I used to have a Francophile sit across from me at work. When I grew too bored, I could always count on some excitement by provoking him over the topic of Vichy France and French participation in the Holocaust. Eventually, he would run from the cubicle, shrieking that France was a great nation and incapable of anti-Semitism. Then to his own horror, he read a book about Marshal Petain and was forced to finally accept that the French people were willing, even eager, participants in the extermination of European Jewry. I can't wait until he reads this fact-based story by Brian Moore, one of the truly great Catholic novelists of recent decades (see Orrin's review of Black Robe).
Moore's novel literally starts with a bang as Pierre Brossard, a 70 year old Catholic Frenchman, outguns an assassin who has been sent to kill him. On the assassin's body he finds a statement from the "Committee for Justice for the Jewish Victims of Dombey", claiming responsibility for the execution of Brossard. It turns out that Brossard has been a fugitive for over forty years, having participated in the murder of 14 Jews in 1944. During that time he has been protected by sympathetic members of the Catholic Church, provided with funds, hiding places, transportation and false papers. At one point, they even secured a presidential pardon for him, but then he was charged with a "crime against humanity", against which the pardon offers no dispensation.
But now times have changed and many of those in the Church and in government who protected Brossard have passed on and others simply want him out of the way, lest his prosecution serve as a model for subsequent trials. Moreover, the succeeding generation of officials does not bear any sympathy towards him, so they too are on his trail. What follows is a thrilling chase, as Brossard is pursued by Church, State and the shadowy committee and by "friend" and foe alike.
Beyond the basic thriller premise, Moore also offers an examination of the often ignored war guilt of France. Initially it seems possible to feel some sympathy for Brossard and the other aging collaborators, to the extent that they were motivated by anti-Communism and anti-modernism. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that, at heart, they were driven as much by genuine hatred of Jews as by any other less repulsive motives.
Moore based Brossard on an actual person, Paul Touvier, and the story's essentials, from the assistance of the Church to the presidential pardon, are all historical, though Touvier was captured in 1989 and died in prison. These, of course, are facts that stand in stark contrast to the myth that DeGaulle consciously chose to cultivate instead, of the French people as proud heroes of the Resistance, standing firm against the Nazi oppressor. In fact, just as Jonah Goldhagen's great book Hitler's Willing Executioner's (see review) has forced us to rethink the question of how limited was German responsibility for the Holocaust, it is long past time to reconsider whether Vichy France was truly an aberration or whether it was in some sense a manifestation of French popular opinion. This is especially important in light of the concurrent rise in present day France of both the Muslim population and the extremist Le Pen Party. As France, a nation obsessed by the concepts of Frenchness and French blood, approaches the moment where the classic Gallic Catholic French will be outnumbered by immigrant Muslims, it is necessary to either anticipate the possibility that this will bring genocidal violence or else to, once again, close our eyes and feign surprise when presented with a fait accompli.
Brian Moore brilliantly combines a page turning thriller with a thought provoking look at some of these issues. The result is an outstanding novel which, like much of Moore's work, defies the limitations of genre to probe vital moral issues.
David Sandberg's response:
Your hatred of France and its people demonstrates to all the world your lack of savoire faire and elan. You are a swine. While it may be true that France has had some problems with anti-Semitism in its past - this country cannot hold itself blameless in the treatment of minorities. In terms of sheer numbers - slavery in the American South and the treatment of indigenous peoples in the US is a far worse crime than anything done by the French. You are a pig. You are an uncivilized pig. Civilization is a French creation. the capital of the world is Paris - everyone knows this you addled cretin.
We received the following mass e-mail (click HERE to skip to Paul’s reply):
A Teenager’s View of Heaven
17-year-old Brian Moore had only a short time to write something for a class. The subject was what Heaven was like. "I wowed ’em," he later told his father, Bruce. "It’s a killer. It’s the bomb. It’s the best thing I ever wrote.." It also was the last.
