The problem with writing about a complex topic is that anything I write often feels incomplete.
Good writing is succinct. However, some ideas are hard to reduce to a few words. The difficulty of writing for me is often knowing what to include in an explanation and what to leave out. A writer can simultaneously say too little and too much.
When I finished my post last night I felt I had rambled a bit. Part of the problem is that I’m writing on a smart phone. I write between distractions and editing is not my forte. I know I have more I could say, but that post was already long and I could probably have left stuff out of it without losing much.
Besides that, I worried about alienating parts of my audience by speaking about a political figure and would rather not lose one of the handful of readers. I was dissatisfied with the result and enough that I nearly removed the post, but then I do not want to be a coward who only says what will win him the approval of peers or takes positions where he is most comfortable.
One of those things I did leave out was context. The history I mentioned of Christian and Biblical violence needs to be understood in the context of the times it took place. For example, the Crusades were not inexplicable or unusually brutal for the time, they were a response to the rapid expansion of another religion. Likewise, in Bible times, things like child sacrifice, slavery and exploitation of women were the norm—even more than today. Lest we forget, crucification was used by the ‘civilized’ Romans to punish crimes like theft. Torture was not a crime for much of human history.
I do believe, in context, the treatment of women, slaves and children was improved vastly by the teachings of Jesus. I believe Christian thought, despite the corrupted use of the religion, is a large part of why we in the west are experiencing the long peace that we are. That’s how movements work, results aren’t instant, there are relapses, counter movements and yet it is the long term trajectory that matters.
The more I study history the more I feel privileged to live in the world I do. In times past, even many places in the world today, I would have little time to fret about my writing skills or lack thereof. If it wasn’t shortage of food to worry about it would be the constant threat of being killed by the rival tribe or clan across the river.
Progress, like my writing, is always incomplete, but hopefully it is headed in the right direction and there are some things in the world worth celebrating. That these words could potentially reach someone on the other side of the world one of them.