Pride in the Past (but not all of it)

LIBERTY! EQUALITY! FRATERNITY!

The three words that the French Revolution revolved around establishing for all of mankind.  We still fight to uphold them today.

I’m here to talk about Equality and Fraternity right now, because there is a distortion of what those two are about these days.  The idea that equality is somehow only for a certain people group, and that others don’t deserve the same rights as others.  That certain peoples whose ancestors were mistreated by certain others’ ancestors somehow strips the rights from the descendants.  This problem exists not just between races and classes but between the genders.  We’ve strived to make everything so equal that it’s now become imbalanced, just in a new direction.

A little girl can wear an attitude T that says “Girls rule the world” but if a boy were to wear a shirt saying the same thing there would be outrage at the parents for raising a sexist chauvinist.  A woman of African descent can wear a shirt that says “Black Girls are the Best” (I’ve seen both of these t-shirts in real life!) but if I, a white Northern European descended female were to wear anything that said “White girls are the best” I’d be glared at, mobbed as racist, and probably kicked out of the store.  The only time white people are allowed to be like I’m so proud of my heritage is on Saint Patrick’s Day, we can wear the “Nothing better than an Irish Girl” shirts and no one is going to judge.  Try wearing anything glorying in your heritage any other time of the year?

I’m not saying the African-Americans shouldn’t get to wear their pride on their shirt, I’m just saying that equality means I get to be proud of my roots too.  I shouldn’t have to be shamed because some of my forebearers made less than great choices and fought wars, owned slaves, or treated others different because race, gender, money, ancestry.  Their prejudice doesn’t erase the things they accomplished for good.  I’m proud of my English roots because it was in the soil of England that the Reformation took root and spread to the New World.  Did those same Englishmen that brought their Bibles to the Americas also kill and misuse the Native Americans, yes, and I’m not proud of that.  But for every hero there’s a darker side in History, no one is perfect.  And this is where the Fraternity comes in.  We love one another as brothers despite skin color, gender, or ancestry.  The revolutionaries of the French Revolution were very much about seeing you for who you were, not your ancestors, they had the sons of aristocrats aiding their cause as well as the sons of illegitimacy and ignorance.  Nothing is all good, the French Revolution is a prime example of this, it shattered the darkness that had suffocated France for centuries, it also caused wanton bloodshed because of ancient hatreds and resentment against the wealthy.  It started leaving the world in wonder, and ended leaving it horrorstruck.  Prejudice and the corrupt nature of man lead to its fall and the rise of equally awful things and the return of monarchy and then imperialism, but those things don’t ruin the good that it did accomplish.

I’m a woman, and I’m proud to be one.  But does that mean men can’t be proud of their gender too? No! Just because some men in the past made bad choices, doesn’t mean the entire gender has to suffer for the wrongs of their fathers.  They can be proud that due to their gender much of the world as we know it exists as it does.  Is everything in the world good? No! But as a wise man once said “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

Fraternity, brotherly love, it’s a biblical theme.  And if people were to just see the precepts in God’s Word as a guide, the hatred of today would go away.  The Gospel has brotherly love at it’s core, and when you love your brother equality comes without thought, for how can you not view as an equal someone you love as your own kin?  If the revolutionaries of France had done this, and not allowed egotism and prejudice to blind them, the Terror would not have occurred.

So how about instead of being offended because someone is proud of the fact their grandfather was a hero and saved twenty of his comrades under heavy fire, just because said grandfather was a Confederate in the Civil War, or was a Bolshevik, or a Zulu warrior, we accept that bravery is admirable, and self-sacrifice the greatest glory this life can afford, and don’t judge individuals, now or in the past by the errors of the people group they belonged to, the cause they fought for, the country they originated in, or by their ignorance.  We can look at our own past and find direct family members that we’re proud of, or accomplishments of our people group as a whole, we can empathize with those different from ourselves rather than see what is “wrong” about their cultural heritage and use it to fuel our prejudice.  Our own ignorance of others is the greatest ally that hatred has in our hearts.

And that leads to another core belief at the heart of the French Revolution, eradicating ignorance.  When all are equally educated then you can see others as equals because you both share the common ground of knowledge and a thirst to extend that knowledge.  The more you learn about a people group the more you understand their cultural heritage and why they made the mistakes they did, had the mentality they possessed, and why some aspects of their identity have survived in their posterity.  It helps to see them as equals, because when you study your own heritage you see what your cultural identity gave to you, and you have the choice to rid yourself of some of the bigotry you may have acquired, but also to amplify the virtues your lineage has given you.  When you banish ignorance it is easier to make yourself who you wish to be, not what your culture expects you to be.  Because ignorance is what breeds hate, violence, prejudice, bigotry, superiority complexes, egotism, resentment, jealousy, and so many other vices.

Know more so you can be more! Be more than your own past, or the past of your people! And uphold the words the French rallied to over 200 years ago.  I would recommend supplementing those words with the Gospel, even if you never come to know Christ as your personal Saviour (though I pray you do), there is much wisdom and insight on loving those around you to be found in the Gospels.

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