Brian Moore died May 27, 1997, the day after Memorial Day. He was driving home from a friend’s house when his car went off Bulen-Pierce Road in Pickaway County and struck a utility pole. He emerged from the wreck unharmed but stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted.
The Moores framed a copy of Brian’s essay and hung it among the family portraits in the living room. "I think God used him to make a point. I think we were meant to find it and make something out of it," Mrs. Moore said of the essay. She and her husband want to share their son’s vision of life after death. "I’m happy for Brian. I know he’s in heaven.. I know I’ll see him."
Brian’s Essay: The Room…
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I have liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.
This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.
A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I have betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed at ." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I’ve yelled at my brothers." Others I couldn’t laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents.
Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.
When I pulled out the file marked "TV Shows I have watched", I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.
When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content.
I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.
Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.
And then I saw it.. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.
And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.
No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own.
He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me.. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.
Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards.. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side.
He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished." I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."-Phil. 4:13 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." If you feel the same way forward it so the love of Jesus will touch their lives also. My "People I shared the gospel with" file just got bigger, how about yours?
IF THERE IS ONE EMAIL THAT I HAVE READ THAT NEEDS TO GO AROUND THE WORLD, IT IS THIS ONE, FOR THE CHRISTIAN OR NOT! MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL!
You don’t have to share this with anybody, no one will know whether you did or not, but what do you feel in your heart?
“Who is a God like You, Who pardons iniquity and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not keep His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will turn again; He will have pity on us. He will trample our iniquities. Yea, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19 MKJV).
What a wonderful promise! We are so thankful and glad to report that God has fulfilled His Word in Jesus Christ, Who has accomplished this promise in us. But the reality we experience is much different than the fantasized notions that come from the religious imaginations of man.
“Her prophets have daubed for them with whitewash, seeing false visions, and divining lies to them, saying, Thus says the Lord GOD, when the LORD has not spoken” (Ezekiel 22:28 HNV).
Sappy stories not only play on people’s fears and emotions, they also make gods of them, setting their feelings on an altar and doing whatever it takes to placate and accommodate them. By doing so, stories such as "A Teenager’s View of Heaven" manipulate and trample on the truth, our only hope for better things.
In considering this popular story, I discovered that it is actually composed of three stories. There is the story of the teenager Brian and his untimely death. There is the story of his parents, and how they found out that Brian deceived them. And finally, there is the story of "The Room," the writing that sits at the heart of this sappy saga, and presents some truth in a falsely conceived depiction of Jesus Christ and His ways with mankind.
"The Room" is the place where the author finds files on everything he had done in life, a record of his every deed, whether good or bad in his sight (and it was mostly bad). Desperately trying to destroy these records, he discovers he is unable to alter a single event. Being deeply ashamed, he is met there by the Lord, Who empathizes with him and signs off on every card of evil deeds with His blood. Thus the author receives total forgiveness and a clean start. The story ends with the Lord leading the author out of the room, and these words: "There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written."
This hopeful note implies there were more cards to be written of positive happenings, because the author would be living in a new and better way. That is the expected result of true repentance and forgiveness from Jesus Christ. The recipient of His forgiveness is fundamentally changed after this experience, being supernaturally turned around and given the power from above to lead a new life without the former sins, habits, and ways that shamed him or her, should he or she continue in God’s grace.
The email circulating the story, however, describes it as sharing a "vision of life after death," rather than depicting a change of direction in this life. Here is the first sign of tampering and manipulation. The reason for this divergence from the elements in the story is evident in the set up: The teenage author, Brian, we are told, was killed in an accident shortly after allegedly writing "The Room." His mother is reported to have said of the writing she found in her son’s locker, just hours after his death:
"I think God used him to make a point. I think we were meant to find it and make something out of it."
And of her son’s state: "I‘m happy for Brian. I know he’s in heaven… I know I’ll see him."
