From the PEW Research Center For the People and the Press:
Public awareness of the number of American military fatalities in Iraq has declined sharply since last August. Today, just 28% of adults are able to say that approximately 4,000 Americans have died in the Iraq war. As of March 10, the Department of Defense had confirmed the deaths of 3,974 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.
Of course, that was 6 months ago. The problem with facts and figures is that unless they are kept in front of the public eye - and hammered into the public consciousness constantly in big bold letters - the importance or enormity of any situation will always wane.
Iraq has taken a poor second place (some say third or fourth) in the presidential and vice presidential debates. In a previous post, I created "Wordles" out of both sides of the vice presidential debate. Iraq was mentioned only 4 times. The war in Iraq has cost us over 4,000 lives, $12 billion per month and it's barely on our national scope. Why? Is it the media's fault?
Not necessarily. A great many journalists have been trying to hammer a great deal into our heads, but America clings to old images and ideas whether or not they are factual. In other words, there is tendency for the American public to hear or read about something and run with it whether or not that something turns out to be false. Think "weapons of mass destruction" and "Obama's middle name is Hussein so he must be a Muslim." Americans hate changing their first perspective because they don't like being wrong.
And Americans hate to research. They like to believe the first person with a title like "Ph.D." "Rev." "Dr." They like to be fed the first spoonful of spinach, then reject what consists of the rest of the meal (even if they like spinach!). Another thing they hate: the subject of history.
Remember what Sen. Joe Biden said: "The past is prologue". History is obligatory in parsing whole cultures as well as individuals. It's obligatory for everyone to know history simply because their lives depend on knowing what happened, where and when. Gov. Sarah Palin chided Senator Biden for bringing up the past: it's possible that the candidate's picture of the future was too vague, too definitive to compare to the past. If no plans exist for the future, many politicians depend on negating any memories of the past. It makes the future easier to sell. "Don't dwell in the past, think of the future...whatever it might be." This is foolish. History is doomed to repeat itself but only if we don't know our history. And our neighbor's history.
Christians don't know their own history. One of the founding "Fathers" of Christianity and its first theologian was Tertullian. Ever heard of him? No? Why not? The promoter (or inventor) of the concept of Original Sin was Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. It's because of him that babies are baptized early (so that if they should die early, they won't go to hell), it's because of him that Christians believe every man is born in sin. Such an important person in the history of your theology and you haven't heard of him - or you remember him with some vague memory of Bible school? Come on, this is your SPIRITUAL LIFE we're talking about and you don't know its history?
You say you've memorized the Bible inside out and that's enough? No, it's not enough. The Bible was related by word of mouth and stories passed on, interpreted, analyzed, edited, whole books included and whole books yanked out. If you don't know how the Bible came to be, how do you read it? If you just take it at face value, you short-change yourself by not knowing the full story of the Bible. You're not smart enough? Or you don't have the time? Which is it?
O.K., I got carried away. Sorry.
How'd I get from knowing about Iraq to the history of Christianity? I dunno.
Maybe someone didn't keep me on track. I need to be kept on track. Just like everyone else.
Just a thought.