Quinta, 23 de Março de 2017
   
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The Children of Revolution

The day God 'died'

Clovis was a middle-aged family man. He was a historian and, amazingly, also a christian! He was part of that rare breed of believers who manage to reconcile faith with academic career - the latter averse to any idea that God exists and interferes in history in general. But he did well in both - a good Christian and a good historian (it's easier to be a good historian). Clovis had a problem: his teen. Pressed by the wife, who saw the boy initial attempts towards the ladies from church and school, Clovis solemnly summoned the boy to a conversation - man to man talk! One of those conversations everyone knows will come, but which no one feels prepared to when it finally arrives. The day came and Clovis tried to introduce the subject.

— Son, we need to talk... er... er... you ... girls ... you need to know ... dating ... to the wedding! You know, we should obey God's guidance...

The boy interrupted him already showing signs of rebellion:

— Father, my friends do what they want! Who said it’s God who should rule our lives?

The boy had committed the most serious and almost unforgivable mistake of ending a sentence with a question mark. And that, to a historian!!! If you're a teenager and know a real historian, do not end a sentence with a question mark, never. This can compromise a few hours of your short life. But the boy was really reckless (rebels are reckless) and thought there would be no further consequence. Poor boy…

— Son, today people think they can do whatever they will because of the "Revolution".

— What revolution, Dad? What are you talking about?

— I refer to the French Revolution. In all these years, I thought this day would come, the day I would have to explain the French Revolution to you. The day came. This is the real father to son talk. Parents should have “the talk” with their child and this talk should cover the French Revolution. Son, your day has come.

And Clovis went on:

— There was a time when the king was considered the representative of God on earth. And it was for so long, more precisely from the 4th century until the 18th century. For over 1400 years, ordinary people believed that political power had been instituted by God and therefore respected the king. It is true that the kings took advantage of this popular perspective to impose, without resistance, their will and whim. The measure of truth in that period was the revelation of God in Scripture and interpreted by the Catholic Church.

The boy started yawning, but tried to hide (no one can disguise a yawn, even with the mouth shut). Accustomed to watch mouth shut yawning (remember that Clovis was a professor), the father continued:

— Gradually, the perception that God instituted kings began to change. And it changed along with the emergence of the concept that reason, human reasoning, was a base as safe is divine revelation. That was scholastic’s initial proposal, which later was base to the Enlightenment. This placed human reason as more important than divine revelation, to the point of reason to be considered the only measure of what is right and wrong.

He went on nonstop:

— For nearly a century, both perspectives — the one favoring revelation and the other favoring reason - tried to reconcile their proposals: Enlightenment influenced politics, economics, law and culture, even in governments where the king acted sovereignly.

The boy was almost freaking out by hearing such speech, but the father cared nothing and went on mercilessly.

— At one point it was no longer possible to reconcile both perspectives. One would have to prevail. And this happened during French Revolution. A revolution that definitively implemented the idea that the reason is more important than divine revelation. It was carried out by French population, with the help of wealthy sectors of society, to end the privileges of the king and the nobles that surrounded him. At one point, the people deposed King Louis XVI of his throne and, worse, sentenced him to death on the guillotine - which literally means the king lost his head in public.

When the boy heard about rolling head he awakened from his catatonic state. Teenagers like stories where blood flows these days, even better with vampires (but that was not the case).

— On the day that people killed the king, the very prospect that God was behind the story was also murdered. On the day the king died, also died the idea that authorities have been instituted by God. The day the king died was also the day that God died, at least in the minds of the people who killed the king, once considered God’s representative. The people thought they had become masters of their own destiny. So that up to these days people like you think they can do whatever they want too. Deep down inside, people like you believe they are their own destiny masters. This ideal of freedom began with the French Revolution.

At that moment, the mom called both to the dining room: dinner was served - to the boy’s luck.

The Revolution is contagious

I ignore what you would do if you had to teach history to a rebellious teenager. Perhaps the best strategy is that of the injection: you say it will hurt a little, but it’s for his own good. That's what Clovis did when, after dinner, he took up the conversation with his child about the French Revolution. The strategy did not work. He mentioned the videogame restriction. The son readily showed interest — at least pretending he was listening.

— The immediate consequences of people have killed the King of France was a period of chaos, anarchy and conflict. There was even a totalitarian government avant la lettre before the term was invented (he had to explain the francophone preciousness to the child).

— After fifteen years, Napoleon Bonaparte took office and calmed tempers. Smart statesman, his strategy was to embed, through military invasions, the revolutionary ideas so that French people became more concerned about foreign wars than with internal problems in France. Napoleon militarily conquered much of Europe, but after failing in Russia he was deposed and France became a monarchy again

The boy strived to listen to that part and made a relatively intelligent question:

— When that first king died in the revolution, I think the name was Louis XVI, you said that the people had given a cry of freedom from the king and the idea of God. Why, then, France had a king after Napoleon again?

The father almost went into ecstasy - so many years trying to instill a taste for history in the boy and he comes with an excellent question like that! The father felt like he could die in peace, mission accomplished!

