Little Studio Films partners with Author David R. Stokes for Hollywood Productions

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LOS ANGELES, CA, USA, September 16, 2014  — Little Studio Films is pleased to announce a collaboration with author David R. Stokes. They will be working on promoting for Film and TV adaptations his novel, Camelot’s Cousin, as well as his narrative non-fiction bestseller, The Shooting Salvationist.

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Camelot’s Cousin is an espionage thriller set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and other famous events during the Kennedy administration. The discovery of a long-buried journal indicates that one of President Kennedy’s most trusted friends was actually a Soviet mole. Templeton Davis, a scholar and media personality becomes lost in an investigation and travels far and wide in his quest to unravel one of the 20th century’s greatest mysteries.

The Shooting Salvationist, distributed by Random House, is the real-life story of the Reverend Doctor J. Frank Norris. A powerful pastor, publisher, and broadcaster in the 1920s, Norris is the subject of one of the most intriguing and forgotten legal cases in American history after being charged with first-degree murder. Set in a post WWI world, the reader is taken into the courtroom as some of the most prominent legal figures of the day work to determine Norris’ fate.

“I’m thrilled about working with Little Studio Films. Alexia Melocchi has been extremely helpful and has a great gift for encouragement. The very thought that stories that have been buzzing around in my head, and that finally made their way into print, could one day be lived out large on the screen is the stuff dreams are made of. It’s an amazing thing to be able to explore your vision with other visionaries,” said Stokes.

Added producer Alexia Melocchi, “David Stokes is a masterful storyteller. He is able to transport us into historical events of our past with his extensive research on the subjects he writes about and the added emotion of his work and depth of his characters. He is a most welcome addition to our strong roster of best selling authors.”
To learn more about Stokes and his work, please visit his website. To learn more about Little Studio Films, visit them online.

ABOUT DAVID STOKES: David Stokes is an author, ordained minister, broadcaster, and columnist. His works have topped The Wall Street Journal lists and have garnered rave reviews.
ABOUT LITTLE STUDIO FILMS: Little Studio Films is a international company founded by Alexandra Yacovlef and Alexia Melocchi, devoted to discovering and nurturing new, fresh voices in film and television. They offer top services to help each client reach their goals.

Alexia Melocchi
LITTLE STUDIO FILMS
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REFLECTIONS ON 9/11

By DAVID R. STOKES

One Monday several years ago, my wife and I traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia. Some friends had graciously offered their condo to us for a few days of relaxation. We had been looking forward to the trip for several weeks—a nice getaway at the end of the summer. The weather was perfect and we toured local sights that day. At dinnertime, we found a nice local eatery—a “home cooking” kind of place. I ordered the fried chicken.

Anytime I get the chance, I order the fried chicken.

But by the time the food came, Karen and I were lost in quiet thought and just picked at the stuff on our plates. It was one of those strange moments when spouses seem to be inside each other’s minds because at the same instant, we both said we felt a strong pull to return to our home in Northern Virginia. There was nothing pressing. Everything back there was covered, but it’s as if we had been in picturesque Williamsburg for a month and were homesick for routine. So, we blew off the getaway, packed our bags, and headed up the road. We arrived home about ten o’clock that night and found ourselves feeling a little silly for having cut such a nice trip so short. There had to be a reason, we thought.

The next morning we understood all too well, as a beautiful September day turned generationally horrific.

It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

1527793_10204832251433274_8441809561279703796_nPeople over seventy-five years of age remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of a surprise attack on American forces in a faraway place called Pearl Harbor. Those a generation younger likely have the same recollection about November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But I imagine no memory quite compares with the images of that September day seared on our souls.

The pages of history are filled with horrific things. Back in the years 1940-1942, Great Britain experienced what we did in 2001 just about every day. Think about that—hundreds of enemy bombers raining death and destruction from the skies every day and eventually every night.

A year or so earlier, as the clouds of war gathered over Europe for the second time in a generation, the Ministry of Information in the United Kingdom developed some slogans for morale building—mantras that leaders felt would help people cope with what was believed to be coming—all-out war. We would call them “affirmations” today. The words were carefully designed for billboards, the walls of buildings, and other venues for public notice.

The first of these said, simply: “Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might.”

The next one was a little more to the point: “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory.”

