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The Lessons from Bastille Day


The Lessons from Bastille Day

by Pastor Hal Mayer | Keep the Faith

“Fireworks exploded over Paris, lighting up the Eiffel Tower. French citizens were celebrating the two-hundred and twenty-ninth anniversary of Bastille Day,” wrote Eric Metaxas, a popular conservative author, speaker and radio host, “a holiday recalling the storming of the Bastille fortress at the beginning of the French Revolution.” Bastille Day, July 14, is the French national holiday.

“While people tend to view the French Revolution in a positive light,” Metaxas continued, “many of its darker elements have been forgotten, or suppressed. As my friend John Zmirak wrote in Crisis magazine, Bastille Day ‘marks the beginning of the greatest organized persecution of Christians since the fourth century…’

“French radicals inspired by secular, Enlightenment philosophy, wanted to expunge all religious influence and replace it with ‘reason.’ This idea was exemplified at Notre Dame, where revolutionaries removed Christian symbols and replaced them with ‘Goddesses of Reason’ – women dressed provocatively in Roman attire who danced about the cathedral—now a Temple of Reason. All clergy were ordered to declare allegiance to the state rather than the church.

“Catholic peasants in the Vendee region revolted; Some 300,000 of these rebels were killed, most in terrible ways. It was, writes historian Francois Furet, ‘massacre and destruction on an unprecedented scale’ and revealed ‘a zeal so violent that it has bestowed as its legacy much of the region’s identity.’

“Ironically, Smirak notes, the French monarchy helped to sow the seed of its own destruction back in 1767, when the King began the suppression of the Jesuits because they were loyal first to Rome and not to the crown.”

Metaxas’ defense of the Jesuits is a subtle rewrite of history. It was the Jesuits that were largely responsible for the French Revolution.

Speaking of the history of France just before the Revolution, the historian von Holst said, “The Jesuits alone flourished in the decaying nation, and ruled with dreadful tyranny over churches and schools, the prisons and the galleys.” (See The Great Controversy, page 279)

It was the Jesuits that were polarizing the population. And the profligate King knew they were deliberately undermining the French nation, bringing it to its knees, and more tightly under the control of the pope. No wonder he accused them of being more loyal to the pope than to the nation.

“The result,” Metaxas continued, “children who would have been educated at Jesuit schools instead had their heads filled with Enlightenment teachings. They reached maturity right round 1789—the year the French Revolution began. Having been taught vicious lies about the behavior of nuns and priests, they heartily approved of their slaughter…”

In actuality, Jesuits inflicted so much pain on society that revolutionaries over-reacted and threw out Christianity along with the Catholic Church. Keep in mind that it was the Jesuits and priests that had inspired the massacre of St. Bartholomew two centuries before in which Protestant Christians, who were the economic engine of France, were slaughtered by the tens of thousands, stripping the country of its wealth along with its morality.

“For seven days the massacre was continued in Paris, the first three with inconceivable fury. And it was not confined to the city itself, but by special order of the king was extended to all the provinces and towns where Protestants were found. Neither age nor sex was respected. Neither the innocent babe nor the man of gray hairs was spared. Noble and peasant, old and young, mother and child, were cut down together. Throughout France the butchery continued for two months. Seventy thousand of the very flower of the nation perished.” The Great Controversy, page 272.

“Today,” Metaxas says, “secular academics celebrate Enlightenment thinking, crediting its embrace of ‘reason’ above all else for great advances in science. But lost is the full story of what happens when ‘reason’ is enshrined above all else: a bloodbath so terrible that, even today, citizens of Vendee wear black armbands on Bastille Day.”

“And this is what we ought to remember when we see efforts to drive religion –and religious believers—from the public square. In America, hostility toward the faithful is at an all-time high. And—as with the French Revolution—we’re seeing determined efforts to force Christians to, in effect, pledge allegiance to the state over the church.”

While this is certainly true, by the suppression of the Bible and the annihilation of those who lived by it more than 200 years before, the Catholic Church was responsible for the bloodbath of the French Revolution and the rejection and persecution of Catholicism and Christianity in general. Removing God from the public square will bring those terrible results. But the solution is not the restoration of Jesuit education and of Catholicism, for Rome’s core principles are unchanged.

“The war against the Bible, carried forward for so many centuries in France, culminated in the scenes of the Revolution. That terrible outbreaking was but the legitimate result of Rome’s suppression of the Scriptures.” The Great Controversy, page 265.

“On Bastille Day, we ought to remember the victims of the French Revolution,” Metaxas concludes, and remind our neighbors what really happened during the years the French fought for Liberté, égalité, and fraternité: Revolution attacked religion, and God was replaced with the guillotine.”

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  1. This was very interesting! I had read Eric’s article about Bastille Day when originally posted and am glad he brought attention to the religious aspects of the French Revolution. As always though it’s extremely helpful to get another factual perspective, particularly on the Catholic roots of it centuries earlier.

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