There is a familiar quote from George Santayana that states, “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” At the heart of this week’s essay by Jim Nelson Black is the Loss of Respect for Tradition. Black points to this as sixth of ten warning signs of a nation and culture in decline. Tradition is often viewed with both nostalgia and disdain, depending on where one falls age-wise. Younger people often despise tradition because it seems restrictive and irrelevant to contemporary issues, but as one ages, the more one realizes Solomon was right when he stated, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).
As nations run away from tradition, they often exchange old problems for new problems, and in the process lose all of the historical context and lessons that a culture has learned as one generation wrestled with a crisis. By nature, traditions are restrictive, but they prove to be comparable to the rails that guide a locomotive pulling a mile-long train. Yes, it is the privilege of each generation to roam freely and travel new terrain, but Santayana’s proverb is just as true today as it was 100 years ago.
In this week’s essay, Black shows us from history how nations as great as France, which ushered in a new era of enlightenment in the 18th and 19th Centuries, ultimately fell to become a defeated nation struggling for survival. Do you see hints of this loss of respect for tradition in Post-Exilic Israel as you read Malachi, and in America as you watch the evening news? –Chris Eller