The Quiet Influence of Ideas

I know some people who will disagree with me with I talk to them. I will pour out my thoughts and opinions to them, but they won't accept the ideas.

The next time I see them, they will have an idea. But it isn't an original idea. It's the idea I presented to them but they rejected. This time they frame it as their idea without any hint that I was the one that originally argued that same position. I either smile to myself or roll my eyes in my head, but I usually leave it alone and don't press that it was my idea. I got my point across, even if the other person thinks they were the one with the good idea.

What does this have to do with history? I read a post by Crawford Gribben about R. J. Rushdoony's book Institutes of Biblical Law , which gave a proposal of how Old Testament law could be used to fix America's social and political problems. Gribben said that "while many evangelical thought leaders balked at Rushdoony’s more extreme proposals, they quietly adopted the basics of his approach."

Christians may not have wanted to give credit to Rushdoony for their new ideas and they may have softened some of the sharpness of his ideas, but nevertheless, his ideas had an influence on them.

This happens to us all the time. We hear something, and we may not think too much of it at the time, but later as we think about it (even subconsciously) we might find merit in it.

Occasionally culture changes dramatically. Once in a blue moon, we can point to a specific person or book that shook the norms of society. But most of the time that's not how change comes. It comes slowly because of steady influence. It comes from ideas being spoken or read and being dissimulated into our thought process.

To the dismay of many activists, change also isn't easily seen while it is happening. We can look around us, and it looks like everything is the same. If we look back through history, though, we see that things are constantly changing—sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.