In their grief, Brian’s parents were able to take solace in the writing, interpreting it to mean that all was well with him. Instead of focusing on repentance and living right with God today, the story was positioned to comfort people about themselves and their loved ones going to Heaven and having all their sins wiped away after they die.
This is the way Satan tells the story, because it hides the fact that Jesus Christ came to give us life HERE and NOW. Instead of calling for repentance and godliness, Satan’s version of forgiveness makes men comfortable in their lives of sin.
"The Room" was red at Brian’s funeral, after which people began circulating it on the internet, prefaced with the story of his death. Two years later, the local newspaper published the writing under Brian’s name. Shortly afterwards, the newspaper received and published information verifying that someone else had authored the article, which had been published in a magazine two years before Brian’s alleged authorship and death. They broke the news to his parents. His mother was naturally shocked and angry:
"I’m just embarrassed to death,” she said. "I’m positive he said he wrote this…. If he was here, I’d wring his neck."
Indeed. You may not be in Heaven if your mother wants to wring your neck for lying and making fools and liars of your parents. What are we to make of this peculiar situation? There are many lessons here, all worthwhile – for all parties involved.
Brian’s sin was very serious. He not only lied to his parents, but he mocked the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ. Here he was, supposedly broken down in grief for his lying (among other sins). The Lord comes to him, pays for Brian’s sins with His blood and forgives him. Yet from there, Brian goes on to deliberately lie about being the author of this story, thus despising the blood of Christ that he supposedly claimed in the story was found to be effectual and precious to him.
It should be no wonder that Brian was taken away as he was. His car hit a utility pole and he temporarily escaped uninjured. Stepping out of the car and on a downed power line, however, he was electrocuted and killed instantly. There is a Scripture describing something similar:
“From the ends of the earth we have heard songs, glory to the righteous. But I said, Leanness to me! Leanness to me! Woe to me! Deceivers deceive, even with treachery. Deceivers deceive! Dread, and the pit, and the snare are on you, O dweller of the earth. And it shall be, he who flees from the sound of dread shall fall into the pit. And he who comes up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare. For the windows from on high are opened, and the foundations of the earth quake” (Isaiah 24:16-18 MKJV).
For a couple months after he told the lie, Brian seemed to be safe, but he never recanted or confessed. Then came sudden destruction.
People, be warned; don’t be deceived by the lack of an immediate thunderbolt, assuming that all is well, and harden yourself in your sins:
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11 MKJV).
Was Brian a greater sinner than everyone else? No, as Jesus said, speaking of similar tragic and untimely deaths, "Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish." We are here by His grace, and woe to those who presume to be safe while doing their own thing, especially in His Name. Brian sinned grievously. He took Christ’s Name in vain, in the true sense, and he was not held guiltless by God:
"For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us. Instead, all that is left is to wait in fear for the coming Judgment and the fierce fire which will destroy those who oppose God!" (Hebrews 10:26-27 GNB)
We would like everyone, including Brian’s parents, the author, and past or present readers of “The Room,” to know that this story is not a true depiction of the Lord Jesus Christ, His ways, or the life that those who believe on Him have. It deviates from Reality in several ways.
One, a person doesn’t come to repentance with rage for being exposed as a sinner. The repentant sinner is not proud or afraid of what others might find out about him. He has nothing to hide and is concerned only with what God thinks.
The repentant person’s deepest desire is to lose the burden and guilt of sin, not conceal or deny it. Having lost the burden and guilt by candidly confessing the sin, he is free of fear of exposure. His past no longer has power over him. (This isn’t to say there won’t be doubts and fears, which are overcome by the gift of God’s faith in Christ.)
Two, the Lord doesn’t come to those who are in self-pity. There is nothing that can be done for the person who pities himself. He has already chosen his form of consolation, for what it is worth.
