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Those Who Don’t Learn from History

11. August 2009

Columns, Viewpoint,


One of my recent tasks as editorial assistant was to excerpt Crown & Covenant Publications’ new book, Political Danger, by James R. Willson, for this issue of the Witness(see “Political Danger: Excerpts”). The articles in this volume were written about the political controversies of early 19th Century America. At first glance, the book looks intimidatingly dry. I prepared myself for some tedious material intended for theologians and scholars, not for everyday Christians like me.

To my surprise I found instead the thoughts of a man deeply concerned with the same issues that plague our nation today. In the broader context of the mediatorial Kingship of Jesus Christ, the book addresses issues on cultural tolerance, power-hungry governments and the treatment of veterans. It also includes a thoroughly surprising section on the abolishment of prayer in the New York House of Representatives written in 1835. (Yes, they were arguing about the constitutionality of state prayer 175 years ago.) As Gordon Keddie, editor of this collection, said, “In all of these papers there are passages that could have been written yesterday.”

But the sections that most interested me most were those on slavery. For many, including me, this is a dead topic. Slavery was abolished long ago, and few of us would question its immorality or willingly countenance its existence. Nevertheless, in speaking to 19th Century slavery, Willson still speaks to a ...

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