The third poster in the series was actually never released. It was designed to be part of the public information plastered everywhere if the Germans actually invaded—a big concern at the time. The Nazis were fast advancing across Belgium and France and the threat to England seemed imminent and inevitable. But then, on May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill replaced the ever-wobbly Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister. This change at the top rendered the need for mere paper posters obsolete. They now had all the best slogans in the flesh.

The new premier’s face quickly became the most famous image of the era and his voice its soundtrack. Churchill’s passionate eloquence tapped into the dormant, but indomitable spirit of a battered population.

Legendary newsman, Edward R. Murrow, was famous for his broadcasts from the blitz and the trademark phrase, “This is London.” He reported from rooftops all over the city as bombs fell from the sky. And in many ways, his words helped prepare Americans for battles yet to come. After the war, Murrow remarked that Churchill had “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

On June 18, 1940, Churchill addressed the House of Commons, where he had lived out most of his, at times, erratic political career. He talked about how the Battle of Britain was about to begin:

Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their Finest Hour.’

On September 11, 2001, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani demonstrated energetic and effective leadership when he seized the moment and guided that most unmanageable of all municipalities through a very dark and difficult time. He was nothing short of an inspiration to the nation.

When Mr. Giuliani reached the point of exhaustion in the early hours of Wednesday, September 12th, he went home and revisited a book he had been reading the previous few nights. It was the full-length biography of Winston Churchill, written by Roy Jenkins. The mayor of New York was reading about how the British Prime Minister had led his country through the Battle of Britain. There is no doubt that Giuliani drew inspiration from Churchill’s powerful example.

So, the third Ministry of Information slogan, having been rendered unnecessary by Churchill’s persona and vocabulary, never made it to billboards in 1940: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

As far we know, most of the copies of the original poster were destroyed at the end of the war and turned to pulp. But a few survived—hidden for six decades. In 2000, a bookseller from northeast England discovered a copy tucked away among some old books bought at an auction. Eventually, other copies were unearthed in archival collections at the Imperial War Museum and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London. And, as inexplicably happens every once in a while, the slogan eventually went viral.

Keep Calm and Carry On: There is something attractive and compelling about this short phrase. It’s a reminder that no matter what life throws at us, the best way through is forward. But to the follower of Jesus Christ, this should be more than a momentary psyche up.

It must be rooted in the most profound of relationships and a transcendent and guiding sense of purpose and destiny.

[Excerpted from my book, HOW TO KEEP CALM & CARRY ON: 1st Century Wisdom for 21st Century Living” -- available  at AMAZON.COM]

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Has the Case of “Jack the Ripper” Been Finally Solved?

[NOTE - SEPTEMBER 7, 2014: There have been many reports in recent days about DNA evidence pointing to the identity of the infamous serial killer known as "Jack the Ripper." The case has gone unsolved for more than 125 years. Now, reports such as this one at the Huffington Post identify a man named AARON KOMINSKI as the murderer of several women during a span of several weeks in the White Chapel section of London, England's east end in the fall of 1888. Interestingly, I wrote an article more than a year ago about SIR ROBERT ANDERSON, the lead detective on the case at the time for Scotland Yard. He was also a prolific Bible teacher and writer in Victorian England. In the article, which I've republished tonight, I highlight in bold the section dealing with Anderson's theory about Aaron Kominski. In fact, Anderson -- the man I call "God's Detective"--was convinced of Kominski's guilt in the case in the immediate aftermath of the investigation. And his theory about the case was published in the Washington Post in 1910, as I mention below. - DRS]

GOD’S DETECTIVE

By David R. Stokes

By the late 1880s, the British Empire was at its zenith — culturally, politically, and economically. Its capital, London, was, in effect, the capital of the world. Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887, marking 50 years on the throne. She was called the grandmother of Europe in many quarters. The nickname was justified. Her children had married into many of Europe’s royal families.

largeWilliam Gladstone and Robert Cecil (Lord Salisbury) were the strong political rivals of the day, Benjamin Disraeli having died in 1881. Arthur Conan Doyle’s new stories about a detective named Sherlock Holmes were becoming quite popular. H. G. Wells published his first short story in an obscure journal in 1888. A play called “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was drawing capacity crowds to the Lyceum Theater in Westminster. George Bernard Shaw was trying to make a career as a literary critic. Fourteen-year-old Winston Churchill lived in London then — as did an eighteen-year-old young man from India named Gandhi.

