Goddess of Reason
On July 14, 1789, the Bastille was stormed by French citizens anxious to throw off the yoke of aristocratic oppression. The leaders of the Revolution had an idealistic dream of a constitutional monarchy founded on the principles of liberte, egality, fraternite. Within a few years the king had been executed, and the lofty visions of the revolutionary leaders had been lost in partisan strife. The civil government descended into a spirit of chaos.
From September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794, a Reign of Terror gripped France. Faced with threats from other nations of Europe, the Revolutionary government took extreme measures against anyone thought to be an enemy of the Revolution. Members of the aristocracy and the church were particularly vulnerable. Extremist followers of Jacques Hebert wished to stamp out Christianity entirely, and they even went so far as to tear town religious statuary in the Cathedral of Notre Dame and establish what they called a Temple of Reason.
The Committee of Public Safety under Maximillien Robespierre exercised dictatorial powers, and it eventually eliminated any pretense of fair trials as it brought citizens before its tribunals. Thousands of citizens were condemned and executed. Eventually, in their blood lust, leaders of the Revolution began turning against their own. In March 1794, Jacques Hebert and his top lieutenants were guillotined. Danton, chief rival of Robespierre, followed in April. Finally, it was Robespierre’s turn. On July 27, 1794, Robespierre and twenty of his closest followers were arrested, and on July 28 Robespierre was beheaded. With his death, the Reign of Terror ended. France then gradually transitioned into a military dictatorship and marched all over Europe for the next twenty years.
Unfortunately, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, I see many disturbing currents that remind me of the revolutionary madness that gripped 1790s France. Consider the assault against traditional morality and Christianity, the harping about personal pronouns, etc. There are many parallels.
As for the 1790 church in France, it had helped bring misery upon itself by its close association with the king and aristocracy. When those powers fell, the church in France lost much of its influence, and the forces of hell were unleashed. Much the same thing happened in Russia in 1917 and in Germany after World War I. Those were grievous blows to the Christian church in Europe, and western civilization was the loser. Nihilism was in the saddle, and tens of millions died in the chaos that ensued.
In 2022 America, the church and Christianity are again under assault by extremists on either side, but chiefly from the left. We must stand up for that which in our heart we know is true. Remember, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.”
Storms will come, but stay firm in the faith. God’s truth abideth still, and in the end it will prevail.
Meanwhile, remember the great commandment. “Love God and love your neighbor!”