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Laura Ingalls Wilder Memoir Shines New Light on "Pioneer Days" Nostalgia

  • Ryan Duncan What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • 2015 Mar 10

Nostalgia is a funny thing, especially for Christians. It allows us to reach into our memories and pluck out the brightest and happiest moments of our lives. For most people this involves a childhood toy, an old sports team, or their first big adventure, but some Christians can take it a step further. They bemoan the state of the world we live in and think back to better days; days when Christian morals were the building blocks of society. They talk about family values, Godly leaders, and houses with white picket fences.             

“How did we end up here?” they ask.

Jennifer Grant, of Christianity Today, might argue that those days never really existed at all. Like most young girls, Grant was fascinated by Little House on the Prairie, a series of books about life on the frontier by Laura Ingalls Wilder. To Grant, these book represented the ideal Christian life, so she was naturally thrilled when her favorite author published a memoir about her pioneering days. As it turned out, life on the frontier was far from ideal,              

“Wilder’s world, like our own, was marked by inequality, human failings and duplicity, and by the brutal forces of nature, whether in the form of grasshopper infestations that ruined wheat harvests or winter blizzards that left snowdrifts two stories high. Like the Ingalls family—and, happily, Ma and Pa Ingalls are shown to have been exceptionally loving and generous people despite their faults—we’re all humans in need of grace as we write our own life stories, year after year.”

“Violence, hypocrisy, child abuse, poverty, and hunger—sounds like the world we inhabit today.”

That’s the danger of nostalgia, it only preserves the good. It can fool us into believing there was a time when humans weren’t sinful creatures, or that the world was somehow less-fallen when certain men were in power. We talk about returning to the moral days of Leave it to Beaver, yet we fail to remember certain events that took place during its lifespan.

  • The Cold War and the Red Scare
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • The Kennedy Assassination
  • The Vietnam War

Jesus warned us that sin and suffering would always be a part of this world (Mark 14:7). Christians who truly want to share the Good News of Christ need to stop remembering life as they want it to be, and see it for what it is. This can mean accepting some hard truths, and maybe letting go of some cherished memories, but by doing so we’re able to find God in the here and now. And that’s better than all the childhood nostalgia put together. 

What about you? Do you think nostalgia can be dangerous?


*This article published 3/10/2015

**Ryan Duncan is the Entertainment Editor for