Possibly they were among the readers of The Star — the largest evening circulation newspaper in London on Friday, August 31, 1888. If so, they might have noticed this item on the front page:

Mr. Robert Anderson, who succeeds Assistant Commissioner J Munro at Scotland Yard, is the third son of Matthew Anderson, of Dublin, formerly Crown solicitor for the city and county of Dublin. He is forty-seven years of age, and married in 1873 to Agnes Alexandrina, sister of Ponson by W. Moore, cousin and heir presumptive of the Marquis of Drogheda. Mr. Anderson was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he holds the honorary degree LL.D, and entered a student of the Middle Temple in 1860, and was called to the Bar 1870, having previously been called to the Dublin Bar in 1863.

 

Described as “London’s foremost detective,” Robert Anderson was a tall man of “precise habits and quiet demeanor, and whose face is that of a deep student.” Absent from the announcement in The Star was any reference to Mr. Anderson’s other life and work. He was a devout Christian and the prolific author of several books about the Bible, one of which unlocked a code found in one of the Old Testament’s most cryptic visions.

The timing of the notice in the newspaper that August evening was interesting, for just across the same page was a story headlined, “A Revolting Murder.” It described the horrific discovery of the body of a woman in the Whitechapel area of London’s East End. Her name was Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols. She was the first victim of the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.

Quite a day to begin a new job as “London’s foremost detective.”

Though of Scottish descent, Robert Anderson was born in Dublin, Ireland, on May 29, 1841. His family was active in the Irish Presbyterian Church, and his father, Matthew Anderson, was an important official in the city. He was a Crown Solicitor. It was his job to prepare cases for criminal prosecution. There can be little doubt that the dual themes of Robert’s life were developed early on through his father’s life and influence — theology and criminal law.

coming_princeRobert was very young when an infamous blight turned Ireland’s potato crop — the staple of the nation’s diet — into black, fungus-laden, mush. Due to his father’s secure position and salary, the Andersons were somewhat removed from what was going on in rural areas. As he grew through his teen years, two cultural dynamics influenced Robert’s life and career. First, there was the emergence of the Irish nationalist movement. Britain had done very little to help the suffering people in Ireland during the potato famine, and many were passionate about Ireland becoming an independent nation. The issue became an international concern because more than a million Irish citizens left home to seek better lives in the United States. Irish- Americans who supported Irish independence were known as Fenians — a nomenclature that eventually described all wings of the nationalist movement.

The second cultural matter formative for Robert Anderson was the Great Irish Revival of 1859. This spiritual awakening was driven by prayer meetings and the powerful preaching of men such as Henry Grattan Guinness, grandson of the famous brewer of Irish stout ale. Robert attended several local services at the invitation of his sister. His analytical mind prompted him to listen to the preaching with the ear of a critic, but soon he proclaimed, “In God’s name, I will accept Christ!”

A stellar student, Robert graduated from Trinity College in Dublin in 1862 with a B.A. (eventually receiving the L.L.D. from Trinity in 1875). He studied briefly in France (Boulogne and Paris), before being admitted to the Irish Bar in 1863. But before plunging completely into a career, Anderson joined a team of missionaries and evangelists who traveled from town to town in Ireland preaching the gospel and seeking converts. His work as a lay-preacher fueled his desire to know the Scriptures. He immersed himself in the pages of the Bible and read it with a devoted heart and keen mind. The spadework for the books he eventually wrote about biblical themes was done during this time.

According to his diary, Robert preached not only in churches, but “in schoolrooms, court-houses or jury rooms, in private houses, cottages or barns, once at least in a ballroom, at times in open-air.” He wrote to his sister, “We are living in the pilgrim fashion,” and he recounted stories of God’s work, such as one about a man who “said that a week ago he was the vilest wretch in the country, but now saved.”

The fulltime ministry was not, however, to be Robert Anderson’s permanent path. He would remain passionate about his faith for the rest of his life, but he would do so as a layman. Imitating the biblical character Daniel — a man he wrote much about — Anderson would be a civil servant, involved in matters that were anything but the stuff of gospel meetings.