Three, the Lord does not expect unrepentant sinners to share the Gospel. The author was ashamed that he hadn’t been doing this, but while walking in sin, how was he supposed to preach Christ? He couldn’t, and you can’t, unless you have received His grace to do so. And for those who have received a commission from Christ to preach, it is not just a good work, but a necessity and, in fact, a reward:
"For if I preach the gospel, there is nothing for me to boast about, for necessity is pressed upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!"(1 Corinthians 9:16 EMTV)
"And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12 KJV).
Four, with God there is no balancing of evil deeds with presumably good ones, as is seemingly implied by a filing system listing works such as preaching the Gospel. This story is a product of men’s false religious systems, which burden people terribly and make self-righteous wretches of men. That isn’t the way of Christ:
"So likewise you, when you shall have done all the things commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, for we have done what we ought to do" (Luke 17:10 MKJV).
We are in all wrongness, every one of us, except when we receive the Spirit of Christ and walk in Him:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1 MKJV).
Five, the Lord doesn’t claim ownership of our sins, as writing His Name over ours on the cards in the story seems to imply. He forgives us, having paid the price for them, but we still suffer the consequences. For example, if I stop smoking (sinning against my body), my lungs will begin to heal, but the effects of the tobacco will linger until my body has completely renewed and regenerated itself. So it is with sin. These things are worked out in our lives for our salvation.
And there is the warning, "Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing befall you."
Six, one doesn’t encounter the living God so casually. Those in Scripture who met God face to face fell down as dead men, and they didn’t experience the kind of humanistic empathy described in this story. The Lord knows our frames, and He doesn’t despise any, but He is not a “buddy." He is God Almighty, to be worshipped and feared in righteousness, and not regarded with presumptuous familiarity.
"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying to me, Do not fear, I am the First and the Last, and the Living One, and I became dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever, Amen. And I have the keys of hell and of death" (Revelation 1:17-18 MKJV).
This was John speaking, who, as an apostle, knew Jesus in this world and in the flesh closer than most did, yet he was afraid when Jesus appeared in His glory to him. Shall not others therefore also fear if the True Jesus Christ were to appear to them?
Seven, we don’t know all our sins at once. We only come to God knowing that we ourselves are sinful and that we are neither good nor acceptable in His sight. When one begins to walk with Christ, he will come to see that some things he thought were good are bad, and some things he thought were bad are good. He will come to see that God has done everything well, and that we, in ourselves, could do nothing right.
When God comes, it is not to remind us of every evil thing we have done – that is the attitude and reaction of devils:
"And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with You, Jesus, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" (Matthew 8:29 MKJV)
But He does come to convict us of our sin nature and to deliver us from its power:
John 16:8-11 MKJV
(8) And when that One comes, He will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment.
(9) Concerning sin, because they do not believe on Me;
(10) concerning righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
(11) concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
When the Lord comes to turn us from our sins, He also turns us from relying on ourselves and our own righteousness to relying on Him and His power to do right. His focus is not on our sins, but us, the sinners, in order to put our sins behind us, so that we might live thereafter reconciled to Him without sin:
“Behold, I had great bitterness for peace; but You loved my soul from the pit of destruction. You have cast all my sins behind Your back. For the grave cannot praise You, death can not rejoice in You; they who go down into the pit cannot hope for Your truth. The living, the living, he shall praise You, as I do this day; the father shall make Your truth known to the sons” (Isaiah 38:17-19 MKJV).
The hope we have through Christ doesn’t come by avoiding reality and covering it over with phony stories that bring more lies and confusion. Trying to assure ourselves that everything is all right when it isn’t is not the way towards improvement; if anything, it’s a sure recipe for more trouble. Jesus Christ has come in order for us to face reality.
In facing ourselves and things as they truly are, we find that we are not condemned; if we honestly confess our sins, and earnestly acknowledge ourselves sinners before Him, we are cleansed and liberated to sin no more, going forward in Him, He being our Lord and Savior.
Repent, because the Kingdom of God is here.