God is in our story

Published 9:31 pm Friday, August 30, 2019

By Nathan Decker

This is American History. It is our story. It doesn’t matter if our ancestors participated in it or not.”

– Jean Fry, my high school history teacher.

I love history. I especially love the moments in history when I can celebrate my country charging in to face evil wearing a white hat. I love reading about our nation’s role in saving the world from the threat of Nazi fascism in WWII. I swell with patriotism when I read about the sacrifice of the men and women who risked everything to fight for liberty in the Revolutionary War. Our nation has a beautiful history of helping other nations. We are our best when we attempt to be a beacon of hope and justice.

But we have not always worn the white hat of benefiting everyone. Our history is also the story of a people learning from our mistakes. This year marks 400 years since slavery was introduced into our Commonwealth. There is no denying the evil that slavery was and is. Nor is there denying that we as a nation benefited from this horrible practice of ripping humanity from our brothers and sisters. We must pause and remember. We must tell the story to the next generation.

American history is our story. For too long parts of our story have been muted or diluted because of our tribal nature or seeing skin tones and ethnicity. What makes our story so colorful is the diversity of our history. As an American, my story includes freezing at Valley Forge with George Washington and charging San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt. As an American, my story also includes being forced on a ship to cross the middle passage and be sold on the Devil’s Half Acre in Richmond. My story involves marches, sit-ins and protests. My story contains the story of each and every dream Americans have yearned for in the pursuit of happiness.

American history is our story, not just the parts we like or the parts we believe our ancestors participated in. All of it. I have a church member whose ancestor fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. I also have an ancestor who fought at that battle, although he was wearing a different color uniform. The fact that we, the descendants of division and dispute, can worship together is a testimony to what it means to be America.

As a Christian, I also believe God is in our story. When I come to faith, I begin living my life according to the Gospel, God’s story. God’s story becomes my story. I take it with me into every decision that I make. How I earn and spend my money, how I use my time, the way I treat people, what I value, how I vote: All of it filtered through the Gospel. A big part of God’s story is confession, forgiveness and reconciliation. Four hundred years ago, we began a repeating history of shame, blame and dehumanizing one another. Today, we have to recognize this as a part of our story so that we as a nation can forgive one another and move forward in reconciliation. After all, it is a part of our story, and it’s what Jesus would do.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

– Galatians 3:28