— Son, the story is not always linear. Sometimes after a great leap forward, it takes a few steps back. That's what happened. More conservative groups in France still valued the old king's perspective as representative of God and order. The problem was that now French people and all of Europe had experienced the addictive taste of reckless freedom, and sooner or later, those ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity would erupt in revolution cries and king heads rolling on the floor. In Europe, the 1820s and 1830s and particularly the year 1848, called Spring of Nations, were marked by ordinary people's revolts in favor of revolutionary ideas.

And continued,

— Although these revolutions were initially controlled by the kings and the business class, theoreticians of history (the father found a little pretentious treat them as historians) gradually appropriated the revolutionary ideals and created theories about how to reorganize society.

The father did not notice, but the son was furtively using the phone. His classmates called in Whatsapp. The boy was particularly interested in a girl and frantically exchanged emoticons with her. In fact, they had already kissed once. When a young man is caught by his own desires and impulses, it is almost impossible to pay attention to anything else, much less in a private history class.

Oblivious to the boy, the father continued.

— It can be said that each of the three ideals of the French Revolution bore fruit in a proposal for the organization of politics and society. Karl Marx, by emphasizing the ideal of equality, defended the scientific socialism. The rulers, seeking to control the poor of their countries, sought to foster nationalism, manipulating the homeland bonds of brotherhood. Liberals (whether in politics or economy) defended the primacy of freedom. Thus emerged the main political currents of the world, which, by the way, last to this day.

— In the 20th century — the father continued (even ignoring the double life of the boy in the smartphone) — these proposals transubstantiated in different forms of government, like communism, in the former Soviet Union and China; the nazifascism, in Germany and Italy; and the liberalism of the West democra…

As he finished the sentence, the father sadly saw the boy's eyes closing. After having finished the camouflaged chat on the phone, the boy had slept. Once again, the father felt like failing in his hopes and efforts to teach historical reality to his child. The boy of the intelligent question, once again, had given way to the reckless life kid.

The father thought to himself that this neglect towards revolution history could cost the young man dearly in the future. Who refuses to understand the past makes the same mistakes in the present.

With the boy falling asleep, the best was to continue at breakfast.

The revolution knocks

Clovis woke up excited. Everyone doing what they love enjoys talking about their job. He was determined to teach his son the personal consequences of the French Revolution.

He went downstairs and found the boy half-awake at the breakfast table. The young man had hopes that the father had forgotten the conversation about the French Revolution, but such hopes soon faded after the good-morning kiss.

— Son, as I was saying, political systems were influenc...

The son quickly interrupted:

— Dad! I want to know: You said we’d talk about girls and I cannot stand this talk about history and revolution anymore. So, can I date whomever I want? After all, I just want to seize my life!

The father didn’t answer. He started giving some thought whether to continue the conversation. So, he decided to silently skip the political and economic consequences of the revolution and would treat at last the social and moral consequences derived from the "revolutionary" view that God was dead.

— Son, the French Revolution not only had political and economical consequences. In fact, the values held by the revolution were gradually invading other spheres and got to most families. Feeling free from the king, people also felt freed from the sovereign God, and gradually considered that they could do whatever they wanted with their families and with their bodies without any consequences in this life and after death. In Western democracies, the majority imposed the ideal of freedom to the laws and governments.

Clovis continued:

— A fantasy world in which people give full vent to their desires and passions gradually took place and no one thinks that they will be judged one day, not by law or by any superior being. With that, we had the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement, the gay movement, the release of drugs, abortion and so many other sins. Young men do not respect girls anymore and all they want in their relationships is to satisfy their own desires as if there were no restrictions or moral judgment.

The boy looked like he was sick of all that talk. Clovis noticed that and decided to shut up. It is not easy to know if it's time to speak or to be silent when facing a foolish young rebel. Clovis opted for silence and never addressed this issue with the boy again.

Needless to say that the young man did not listen to his father about the dangers of revolutionary ideals. Time went by as he got involved with a girl from school. They kissed a few times and started a secret date. Clovis’ son lived the ideal of freedom held by the French Revolution in the relationship with his schoolmate. There were no kings for them, there were no parents, there was no God and no limits. There was full freedom and intimate brotherhood in their relationship. What he did not expect was that living the revolution in its fullness would bring consequences.

The consequences arrived and knocked on the door exactly one year after the conversation Clovis had with his son about the French Revolution.

The strong knocking sound at the door presaged that the revolutionary movement of the boy would suffer a setback: his girlfriend's parents were at the door and they did not look friendly. The conversation was strict and direct. There were no handshakes, no praise, no hugs. Everything revolved around one word: pregnant. Pregnant at sixteen! The French revolution embodied in young dating knocked at the door. It was time the boy faced the personal consequences of the revolution and of the ideal of freedom.

Months later, the boy had to abandon school to work and support his new family. His life was summed up in work and changing diapers. He never finished elementary school. He learned one of the hardest lessons that history has to teach: what can be learned from history is that people often do not learn from history.

As for Clovis and his family, we cannot express the pain they felt. The sins of one person often bring consequences to all. Clovis, once respected in the church, had his reputation stained. He changed to another town and church. Became sad. He regretted taking too long to teach his child about the revolution and often repeated to himself, sometimes out loud: "My son, fear thou the Lord and the king and meddle not with them that are given to change" (Proverbs 24:21).

Ev. Pedro Freitas

 

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