The Gospel Truth

A Silent Night on the Western Front

December 17, 2014

In early December my wife and I attended the musical play All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.   This musical play marked the 100th anniversary of  what is arguably the second most ironic event in the history of the world.   In what would amount to the bloodiest war in recorded history, where 16 million human beings perished, thousands of soldiers found it in their hearts and souls to recognize the approaching birth of the Prince of Peace.  When it was over they returned to their savage crucifixion of each other on a cross of pride and greed.

The Mustard Seed Theater’s rendition at Fontbonne University was a marvelous 65 minutes of a capella musical entertainment and history that documents a true and all too brief period of time during the First World War on Christmas Eve.

At dawn, only months into the war, after hearing and trading carols across the trenches, a German soldier crossed the lines of the Western front into no-man’s-land wishing a Merry Christmas in native tongues.  Seeing that he was unarmed, British and French soldiers eventually did the same.  They ended up meeting in the middle where they exchanged gifts of puddings and cigarettes, sang songs, played a little soccer, and together buried their dead.

According to the MST summary the script is based on the actual letters of men from various regiments, brigades and infantrymen who lived it.  Along with commentary on the incredible events of that Christmas Eve in 1914, the letters also describe, in vivid detail, the enthusiasm of the young soldiers as they leave for the war, evocative descriptions of their surroundings, the thrill of receiving parcels from home, the devastating loss of friends, and the making of new ones across enemy lines — if only for a short time.

The songs that range from ballads, traditional folk songs, patriotic songs and Christmas carols include, Will Ye Go to Flanders?, a Scottish folk song, Pack up you Troubles, The Old Barbed Wire, an English traditional song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, a 12th century chant, “Wassail”, and over a dozen more.  Twenty-three songs in all are beautifully presented in an intermission 60 minutes that fly by.

My favorite Christmas hymn, which they sang in three different languages, has always been Silent Night (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) It was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.

The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village on the Salzach river. Both performed the carol during the mass on the night of December 24.

The Christmas truce (Weihnachtsfrieden; Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial cease fires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing.

Men played games of football (soccer) with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce. However, the peaceful behaviour was not ubiquitous; fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.

In the lead up to Christmas 1914, there were several peace initiatives. The Open Christmas Letter was a public message for peace addressed To the Women of Germany and Austria, signed by a group of 101 British women suffragettes at the end of 1914 as the first Christmas of World War I approached.

On 7 December 1914, Pope Benedict XV had begged the combatants for an official truce between the warring governments. He asked that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang. This attempt was officially rebuffed.

The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols.

The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man’s Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently killed soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held.

Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) is a 2005 French film about the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. It was written and directed by Christian Carion. It was screened out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.  I have seen it twice and it is a very powerful rendition of this short-lived anomaly where martial soldiers put aside their animosities and relished in the peaceful reverie of universal brotherhood where their similarities and common humanity displaced their ethnic and political differences

That Christmas Eve was a brief lesson for all human beings.

For me the moment of truth in the movie revolved around the drafted German soldier, a famous opera tenor Nikolaus Sprink and his Danish wife, soprano, Anna Sørensen. The unofficial truce begins when the Scots begin to sing festive songs and songs from home, accompanied by bagpipes. Sprink and Sørensen arrive in the German front-line and Sprink sings for his comrades.

As Sprink sings Silent Night he is accompanied by a piper in the Scottish front-line. Sprink responds to the piper and exits his trench at the risk of snipers, with a small Christmas tree singing Adeste Fideles. Following Sprink’s lead the French, German, and Scottish officers meet in no-man’s-land and agree on a cease-fire for the evening.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday cease fires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

The truce was short-lived the high officials and generals wanted the killing to recommence. War was their business and death was their product. The slaughter resumed and did not stop until 16 millions human beings had perished in its bloody wake.

I said that this was only the second most ironic event in world history. This begs the question as to what was the first most ironic event. The answer has to be Good Friday that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death on Calvary.

According to the Christian faith mankind had executed the Prince of Peace. According to the Gospels Jesus had come into the world, not to live but to die and in doing so, assume the sins of the world and expiate mankind from its original guilt. His death completed the circle of life–moments of peace and joy amidst years of blood and violence–that the silent night alluded to in 1914.  The undying hope for all mankind is that. as Bishop Fulton J. Sheen had written, there can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

The Yellow Ball of Revenge

December 3, 2014
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The Tennis Court Oath was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath signified for the first time that French citizens formerly stood in opposition to Louis XVI, and the National Assembly’s refusal to back down forced the king to make concessions. It eventually led to the virtual destruction of the old but decaying edifices of Western Civilization. The gods of science would eventually usurp the power and influence of the Triune God of Christianity.

Amid the uproar and chaos of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, what has been virtually unheard and unrecognized has been the soft voice of science…that is Forensic Pathology.

It loomed largely as the deciding and irrefutable force in Officer Wilson’s No True Bill decision that to date has failed to satisfy the blood lust of the angry mobs that would burn down half of St. Louis County were it not for the serious demonstration of para-military forces in the area.

The world witnessed what was likely to have happened without that a belated demonstration show of force when Governor Jay Nixon reneged on his “promise” to protect life and property in St. Louis.   Several small businesses were incinerated or looted.

There was a time when science was literally a god in the academic and intellectual community.  It was purported to be the one discipline that Americans could rely on a 100% of the time. Science was devoid of the alleged superstitions of religious faith and the undying prejudices of a flawed humanity.

Thanks to Darwin and Big Government money honest science has surrendered its lofty status to political Faddism, masquerading as valid science.  The seductive charm of millions in research grants has prostituted a goodly portion of Science, giving us such chimera as Man-made Global warming and Climate Change.

This has served to corrupt and remove Science forever I suspect from the Panthenon of our secular gods.

