Patrick has been a lover of history since an early age and a lover of historical fiction since he picked up his first Louis L'Amour book in high school. The Civil War has long been an era of interest and intrigue due to the dramatic histories, tragedies and triumphs it represents. His love for digging deeper into the real stories and histories of the past played a part in his coming to Christ. His passion is finding God's love and divine hand through the course of past events.
Please welcome Patrick Whalen to Christian Fiction Historical Society. We are so happy to have you here today. Patrick is giving away a $10 gift card. Be sure to leave a comment along with your email addy to be entered.
God’s Never-ending Story
Many people often ask why I am so intrigued by history. The prevailing thoughts of people who ask me that consider the subject to be a dry recollection of dead people, triviality, and tedium. When confronted by such an attitude, my response is almost as strong as when I am given an opportunity to witness to someone about Jesus Christ.
I agree that history is often presented in educational settings as dry, rote memorization of places, events, and dates, but in my mind this is not a proper method of studying history. There is an addictive quality to going deeper into understanding the lives, politics and reasonings of the people who have gone before us.
Perhaps the prevailing attitude is a product of our over-saturated culture. It does take time to reach a deeper understanding of any given time in our past and time seems to be in short supply these days. It is interesting to note however that in the course of many conversations it is not uncommon to hear such words as, “I wish I could just slow down,” or, “I wish I could go back in time to simpler days.” I do want to laugh when I hear such things because in the first case all one as to do is figure out how to find the time to slow down and in the second case, it would be interesting to learn which time in our past are they speaking about.
I can’t gloat though, as if I have never uttered such words because I know that I have. Part of the very reason I am so interested in history is due to my curiosity to discover which time periods before us had it easier than we do today. The fact is, I have yet to discover just such a time, but the stories left for perpetuity are nothing short of fascinating.
When I put down the institutional textbooks and instead picked up autobiographies, diaries, sermons, and official records, the past comes to life before my eyes. People from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe have had stories to tell that can still ignite the imagination. In trying to see the past through the eyes of people who experienced it helps us to better understand the lives we are living today.
Studying primary sources (the actual documents from the time) as opposed to modern, biased retellings also gives one a better understanding of our past. Take for instance George Washington. He, among many others of our Founding Fathers, is being more often represented as a Godless deist rather than a true Christian. There is one book in particular which I love to read over and over again which is full of primary documentation that refutes such claims.
In “Answering the Call: the Story of the U.S. Military Chaplaincy from the Revolution through the Civil War, written by William E. Dickens, Jr., many of Washington’s writings are presented which clearly point out his dedication to the Christian faith and the evangelization of the soldiers. In one instance, Washington was particularly discouraged by the caliber of certain Chaplains appointed to the job in the Revolutionary Army. He submitted a proposal to Congress to rectify this:
“I have long had it on my mind to mention to Congress, that frequent applications had been made to me respecting the Chaplain’s pay, which is too small to encourage men of Abilities. Some of them who have left their Flocks, are Obliged to pay the parson acting for them more than they receive. I need not point out the great utility of Gentlemen whose lives and conversations are unexceptionable, being employed for that service in this Army. There are two ways of making it worth the Attention of such; one is, an advancement of their pay, the other, that one Chaplain be appointed to two regiments; this last I think may be done without inconvenience, I beg leave to recommend this matter to Congress whose sentiments thereon I shall impatiently expect.”
The research into our rich history alone is reason enough to motivate me to write Historical Fiction and I know that I am not alone in this passion. My heart races when I discover some facet of our present day that draws a parallel to some historic period. When we think our experiences are superior or inferior to some other time it isn’t difficult to find pertinent advice from a people or time in the past. I have found that to be my mission, to bring forward the voices of experience into the light of our present.
This is the same mission shared by many writers of the Historical Fiction genre. To read and to write about our discoveries of past events that somehow fit different aspects of modern life. We may romanticize certain aspects and underemphasize others, but the passion of sharing the past remains unchanged. It is in researching the past in order to tell a story in the modern day that we find God’s truths remaining true. While we have always been a people seeking a way to navigate the present, God has woven His providential works throughout the history of humankind and has given us the tools to discover His constant love. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." (Acts 15:18 – KJV)