I recently tried to watch the mini-series Centennial which was originally aired by NBC starting in 1978 and concluding in 1979. I vaguely remember watching the series when it first came out, but I must admit that I have never read the James Michener book  upon which it was based.  I only bought the series because it was in the bargain bin at Walmart, and since I enjoy history, I thought I would possibly pick up on some historical information, although I expected from the outset that they would take some poetic license.  The plot is generally interesting, but they diverge a bit too much from history so that it is hard to recognize much historical in the stories.  The most distinguishing feature, however, is a consistent pessimism throughout the episodes that I watched.  This is not to say that American history should be viewed purely in a positive manner, but it should certainly be viewed with balance. 

You’ve probably heard it said that the victors are the ones who write history.  This is probably true to some degree.  Those who win the great struggles of history probably control the narrative of what’s told to a certain extent.  But these victors cannot completely control all stories and squelch the ones that are less flattering.  One way or another, most stories get out somehow, regardless of what those in power desire.  Besides the influence of victors on the stories told, you may also have noticed that there is a tendency to tell stories with the perspective that great people drive the events of history.  The great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy was very skeptical of this view that great people drive history and I would tend to agree with him.  In his masterpiece War and Peace, Tolstoy told the story of the Napoleonic wars as they were experienced in Russia.  The first half of the book sets up the main characters and the events leading up to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. The second half of the book covers the actual invasion and all events related to it, showing the effect of those events on the main characters. 

It is primarily in the second half of the novel that Tolstoy explores his ideas about history and what drives it in a number of philosophical asides.  He raises a great point, though, in positing that the disastrous disintegration of Napoleon’s army upon arrival in Moscow and all the way back to France makes it seem that something else is driving history besides the power of great people.  Certainly, Napoleon would seem to have been at the height of his power upon his invasion of Russia.  If he were all that great, able to drive the events of history, he would have been able to control his army and would have been able to bring his great army back out of Moscow and triumphantly march them back to Paris.  But this great juggernaut of an army was not under his control at all.  It seemed that it was not under the control of any man.  There were vague forces that seemed to control events, seemingly levying upon Napoleon and his army a relentless fate which was unavoidable.

It is my belief that God drives the events of history.  This prideful narrative of great people is a flattering story-line that too many historians adopt.  I recently watched a series on the History Channel on cable entitled The Men Who Built America.  It was a very interesting rendition of some of the big events in our nation’s industrial revolution.  But the entire idea of certain powerful men not only having such incredible inspiration but also knowing exactly how to play their hand and doing so to perfection is a bit too tidy to be true.  If you have ever studied history, you will know how hard it is sometimes to piece together the story of “what really happened.”  Many of the stories seem to contradict each other, making it hard to get verification of any one story line.  The fact is, history is very messy.  The stories of what happened are many times chaotic, revealing just how uncontrollable are the forces that drive history.  This fact would seem to support my belief that God drives history since only a God like ours could orchestrate so many events and people, coordinating them all to a pre-determined end.

I pray that you will walk in fellowship, peace, and joy with this Great God of ours who controls all history.




08/27/2014 12:55am

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 


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