Largely through the influence of his father, Robert was drawn into Secret Service work. In 1865, Matthew Anderson was prosecuting a number of Fenian members charged with treason. He turned to his sons Samuel and Robert for help with the research side of things. He trusted them with confidential reports and other secret information that crossed his desk.

Nepotism may have been his gateway to the world of secrets, but Robert Anderson quickly demonstrated that he was a natural. One historian wrote of him that he was “able to work with the quiet patience and efficiency of a spider.” The same mind that found the Bible so fascinating — particularly various cryptic prophecies — also found intelligence gathering to be very interesting.

Irish nationalists referred to people like the Anderson family — Irish, but not in sympathy with the Fenians — as “castle rats,” a reference to the iconic Dublin Castle, the seat and emblem of British power in Dublin. But soon Robert became the resident expert on all things Fenian, and he wrote a detailed history of the movement for the authorities. This opened many doors for the young lawyer. His work on the project was known in the highest circles, and eventually Anderson was called to London to join a taskforce of sorts dealing with the Irish threat and political crime in general.

Along the way, Robert Anderson — while working on his writing about biblical themes in his spare time — became involved with the interrogation of Fenian prisoners. From there, it was a small step into the murky world of infiltration and espionage. Soon the man who had preached the gospel in the open air became a spymaster.

Thomas Beach, a.k.a. Henri Le Caron, has been called “the champion spy of the century.” That would be the 19th century. He infiltrated the Fenian movement in America for 21 years. And he reported directly to his handler in the British Secret Service — Robert Anderson.

A good number of Irish-Americans fought in the American Civil War — on both sides. By the end of the conflict in 1865, many of those same soldiers drifted into the Fenian cause. The more aggressive and extreme of the lot conceived a plan to attack British strongholds in Canada. The idea was to hold Canada hostage. This would be accomplished by seizing key cities and centers. If successful, the Fenians would then try to negotiate a trade with the reviled British — swap Canada for Ireland’s independence. Toward this end, there were four Fenian “raids” conducted between 1866 and 1871.

The raids were doomed from the start, not only because the whole scheme was incredibly far-fetched, but also because of the work of spy Henri Le Caron and his handler, Robert Anderson. They made sure the best-laid Fenian plans were betrayed long before implementation.

In 1873, Robert Anderson married Agnes Alexandrina Moore — together they would have five children. Shortly thereafter he began writing books, many of which are still widely read by Bible students today. It was quite remarkable that Anderson could think through and produce so many detailed studies of scriptural issues while immersed in a demanding and intense career. An old college friend wrote to him in 1876, “How on earth have you had time to dive into theology?” But he found the time and spent it well.

The Gospel and its Ministry was published in 1875, dealing with the great themes of grace, faith, repentance, reconciliation, and justification. A bit later he wrote what was likely the most widely read of his books — The Coming Prince. In it he dealt in-depth with prophecies found in the Book of Daniel about an end-time ruler. Probably the most famous — and controversial — part of the book is Anderson’s calculation and solution regarding Daniel’s vision of “seventy-weeks.”

With the help of the Royal Astronomer, Sir George Airy, he fixed the date of the decree by Cyrus for the Jews to “restore and build Jerusalem” at March 14, 445 BC. Anderson calculated 173,880 days — accounting for 69 weeks of years on the lunar calendar — and arrived at April 6, 32 AD as the date Jesus entered Jerusalem, shortly before his crucifixion. The final “week” would be later in history and feature the ungodly work of the Antichrist, “who by the sheer force of transcendent genius will gain a place of undisputed pre-eminence.”

A few years later Anderson wrote Human Destiny, an examination of life after death from a biblical perspective. It thoroughly examined theories such as “universalism” and “conditional mortality.” One contemporary preacher, none other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon, considered this Anderson book to be “the most valuable contribution on the subject.” Later he wrote The Silence of God (which comforted many in Britain during The Great War) and The Bible and Modern Criticism.

In all, he wrote 17 volumes based on biblical issues, as well as three books about his work for the government. His circle of friends included Lord Salisbury (Robert Cecil), William Gladstone, Henry Drummond, James M. Gray, C. I. Scofield, A.C. Dixon, C.H. Spurgeon, E. W. Bullinger, John Nelson Darby, and many others.

