Saturday, August 21, 2010

An Insightful Minority's History of the U.S.

I was in Barnes and Noble last week looking for a nice American history book that a fifth grader could follow, but I just didn't find one. As some readers of my earlier post on Columbus figured out, I ended up buying Zinn's People's History of the United States. I know his angle, so I'm reading him with a "hermeneutics of suspicion."

On the one hand, I agree that the powerful will almost always abuse the powerless unless there is some significant check and balance on them (which I suppose by definition implies that they are less powerful). "Absolute power corrupteth absolutely." The Aztec leaders were no more saints than Cortez was.

But it occurred to me that there have always been an insightful minority among the privileged class. Has anyone ever written a history of them? I know more about the Christian thread than the others, but it seems an intriguing proposition.

What of the priest who journaled the genocide of the Arawack on Hispaniola rather than Columbus? And I couldn't care less about Jonathan Edwards and the Puritans. Why not talk about colonial New England through the eyes of Roger Williams, who would seem more insightful than the lot of the Mathers and their dither.

And why not tell about the pre-Civil War era through the eyes of the Quakers, whose spiritual insight put blithering Presbyterians like Charles Hodge to shame. And what of those revivalists who supported women's suffrage and women in ministry in the late 1800s. What of those Christians who admitted African-Americans into college while many pastors wore the gown of the Klan after dark?

There have always been those among the privileged who have decried the abuse of power on the powerless. They used to call them prophets.


::athada:: said...

long may they live.

Craig L. Adams said...

Thanks for the comment. I've been reading Zinn myself.