In the Brown case valid science proved that a man who had the full leverage of his 290 pounds attacked Officer Darren Wilson within the entrapment of his own vehicle. About the same height and maybe 60-70 lighter than his assailant Wilson was struck in the face a few times.

When he threatened to shoot Brown if he did not back off, Brown went for his gun.

I think most reasonable people can assume Brown was not merely going to admire its handiwork but pump a full load into the officer’s body.

Wilson could have waited for the back up, which had never gotten his message due to the interior struggle.

Or he could have given pursuit to “protect” society at large from this behemoth of a young man who had already been the subject of a strong-arm robbery at a local convenience store just moments before their deadly encounter.

Just as they do on TV the officer yelled for Brown to Freeze! He turned and apparently embolden by the marijuana in his system (Toxicology) he challenged the cop to shoot him and then started charging. Wilson fired several times…hitting Brown a few times, mostly in his arms, which were never up in the standard surrender pose. Now about 10-15 feet apart, he stopped and then perhaps enraged by the officer’s audacity to have shot him, lowered his head and bull charged to the officer.

As his police training had taught him, Wilson fired until Brown stopped literally dead in his tracks having suffered a fatal shot to the top of his head.

Despite the cold and clear explanation of the scientific evidence, protesters still keep shouting that they want Justice for Michael Brown, ignoring that officer Wilson is also deserving of justice for his life and future hang in the balance.

County Prosecutor Bob McCullough, a Democrat had just been elected for the fourth time this past November. While he was highly respected many protestors used him as a target to extend their political agenda while loudly ignoring the truth of the violent incident.

They have raised Michael Brown to an iconic status that he does not deserve. He is dead now, not because of Officer Wilson’s right to self-defense but because of social and historical forces much greater than his short existence.

When I started doing talk radio in the early 1980s on WGNU, a unique station with about 30 different hosts from all walks of life with a diversity of personal opinions, I learned the root of all the racial strife that has permeated this country since its founding in 1787.

Many of my callers were black and at that time I was seriously sympathetic to their history of racial strife.

But after a year or two of arguing that we had to find a common ground somewhere, I learned that the more militant callers did not want equality or even justice. They wanted payback—-a simple revenge–they would do to whitey…what his forbears had done to them 200 years ago.

Revenge is endemic to the human soul. It is a poison that mocks the very meat upon which it feeds to paraphrase the Avonian Bard.

After the murder of President Lincoln by Southern sympathizers–the worst thing they could have ever done—the Radical Republican Congress replaced their slain leader’s magnanimous plan of reconstruction with a draconian agenda of retribution that devastated the South for generations to come.

They forced a proud and once elite Southern society to accept as social and political equals a largely unsocialized and uneducated (through no fault of their own) body of human beings whom the Supreme Court had recently defined as “personal property” or “chattel,” not human beings. (Dred Scott v. Sanders)

Anyone who understands the fallen nature of all men and women knows that this was a recipe for violence and years of hatred.

Saner heads knew that immediate political, social, and economic equality became a political daydream that had no chance of surviving without a large military presence…which existed until the vagaries of American politics raised its ugly head and removed the safety net of the black freedmen, putting them at the bloody dispatch of the KKK and other vigilante groups.

The ball was now in the South’s Court and all of its “black citizens”were relegated to an even harsher more deadly form of slavery several generations after Lincoln until the Civil Rights Movement tried to establish a modicum and civility between the races.

That quickly devolved into the Black Power Movement and its blatant attempt to seek revenge on white people…

Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poor People replaced the millions of proud black husbands with a welfare check. In effect this effectively destroyed the sociological building blocks of the black community. It quickly led to a socially unsustainable illegitimacy rate that has undercut the infrastructure of a free and orderly civilization.

Barack Obama’s historic election in 2008 election was purported to show how much progress we had made. Unfortunately this president and his departing Attorney General are both products of the arena of racial politics.  Their policies seemed designed on an opaque agenda of high-priced payback to a white-dominated imperial society that in their minds has oppressed billions of people throughout its 227 year history.

Obama seems inner-directed to repeal of all of American history from its original sin of the 3/5 Compromise to the imperial wars of the Bush administration.

Despite the black community fratricide on the flower of its youth with thousands of black-on-black violent crimes, the Obama administration is determined to effect the unilateral disarmament of the American society country, transforming it into a divided nation with the relevancy of Belgium on the world stage.

Just think about what the DOJ has concentrated on. It will not enforce our existing Immigration and Border Security laws, while trying to open our borders to millions of immigrants who will lower the standard of living of all Americans, black and white.

Attorney-General Holder has vowed to “reform” all the police forces in the country. In real language he wants to undermine the power and effectiveness of the local constabulary.

Ferguson, Missouri is a prime example. New Orleans and Cleveland have already had run-ins with the AG to their detriment.   To understand the future we are facing, I suggest everyone read former LA policeman Joseph Wambaugh 1971 book, The New Centurions to get a full understanding of why the left is doing this to the police departments in American.

Obama has shrunken the army to pre-WWII levels and he has attempted to legislate a ban on all guns for law-abiding people. If he gets his way our #1 right that is “the right to life” is in serious jeopardy.

Therefore the historic forces that put Michael Brown in his grave are far greater than the community relations in Ferguson.  With serious French visions of 1787 this country has been entangled in the gummy nets of a horrific tennis match—the yellow ball of revenge–throughout its history.

Ferguson has undeservedly become the new background for a Revolution that has been brewing for several generations.

Brown is not an icon to freedom and justice but a reminder of the sordid legacy of a nation that was once a bright and shinning light to all the oppressed people of the earth but has now allowed its historical promise to be caught in a dangerous game of revenge and payback that will eventually double fault its doors of freedom.

About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at