Anderson’s work as a spymaster eventually led to an appointment as Irish Agent at the Home Office in London. He moved in influential circles, often in the company of the rich and powerful. He was invited into the “Gossett’s Room” — an elite club usually reserved for members of Parliament. Over the next several years, Robert Anderson, in addition to his work with the Home Office, served as secretary of the Royal Commission on Loss of Life at Sea, secretary of the Prison Commission, and on the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh Commission.

Anderson thought of leaving government service in the early 1880s, possibly to pursue his writing full time. But the rise of Fenian violence in London — including several bombings — kept him connected to secret work. He was involved in the creation of a new intelligence organization called the Special Irish Branch. This role put him in the perfect position at Scotland Yard to step into what would become the most sensational and controversial murder investigation in history.

Robert Anderson’s official title was Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). And he was the man in charge of the big case as fear gripped East London.

Eventually, five women were savagely murdered — the victims of Jack the Ripper (there are many who think there could have been as many as 18). The spree ran from the 31st of August in 1888 through the following November 9th, ending abruptly and mysteriously with the killing of Mary Jane Kelly.

The crimes have never been solved and opinions abound. The list of suspects involves more than 30 names, including a member of the Royal family, author Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), and at least one woman.

Robert Anderson actually believed that the crime had been solved, and over the years he left hints as to the identity of the killer. For example, this item was in the March 21, 1910, edition of the Washington Post:

 

Sir Robert Anderson, for more than 30 years chief of the criminal investigation department of the British government, and head of the detective bureau at Scotland Yard, has at length raised the veil of mystery which for nearly two decades has enveloped the identity of the perpetrator of those atrocious crimes known as the Whitechapel murders.

Sir Robert establishes the fact that the infamous “Jack the Ripper,” as the unknown slayer had been dubbed by the public, and at whose hands no less than fourteen women of the unfortunate class lost their lives within a circumscribed area of the east end of London, was an alien of the lower, though educated class, hailing from Poland, and a maniac of the most virulent and homicidal type — of a type recorded, by reason of its rarity, in medical treatises, but one with which the world at large is not familiar.

But the most important point of all made by Sir Robert is the fact that once the criminal investigation department was sure that it had in its hands the real perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders it procured from the secretary of state for the home department a warrant committing the man for detention “during the Kings’ pleasure” to the great asylum for the criminally insane at Broadmoor five or six years ago.

The man’s name was Aaron Kozminski. In 2011, “Ripperologist” Robert House wrote a book called Jack the Ripper and the Case for Scotland Yard’s Prime Suspect. In it, he makes the case that Robert Anderson was right, and that Kozminski was indeed the notorious serial killer.

9867612Anderson retired from public life in 1901 and was knighted. He would be known ever after as Sir Robert Anderson. He spent his remaining days preaching and writing, advancing the cause of Christ and paying special attention to biblical prophecy and the second coming of Christ. He remained a keen student of current events and international affairs, always viewing them through the prism of God’s Word.

Interestingly, Anderson himself seemed to wax prophetic when he wrote these words in the 1890s: “History repeats itself, and if there be any element of periodicity in the political diseases by which nations are afflicted, Europe will pass through another crisis and it is impossible to foretell how far kingdoms may become consolidated and boundaries changed.”

He lived to see that great crisis — The Great War — but not long enough to witness the full measure of consolidated kingdoms and shifted boundaries. A few days after the armistice, Robert Anderson, as did millions of others around that time, succumbed to Spanish Influenza. He died on November 15, 1918.

 

David R. Stokes is an author, broadcaster, columnist, and Senior Pastor of Fair Oaks Church in Fairfax, VA. His personal website is http://www.davidrstokes.com.

THE DAY NIXON TOLD THE TRUTH

[This column appears at TOWNHALL.COM]

During his farewell remarks in the White House East Room on August 9, 1974, President Richard Milhous Nixon told the truth.

Nixon_FarewellNixon remains a controversial and tarnished historical figure. But his impact on America was significant. Only Franklin Roosevelt’s name appeared on as many national ballots (five). His presidency, though now remembered by many for the way it ended, was actually filled with great achievement and success in many ways. Nixon was a brilliant visionary.

But he also had a weakness.

