For the last fifteen years or so, I have enjoyed going out to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. There have been wonderful shows of all types…fun visiting with “royalty”…and I have a number of friends who perform out there.
It is fun…but it’s also not real. It’s a romanticized view of a very real history.
When we think about living “back then,” I would imagine that most of us dream of being a king or queen, prince or princess—or at the very least, a member of nobility. Who would choose to be a peasant?!
But do we think about what it was really like? The challenges and concerns a king might have had…of maintaining a wealthy façade…fears of being poisoned…fighting frequent wars. Or the challenges and concerns of a queen…being “sold” in marriage…possibly dying in childbirth. Those concerns (and others) aren’t part of our romanticized history.
Sometimes it’s just fun to “play” history. But sometimes doing that has very real—and lasting—impacts. We forget what really happened and ignore the damage that the real history caused (and may still be causing).
We romanticize our religious history, and by so doing, we continue to believe that those whose beliefs we support were always in the right…and those whose beliefs are different from ours were (and are) heretics who don’t deserve the same rights we have.
Even in our own specific faith traditions, romanticizing our history keeps us from really understanding how that tradition developed and keeps us from letting it grow.
We also often romanticize our own country’s history at times and do that to our peril. When we are not honest about past behavior, we ignore its continuing impacts…the breakup of families…the feeling of race superiority…the genocide of indigenous peoples…
Romanticizing history can be an enjoyable amusement. But it’s not a healthy way to live in a real world.