It’s time for American Christians to rethink the past. Can nostalgia for part of the past impact our witness?
MAGA folks look back on the history of the United States and see a golden era: the 1950s. When religion was in the public eye, television and movies were clean, and father came home from work with dinner hot on the table. The trouble is that this vision of the 1950s only existed in our imaginations or if we chose to ignore the world around us. The 1950s were an era of great upheaval, with public monuments to religion being erected at the same time as heavy censorship, McCarthyism, wars, racism, and sexism.
For the next few weeks we’ll be revisiting themes from season three of Truce to pull out some important takeaway. Takeaway 1: Think Deeper About the Past.
- What do you think of when you think of the 1950s?
- When is it okay to remember just part of history, and when do we need to consider the whole picture?
- What era do people who wear MAGA hats want to return to? In other words, when was America greater than it is now?
- When you think of your own childhood, what comes to mind?
- Do world or social issues play into that?
- How is nostalgia a helpful tool?
- How can nostalgia shape our memory of the past?
- Is there an era you wish to return to?
- What can we do to create a fuller picture of the past when we retell it?
The United States staged a coup in 1954 to protect the United Fruit Company. We overthrew a democratically elected leader.
In 1954 the United States government, led by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, staged a coup to oust President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. For what reason? To help the United Fruit Company.
United Fruit was a giant company, capturing over 90% of the market in its heyday. The juggernaut found President Arbenz to be a nuisance when his agrarian reform meant they would be paid for some of their unused land, which would be given to peasants. With the help of powerful friends like Allen Dulles (the Director of the CIA), the United States staged a coup, installing Castillo Armas in his place.
All of this took place while the USA was busy framing itself as a Christian nation. What does that mean for the Christian Church today? Are we a nation that supports that kind of behavior?
Our special guest for this episode is Stephen Schlesinger, co-author of the excellent book “Bad Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala“.
- What threat did President Jacobo Arbenz pose to United Fruit?
- United Fruit owned many utilities in Guatemala from the trains to telephone lines. How would you feel if our utilities were owned by foreign entities? If they controlled our natural resources?
- Do you think the land reform deal was a good one for their country?
- Were people like John Foster Dulles right to overthrow Arbenz?
- How might it have benefited them to do so?
- In what way could the actions of the US in the 1950s reflect poorly on Christianity domestically and abroad?
- It has been argued that American consumers benefit when Latin American and African countries are thrown in disarray. It means cheaper diamonds, gold, rubber, and more while also stranding the people in those countries in poverty.
- Does it bother you that you may be benefiting from unbalanced countries?
- Do you find the assumption that we are benefiting to be offensive? Why?
- Is there anything we can do about it?