Art and Religious Liberty
Call it serendipity. I watched two movies that focused on religious freedom, and then the US government tried to tell the church how to spread the word of god. I couldn’t have asked for better timing. These stories and events included the sub-plot that government oppression is routinely under-reported.
“The War of the Vendee” is a video about a French civil war inside the larger French Revolution of 1793. The western agricultural region of France, the Vendee, would not denounce their religious faith in the face of Maximilien Robespierr and the new French Committee of Public Safety. Failure to swear a loyalty oath to the new government was often fatal.
The actors seem miscast, and they are. “The War of the Vendee” is a professionally produced movie with a home school cast. It has a professional soundtrack, excellent production values and great writing tailored for these actors. Yes, it is an epic movie using a cast of Catholic home school students from a little corner of Connecticut, hundreds and hundreds of them, from infants to twenty year olds. They tell the tale of the French loyalists who supported their king and opposed the Revolution. The death of Louis the 16th upset the loyalists. The issue that finally drove the Vendee to arms was the arrest and murder of countless priests and nuns and the closure of churches across the countryside. After 180 thousand dead, after the countryside was laid waste, after the ritualistic murder of 16 Carmelite nuns, the killing stopped.
This story of moral resolve is important for any age. It is doubly important when young men and women learn about moral absolutes. I hope the students also learned that the story of brutal oppression in the Vendee was erased from official accounts. Official historians during the Revolution, like official press spokesmen now, are unlikely to know the truth, let alone report it accurately. Buy the DVD and share it.
“For Greater Glory” is a movie about the Mexican war of 1926 against the Catholic Church. The church did not start the gun play. That dishonor belongs to PRI President Plutarco Elias Calles who thought he could both dictate religious practice and write the history of his actions. He succeeded at both.. for a time. The war ended three years and 90 thousand casualties later with many dead from the government’s scorched earth policy. Lawyers and journalists were oppressed along with priests and peasant farmers. Like the priests, they complied or died. Unlike the priests, most of the journalists and historians complied with the government, and the history of the civil war inside Mexico was hidden for 40 years. Go see the movie while you can.
Neither video is a fluffy feel-good story. These movies are about violent oppression though both have their beautiful moments.
If those two videos don’t drive home the tension between liberty and government, then this certainly will. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tells the Catholic Church that they must offer health insurance that supplies abortion and contraception. The Church said no. Why would politicians deny the Catholic Church the same exemption they grant other religious institutions?
HHS hates competition. Catholic institutions educate 3.6 percent of primary and secondary students in the U.S., 5 percent of the college students, they serve 10 percent of the poor and 12 percent of those needing healthcare. The church does this in a manner that is far leaner and more efficient than anything the government has done in years. Charities do not cherry pick the rich and powerful; they seek out the poor. They walk the walk rather than talk the talk.
The government hates the competition, and probably the loss of union dues as voluntary organizations displace unionized government bureaucrats.
The politicians judged that other non-governmental organizations would have to roll over or be rolled under once the US government subdues the Catholic Church. Really? Will LDS schools and businesses conform? Will Jewish schools and charities blindly obey? I know some Baptist ministers who will never comply. The Catholic Bishops said “No.” From what I read, they will not obey the HHS law. They will not go quietly and this time millions of us are watching.
These are three examples of a timeless theme. The government demands ever-greater obedience and pushes aside civil society. I support the church over the state because I love freedom. At a practical level, the church may scold me, but the government comes with guns if I don’t obey. This is the government that we voted into office. We are not helpless bystanders to change this government.. not yet.
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