It was a failure to tell the truth that became Nixon’s undoing. The highly publicized tapes of what he thought would remain private conversations revealed that shortcoming. Nixon really did have enemies, but he later acknowledged that he was the one who gave them the sword to use with relish.

Forty years ago this weekend, I was a few days away from beginning my first year of college and was finishing up a summer job at a Taylor, Michigan menswear store. I asked my boss if I could leave a bit early on August 8th, and he asked me why. I told him that I wanted to watch the President’s speech. I made it home just as the living room clock chimed nine times. The image of President Nixon came on the screen, and he began: “Good evening. This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office.”

My mother was crying. Mom and Dad were Nixon people since voting for him when he was Vice President under Eisenhower. I was an “Alex P. Keaton” type of kid who often defended Nixon to my high school teachers. Fortunately for me, the summer of 1974 began and school was out by the time I finally realized that Watergate indeed involved Nixon, saving me from a litany of condescending voices saying, “I told you so.”

However my interest in Nixon, his work and legacy, did not end when he waved, flashed a victory sign, and got into Marine One on the White House lawn. I wrote about him in graduate school, and years later had the privilege of writing some for his library in Yorba Linda, as well as doing some of the voice-over work that continues to be used in a few exhibits there.

As we note the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, I think it’s what the man said to his staff and other assembled guests that continues to resonate with me. It was an unusual address for someone who was a master at extemporaneous speaking.

Among the gifts and passions possessed by the 37th President of the United States was a love for the English language. He was a wordsmith and actually quite good at it, in spite of the fact that his White House staff included a stable of excellent speechwriters. Not since Woodrow Wilson had a president been so involved in writing his own speeches. And Nixon never used a teleprompter.

When Nixon spoke that Friday morning, just after signing his resignation letter for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, there were about 300 people in the East Room. I watched it on television, along with millions of others.

His remarks were at times rambling and mawkish. His tone wasn’t defiant like when speaking in 1962 after losing the race for Governor in California, when he talked about not having him to “kick around” anymore. But it was somewhat painful to watch.

After talking about mountains, valleys, young people, his “Old Man,” and his saintly mother, Mr. Nixon shared words that are worth remembering no matter what our lot in life. They were likely among the most self-aware words Nixon ever uttered in public:

Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” [Emphasis added]

In a very real sense, Richard Nixon explained Watergate in that moment. He was a man with the capacity for greatness, one of the smartest men ever to hold the nation’s highest office. But he wrestled with a very common problem: Unresolved anger.

I could be wrong, but I wonder if that day, as Nixon was talking about his Quaker mother, he wasn’t remembering something she had most certainly taught her gifted son. It was what Jesus said:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” [Matthew 5:44]

The Revolutions of July

[My article appears at Townhall.com today -- DRS]

On July 14, 1789, Thomas Jefferson was serving as America’s Ambassador to France. The author of the Declaration of Independence in another July, thirteen-years earlier, was an eyewitness to the political unrest leading to the storming of a political prison called The Bastille. Though the fortress housed only seven inmates at the moment, including four forgers, it remains the iconic symbol of beginning of The French Revolution.

Charles_Thévenin,_The_Storming_of_the_Bastille_on_14_July_1789,_ca._1793Our Constitution had been ratified a year earlier, and George Washington had recently been inaugurated as our first President, so there was great interest in America about what was going on in France 225 years ago. After all, the French had been extremely helpful to us during our successful struggle to, as Jefferson phrased it, “dissolve the political bands” that connected us to the British monarchy. Americans were therefore understandably sympathetic with a movement against monarchial tyranny in France.The American and French Revolutions are linked in history largely because of chronology, but they were vastly different affairs. One led to a new birth of freedom—the other to terror and tyranny, becoming the prototype for unspeakable horrors to come.

Most Americans are familiar with a phrase from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address on January 20, 1961—that whole “Ask not…” thing. But I think the most important thing JFK said that day was this:

And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. [Emphasis added]

But what is happening in our nation right now may resemble what happened in France in 1789 more than what happened in Philadelphia in 1776. For many Americans, especially those on the left, the cry of “Liberty – Equality – Fraternity” is much more resonant than the one about “Life – Liberty – and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

It is in the parsing of those vitally important words that we find the keys to understanding where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. One revolution was about individual rights and dreams. The other was about “the people” as a group and the highest virtue being “the greater good.”

