I Believe in Knowing about the Past, by Dr. Jim Atwood
I believe that the study of history is very important. History is the memory of civilization. Without a working knowledge of the past, we are less likely to embrace in the present that which is meaningful, ethical and lasting. We are also more likely to fall victim to what many see as popular, “normal,” and acceptable, though it may actually be misleading, superficial or dehumanizing.
We need context for our lives—individually as well as corporately. To evaluate messages we receive or movements we may witness, we need firm grounding in what has happened over the long haul. And we must evaluate. Not to do so is to surrender both freedom and responsibility.
Imagine what it would be like were we to wake up one morning and not know anything about who we are. What if we were to find ourselves with no memory, not knowing our name, not remembering our family, knowing nothing about our skills, values, commitments or beliefs? What if we had no personal memory? No memory of what we stand for, nor of what we stand against. I suggest that most would agree that, in this situation, we would be lost, vulnerable—without foundation, without direction, just not whole and, perhaps, without hope.
Just so are nations, cultures, civilizations and communities of faith. Our essential identities, who we are as individuals and as communities, rest not just on who we are at the present moment. For our identities are shaped by our history and histories. And our vision for the future is, in turn, energized by who we have become.
A Fort Worth native, Jim Atwood serves both as an Instructor in the Department of Religion and as Assistant to the Dean in the Office of Admission, where duties include chairing the Committee on Student Selection for incoming TCU freshmen and acting as liaison for Disciples of Christ students, parents, and ministers as they explore opportunities available at TCU. After receiving the B. A. degree (summa cum laude) from TCU, he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in church history (with emphases on religion in America and American history) at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Research interests include new religious movements in the Americas, history of the Disciples of Christ, and United States church and state issues.
An ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Atwood is frequently invited to speak at local churches, church youth meetings and community organizations. Atwood currently serves on the Committee on the Ministry for the Southwest Region of the Disciples of Christ as well as on the board of trustees of a seminary foundation. He is married to Kris Larson Atwood, an accomplished educational consultant who holds two degrees from TCU. The Atwoods reside in Fort Worth with their twin sons. As a family, they are deeply committed to education; they also enjoy the arts and travel (especially to England and Austria).