Previous generations of human beings competed for some pretty predictable things, things like land, money, mates, titles and occasionally even 6-foot-tall shiny plastic trophies that invariably ended up in some local thrift shop, as if granny, who was in there looking for a gingham dress, was going to want Bob's cool bowling trophy. But our generation seems to have chosen a new shiny bauble to pursue as the highest goal.
I am musing on that, I suppose, because of a tweet that I came across this morning that said, "Before white people came to this land, there were no jails, no homelessness, no laws against homosexuality or abortion. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples emphasized health, housing, freedom to love who you love and the fact the we need Mother Earth. She doesn't need us."
In the view of the tweeter, "bad" in the Western Hemisphere started somewhere around the year 1492; before that, there was no bad. Bad is a modern import, carried here by white people who would become known as Americans. Around the world, before the invention and importation of bad, unicorns roamed free, producing rainbows each time they passed cinnamon-fragranced gas, and all darker humans spent their days peacefully picking flowers. Each day was then ended with a sing-along, most likely "Kumbaya." Thus, moral superiority in our days is the rightful property of non-whites and, to a lesser degree, whites who recognize that whites are the sole cause of bad.
And if you are expecting me from this point forward to launch forth with a defense of whites and whiteness, this brownish writer is going to disappoint you. But that's OK because I am going to disappoint everyone else, too. Hang with me, though, and we will get back to something a bit more encouraging as we draw this column to a close, I promise.
History is an amazing thing. And the story it tells does not portray a world where some people are bad and others are good. Somewhat like the Bible itself, it actually portrays a world where every race was/is more or less horrible. Those idyllic Indigenous peoples the tweeter views with such fondness are widely known for brutally conquering other tribes, wiping some out entirely and enslaving others. They were also known for scalping their enemies and torturing them in other brutal ways. And when it came to the elderly, trust me, no unicorns and rainbows were present.
Consider this statement from a BBC story on aging (bbc.com/news/business-50673645): "I customarily killed old women. They all died, there by the big river. I didn't used to wait until they were completely dead to bury them. The women were afraid of me."
Those are the words of a man from the Aché, an indigenous tribe in eastern Paraguay, as told to anthropologists Kim Hill and Magdalena Hurtado. He explained grandmothers helped with chores and baby sitting but when they got too old to be useful, you couldn't be sentimental. And the usual method of killing these old women was an ax to the head. For the old men, Aché custom dictated a different fate. They were sent away -- and told never to return.
The Aztecs famously sliced the still-beating hearts out of victims' chests and offered them to their gods, along with practicing ritual cannibalism. You can read about that at History.com (history.com/news/aztec-human-sacrifice-religion).
Africans heartily practiced slavery long before there was such a thing as America. European slave traders, almost without exception, did not themselves capture slaves. They bought them from other Africans, usually kings or chiefs or wealthy merchants. For a thousand years before Europeans arrived in Africa, slaves were commonly sold and taken by caravans north across the Sahara. That's according to CNN (edition.cnn.com/WORLD/9510/ghana_slavery).
Slavery was also famously practiced in Egypt; the account of the Israelites in the book of Exodus gives a good look at that. The Babylonians also had their slaves. Law No. 282 of the Code of Hammurabi said, "If a slave has said to his master, 'You are not my master,' he shall be brought to account as his slave, and his master shall cut off his ear."
The Canaanites burned living infant children to death in the worship of Molech. The Indian people, for thousands of years, have enshrined discrimination into their culture through the caste system. A substantial share of Brahmins say they would not be willing to accept a person who belongs to a Scheduled Caste as a neighbor. You can read more about that from the Pew Research Center (pewresearch.org/religion/2021/06/29/attitudes-about-caste). They have, though, stopped practicing sati, which for thousands of years had widows burning themselves to death sitting atop their deceased husband's funeral pyre.
I could cover the sordid history of every race, nation and group on Earth in like manner. We have not produced any peoples that are worthy of being handed the trophy for moral superiority, only a bunch of people who should be more or less embarrassed at their sketchy pasts. But that is where the encouragement finally begins to come in.
You see, God knew that all of us were going to be more or less horrible (Romans 3:10), and yet he loved us anyway (Romans 5:8). And when we receive him, our 6,000-plus year historically ingrained sin nature is individually changed into something much better; 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that we become a new creature in Christ.
This is available to anyone of any race and any background. He died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). This includes the slavers, the scalpers, the beating heart grabbers, the widow burners and everyone in between. It even includes whites, who, along with their many other historical transgressions, also gave us polka, Jar Jar Binks, leisure suits and spray-on hair.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at email@example.com.