Posts Tagged ‘Europe’
Posted in That's Life, Uncategorized, tagged America, Christianity, citizenship, culture, education, Europe, food for thought, freedom, history, human dignity, human rights, life lessons, society, Western Civilization, worldviews on October 14, 2010| Leave a Comment »
I recently worked my way through The Birth of Freedom: How Biblical Foundations Changed History, the 7-session version hosted by Dave Stotts. (Publisher’s page here.) Each session is short (roughly ten to fifteen minutes), with a few follow-up questions and answers. It’s a good overview, debunking the baseless-and-rather-upside-down-but-widespread notion that Christianity somehow held back the progress of Western Civilization. At the same time, it doesn’t sugarcoat misdeeds done by all-too-imperfect Christians. (Call it “the good, the bad, and the ugly” school of history.) There are some graphic images (uhm, did I mention it doesn’t sugarcoat war or slavery, either?), so be sure to preview it before you show it to youngsters.
This is based on the Acton Media documentary, which I understand is pretty good. I bought this version both because I hoped it might be better for group study, and also – ahem – because it was on a special, introductory sale… What can I say? (It was still discounted at Christianbook.com as I went to post.)
Considering the state of affairs these days, the DVD is quite timely, and I wish I could get it into more hands before this next election. That, of course, isn’t likely to happen, but I think it’s well past time we got more people versed in history, and thinking about how and why civilizations either progress or decay, and what government is supposed to do, and what must be active in society for freedom – and thus men – to flourish.
It will help, I think, if we, for instance, have some idea of what was different between the American Revolution and the French Revolution that came right on its heels. One Revolution led to greater and greater freedom that spread and bore much good fruit – and the other led to The Terror and dictatorship. Why? That, as it happens, is one of the subjects touched on in this course.
It will also help, I think, if we look at the ancient Roman and Greek empires without rose-colored glasses on. For all their achievements, they were built on slave labor, and were rather brutish societies that held human life cheap. That, too, is touched on. They also suffered from a lack of recognition of a higher moral order, which meant that rulers went with what sounded good or played well or felt right or seemed useful at the moment. Sound familiar?
This course features some heavy hitters in the history field, and packs in a lot of info considering the brevity of the course. I was afraid, from clips from earlier work with Dave Stotts that I’d seen, that this course might be too laden with horsing around for my taste, but no. Stotts isn’t suit and tie by any means, but he stays on message, and stays in intro and wrap-up segments, letting the other historians carry most of the messages.
David Pryce-Jones remembers the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago, with some behind-the-scenes reporting.
Meanwhile, “President Barack Obama has RSVPed “nein” to Chancellor Merkel’s invitation to Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. National Review Online asked a few experts what this snub reveals about our current president.” Well, I certainly wish they’d led off with someone who wasn’t quite so openly… uhm… happy that Mr. Obama might have made a stupid move politically. But some of the commentators have more worthy things to say.
I wish I could remember which Charles Colson books have some good chapters on life behind the Iron Curtain, and the role of Christians in overcoming that particular cluster of tyrannies. I think the quiet, heroic perseverance of the faithful is not as much acknowledged as it should be, considering the impact they had. At any rate, most of Colson’s books that I’ve read feature a good look at history that, for the most part, didn’t get reported in the secular press at the time. I recommend reading his books to round out your understanding of world events.
I was doing a bit of research on something else, and came across this wonderful true story out of World War II, as recorded at The Righteous Among the Nations “Featured Stories” section at Yad Vashem’s website. This particular story begins:
Assisi is the home of Francesco di Bernardone – St. Francis of Assisi – the founder of the Roman Catholics’ Franciscan and St. Clare (Poor Clares) Orders. As such it is a most meaningful place for Roman Catholics. No Jewish community was ever known to exist in Assisi. Paradoxically however, the only time in history when there is record of Jews living in Assisi is during the Holocaust, when the town and its churches, monasteries and convents became a safe haven for several hundred Jews.
Shortly after the Germans occupation, when the man-hunt for Jews began, the Bishop of Asssisi, Monsignor Giuseppe Placido Nicolini, ordered Father Aldo Brunacci to head the rescue operation of Jews and to arrange sheltering places in some 26 monasteries and convents. The Bishop went as far as to authorize the hiding of Jews in such places that were regularly closed to outsiders by the monastic regulations of the “clausura”. The Committee of Assistance Monsignor Niclolini had put in place and that he presided transformed Assisi into a shelter for many Jews; others who were passing through the town were provided with false papers enabling them to survive in other places.
After the war Father Brunacci described the Bishop’s resolution in face of danger: “I will never forget how insistent those threats were, yet how determined the Bishop remained. He would not let anyone intimidate him from performing what he, as a pastor, was required to do. I recall very well the strength Monsignor Nicolini showed in the face of repeated alarms of the ‘big shots’ who felt it was their duty to suggest prudence and moderation. There are times in everyone’s life in which it is easy to confuse prudence with a calm life; there are times when heroism is required. Monsignor Nicolini took the path of heroism.”