Remembering Dates

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy . . .”

I don’t remember whether I heard President Roosevelt say those words or not, but I know I was taking part in a choir festival in Hornell, New York, when someone came in and held up a newspaper with the headline, “Japs Bomb Pearl Harbor.”

Where were you on November 22, 1963, or September 11, 2001? Why do I know those dates and not the date of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination? Why have we forgotten the date of Lincoln’s assassination or the date when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter? What was the date of the devastating tsunami in Asia?

The latest recurrence of December 7 has me thinking about dates and I have realized that there are less horrific dates we also know well. There’s July 4 for one and also, of course, December 25.

The last, we all know, is not a “real” date. We don’t know when Jesus was born, not even the year. But inevitably we have assigned a date because it is a real event if not a real date. It happened at a certain time and place in human history.

And that’s where Christianity connects to human history in a way that no other faith does. It has to do with the birth of a child in whose life God was made know as never before or since. It has to do with real dates in real history. Human life matters to God. Our Creed affirms the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of the soul. God is at work in real human lives, in our history, in the catastrophes as well as the triumphs.

“Spiritualism” draws us away from this world. Christianity drives us into it.

And that’s why the dates that stick in our minds matter. The familiar phrase, “We just have to put it behind us,” needs to be struck from our language. Remembering (“Do this in remembrance”) is critical to human life, to know the worst and the best, to repent, to grieve, to grow, to offer, and give thanks for the presence of God drawing us through it all toward the kingdom.

1 Comment

LibbyDecember 8th, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Maybe you don’t know the date of the MLK, Jr assassination because we were in Japan?

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