Thematically, this sort of riffs on something Keith wrote recently. A couple shows that I’ve sort of started paying attention to on TV are Mad Men and Life on Mars (the British original). Purely as entertainment, I’d recommend both, but that’s not why I’m talking about them today. Now I don’t want to speak too much about either show since I am indeed a novice fan at best, but these are my first impressions: What both of these shows do so masterfully is look at the past without nostalgia, in such a way that you don’t yearn for the past, but are rather thankful that we are no longer in the past. At least for my part I’m not in any hurry to return to the magical time ruled by chain-smoking womanizers whose tactics would today fall under the rubric of date-rape.
Anyway, I prefer this to the boomer-nostalgia narrative about things being so much better in the “good old days” and how life used to be so much simpler and nicer. That’s not a wise way to look at the world.
Pete Rollins on the nostalgia believers often get for some phase of the early church:
“The point then is not to attempt some kind of return to the early church, the church before it got caught up in X (Platonic concepts, state power etc.) but rather to return to the revolutionary event that gave birth to the early church. Fully embracing the fact that we will fail but working diligently to fail in a better way. We thus avoid the deadend of either sitting back and saying, “everything we create will end up just as bad as what currently exists”, or naively claiming that we can return to the way things used to be, before it all went wrong.”
Having read a bit of David Wells in my undergrad, his nostalgia for the past is palpable on every page he writes (see especially, God in the Wasteland). If only we could return to small scale agrarian communities with the church at the center, things would be so much better, wouldn’t they?
Not so for Shlomo. Ecclesiastes 7.10 reads: “Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”
Some questions are better left unasked. That includes lamenting the current state of the church with a view to a certain era of the past, be it the Puritans, the early church, the Azusa Street revival, whatever. Solomon probably saw the tendency for nostalgia leading to an escapist mentality and bitterness. We are called to live in the present, not to dwell on the past.
As Mark Driscoll says in Radical Reformission,
There has never been a “good old day” since the Great Thud in Eden. Every age is filled with sin, sinners, God’s love, and work to be done. Each generation has its resistance to the gospel, and each culture is equally far from God because of sin and equally close to God because of his love. As Solomon repeatedly says, there is indeed nothing new under the sun.