When Thomas Jefferson wrote about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”in the Declaration of Independence, he was borrowing from 17th century English philosopher John Locke who wrote about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.” Jefferson’s use of this language was clearly designed to describe the rights of individual people to live free, be free, and pursue their dreams in a free marketplace. Those thoughts were very much present in that Philadelphia birthing room.

The French Revolution, on the other hand—though similar to what happened here in America, in the sense of changing things and breaking free from an old order—had little to do with individual rights.

It was all about collectivism.

And in many ways, the French Revolution is the ancestor of all totalitarian systems to follow. Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Lenin, and all other political gangsters were heirs of Robespierre, and later Napoleon. Those tyrannical manifestations were not misguided aberrations—distortions of something that started out good (as in, “Lenin was cool, too bad Stalin messed it all up”)—the seeds of the horror were present at the beginning. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 18th century Enlightenment philosopher, wrote about volonté générale or “general will,” and the Jacobins, followed by others, ran with it. In their thinking, “the will of the people” could only be expressed by enlightened leaders.

Yes, our revolution indeed drew a measure of strength from the Enlightenment, but it was of the earlier Lockean variety. America’s use of Enlightenment concepts was tempered by something else; something that set it apart from what happened in France—a spiritual foundation.

Vive la revolution – Vive la difference.

The French not only declared war on the monarchy, they also attacked Christianity, replacing it with a religion of the state and introducing the worship of secularism. Sound familiar?

In America, it was very different. I am not one of those who spends a lot of time trying to prove the Christian bona fides of every founding father, but I do believe that the influence of what was called The Great Awakening, which ended about twenty years before the shot heard around the world was fired, was still very much a part of our national fabric.

And another such movement, often referred to as the Second Great Awakening, began while the French were unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to be free. To ignore those religious and cultural movements in America is to miss an important piece of the puzzle. The very concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity sound nice and make for great propaganda. But in the end, without virtue born of something deeper and greater, even the best rhetoric is mocked by what actually happens when human nature runs amuck. This is why all totalitarian regimes like to call their realms things like The People’s Republic of China, or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or The People’s Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

We need to beware of those who share our vocabulary but use a different dictionary.

The reason it has all worked and endured so well in this land is because we are a nation “under God.” There, I said it. There is no real liberty without that. All attempts at actual freedom end up moving toward tyranny without some sense of higher purpose and power. I believe firmly in the separation of church and state. But minus positive religious influence, a nation cannot long remain free.

C. S. Lewis said it very well in The Screwtape Letters 70 years ago:

Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side), we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state. Even in England we were pretty successful. I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a tool shed in his own garden.

Sound familiar?

 

 

THE DON KROAH SHOW–AWARD WINNING

One of the “hats” I wear on occasion is one that says “broadcaster.”

[Note: Really don't have a hat with that on it. Don't wear hats. Ever.]

This afternoon, I’ll be sitting in as guest host for a Washington, DC drive time radio talk show — THE DON KROAH SHOW on WAVA (105.1 fm, and on the web at: www.wava.com).

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I’ve had the privilege of sitting in for Don more than more 100 times over the years. He’s a good friend, and the reason he’s away is to attend the Virginia Broadcasters Awards event in Virginia Beach. He and WAVA have been nominated for four awards: Outstanding Website, Outstanding Commercial, and the Don Kroah Show, for Outstanding Feature Reporting and for Best Documentary or Public Service Program.

The show airs today from 4:05 – 7:00pm.

As Charles Osgood is fond of saying, “See you on the radio!”

D-Day in Poetry and Prayer

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Nearly one hundred years ago, the late poet Robert Frost penned the famous lines: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” His metaphor has endured as testament to the importance of making choices based on factors other than superficiality and popularity.

Shortly after Frost’s death in 1963, President John F. Kennedy traveled to Amherst College in Massachusetts, where Frost had taught for many years, to deliver a eulogy about the famous wordsmith he had invited to participate in his inauguration. That day, Kennedy shared a line that, like Frost’s about those fabled two roads, has since morphed into something beyond its original intent and focus. In my opinion, it was one of the best things Kennedy ever said: “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

Next to ingratitude, forgetfulness is the most serious indicator of cultural decline…

[READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT TOWNHALL.COM]