Egyptian religious symbols and spiritual practices in my early preteen years that naturally veered into an exploration of the people and religion which led into the whole topic of Egyptology. Similarly, when I was exploring Shinto as a young adult I could only do so in the context of learning about Japan’s culture, art, and history. All these things are interwoven and cannot really be disentangled.

It also points to the manner in which I’ve often interacted with history. My interest in a specific culture or period has often been sparked by fiction, by literature and the arts, by my own heritage, and by religious and spiritual interests. It’s always been an interwoven tapestry for me. I’ve never studied some part of history for its own sake or somehow in isolation from the rest of my experience and life. I’m drawn into any study of history in order to understand or better understand that which has shaped me, is shaping me, or the experiences that call to me.

History is not a collection of “facts” (which is in itself a misleading term in this context) but a mosaic of culture, art, spirituality, conflict, and the practice of everyday life. When I use the word “history” that’s the interwoven tapestry of threads I have in mind.

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