Don’t project backward

Don’t ever make the mistake of projecting into the past what we know today about the result of an event. – from Prof. Gary Gallagher.

That’s a rough paraphrase of a comment by Prof. Gallagher in his course on the American Civil War from Great Courses.

That’s a powerful concept.

For example, don’t project back our knowledge that the 1960 election of Lincoln led many southern states to secede, or that one side or the other’s action at some point before shooting began was a bad decision because it led to war. At the time, they didn’t know the outcome.

That is such a superb observation on history that I wanted to mention it on this blog.

We can apply that to lots of situations.

A variation of this gives you a bit more grace towards people in the past.

For instance, we cringe today at the way missionaries shared the gospel with people in times past.  Demanding that people in another culture sing hymns that are meaningful in your culture and sing them in the way that is appropriate in your culture makes us wince when we read that is how evangelism was done long ago. Don’t be too harsh on those folks. That is the only way they conceptualized evangelism.

They did the best they could with the light they had.

Lighten up, because in another 100 years, people will look at us and cringe at some of the things we do. Which in particular?  I don’t have a clue because we only have the light that is available to us now.

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