An Outstanding Idea

The Tennessee legislature is considering a bill to name the Bible the State book. A similar bill was passed and vetoed in 2016 by the prior Governor, who was one of the worst Governors in history. Why is this such an outstanding idea? First, it is clearly the will of a majority of Tennesseans which alone is sufficient for such a proclamation. However, like an iceberg, the mass of justification is below the surface of common knowledge. 

The Bible is the best selling book today and for all time. It was first translated into language understood by the common man by Martin Luther (German) and subsequently William Tyndall (English) who was killed for doing so in 1536. Together with the invention of the printing press it transformed education, literacy and brought a light of understanding that transformed and elevated all open societies and cultures. The Bible is not only the best history book of ancient times, but transformed history through literacy, language, and wisdom. No other book has had a greater positive impact on mankind.

In order to measure the magnitude of its blessing simply contrast the results of it’s prohibition. The Communist USSR outlawed it’s distribution, killed millions of innocent people and those who remained became vile subjects of government tyranny that tormented and threatened the free world for over fifty years. In Communist China the cultural revolution resulted in the murder of millions and subjected it’s people to tyranny, darkness, and a culture that was oppressive. These nations along with North Korea and much of the Muslim world have reverted their cultures and society to that which existed in ancient times. Only recently has China opened up and joined the modern world. The USSR collapsed as an example of what secular humanistic socialism yields. It may be argued that other causes had significant impact on these events, but outlawing the Bible is a stark factor that runs parallel with all others opposed to freedom and uprightness.

Those who object suggesting that the Bible is merely a religious book are ignorant, fear-filled, blind to the facts and or have a hidden agenda. The Bible is foundational for two of the world’s great religions, Judism and Christianity, but this does not prohibit or eliminate it’s inherent wisdom, artistic poetry, drama, and history that demands no faith to enjoy or appreciate. The Bible as literature stands preeminent in it’s influence on language, art, morality, law, history and citizenship which can not be denied or understated. There is no legal or constitutional prohibition on designating the best selling, most widely read and referenced book in American history as a State book. Doing so does not violate the establishment clause, though it very likely rebuts “political correctness” which has no weight and is contrary to free speech. Numerous “Bible as literature” classes are taught in many State Universities as evidence against any frivolous legal challenge. 

Finally, when in 1964 the Bible was removed as a tool and text for learning in government supported schools, there began a noticeable decline in public education. Moreover, the same decline was experienced in the secular society that had argued for its removal from school. Crime, lawlessness, immorality and vice has replaced the blessings of wisdom contained in the Bible. The message of encouragement, perseverance, courage, responsibility, tolerance, dilligence, forgiveness, acceptance and love for all found in the Bible is a blessing of the highest worth and value to any people. Naming the Bible the State Book of Tennessee is an outstanding idea and one that every citizen and politician should support.

Sargent Alvin C. York

This simple man became an celebrated hero, awarded the Medal of Honor, for his action in WWI.  He was born in 1887, in the mountains of Tennessee’s Cumberland plateau.  He was poor and lived a rough and tough life until he was dramatically saved in a revival meeting.  He became a devout believer.  When he was drafted into the military he struggled with the concept of taking a human life, but he sought God’s will and concluded that the defense of the innocent may demand his life or that of the enemy.

The movie “Sargent York” was produced in 1941 and became a great success and inspired many to join the military for WWII.  Gary Cooper played the part of Sargent York . It is rated 7.8 by IMDB which is very good.  Mr. York demanded to have approval rights on the film before agreeing to allow his story to be told.  In the light of today’s society, this movie is an incredible testimony of one man’s Christian faith, as well as, God’s influence and power to change lives.

We just went to Pall Mall, Tennessee where the Sargent Alvin C. York State park is located.  It is a tranquil little park, with many historic landmarks of Sargent York, including his residence, artifacts, and a grist mill operated by his family until his death in 1964, when it was turned over to the state of Tennessee.  We took a short hike to his burial site (you can also drive) and I noticed a reference on his grave marker Proverbs 14: 34.  It reads, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.”

This is a message we desperately need to hear today in America.  I’m not suggesting that we try to be good in our own efforts.  In fact, that is the essence of our problem, those who have rejected the God of the Bible, are trying to enforce their own humanistic secular sense of right, by sanctioning every perversion and despicable behavior.  In such a society, nothing is wrong except those who follow traditional Judeo-Christian teachings of the Bible.  Believers understand that we too, left to ourselves, would be corrupt, but it is God who grants righteousness only through faith in Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew).  Lord, bring our nation back to you and deliver us from the humanistic idolatry that is so popular today.  Nothing is impossible for you, open blind eyes and deaf ears to see and hear your message of salvation.  Thank you for your saving power and redeeming Believers from all nations.

Crockett’s Own Story

Recorded history may be more awash with opinion than fact.  Of course, movies and TV shows are designed to exaggerate and embellish stories for entertainment purposes, but an honest man’s own account will bear up against the cross examination of opinion.  I found “A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett” to be an interesting and well told story.  It is written in the language of the common back- woodsman in 1835 and doesn’t contain any contrived accents as used so prolifically by Mark Twain.  I believe a twelve year old would enjoy it as much as an adult.  It’s not a complete history which would include Mr. Crockett’s  travels to Texas and heroic demise at the Alamo, but it reveals his character and convictions as no third party could.

When I first began my inquiry into Mr. Crockett’s life, I had one predominate thought, “Was he a man of character and faith?”  These are private matters that are deep within a man, but of the utmost importance.  Not every hero is so bold as Sargent Alvin York, who shared his faith openly and with great conviction.  Still, the nation was young and the second great revival was at its peak, but the western frontier of Tennessee was still a vast wilderness occupied sparsely by settlers in western expansion.  Moreover, Crockett’s life was hard, beginning in early childhood, such that he had very little schooling where Biblical history and Judeo-Christian principles were introduced.  However, more than once he states that he trusted himself to “Providence”, which reveals some grounding in faith.  Also, he expresses a well formed concept of duty, responsibility, and mercy toward others.  He explains this as being the product of humble beginnings and it shaped his life through both struggles and good fortune which he attributed to God’s mercy.

His narrative articulates a consistent profession of the virtue of honesty and uprightness.  For example, his grandparents were massacred by Indians, whom he later fought in war, but also befriended on occasion and supported politically, to the detriment of his political career and reputation.  His favorite quote which he wished to be remembered was, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”  His political instincts were outstanding, but he embarked on politics in reply to a practical joke.  He preferred to conduct his own enterprises, including subsistence in the backcountry, but circumstances beyond his control turned him back to government service more than once.  He was careful in his campaigning, but exercised great courage  to promote the public interest rather than his own or others political ambitions.  This is a demonstration of character that is near and dear to my heart and my own personal experience.

After reading his story, I saw a man who endured adversity without becoming a victim or filled with bitterness.  Here was a man who stood for conviction, virtue, and duty, but accepted others as they were.  He is an example of a politician that is desperately needed today, sincere and courageous in the face of schemes and contrivance against the will of the people. To the extent that the saying is true, “Actions speak louder than words”, Mr. Crockett’s life sounds a clear call to embrace humility and commit to honesty.

David Crockett

David Crockett wrote a narrative biography of his life in 1835.  Unable to abtain a ready copy of it, I picked up, “Davy Crockett, the Man, the Legend, the Legacy”, by Michael Lofaro.  This book is a book report on all the books, movies, TV shows, and periodicals written about the man.  That alone is enough to put it down, but I found the language also bizarre for such a topic.  “Walter Blairsville early on enumerated six separate identities for this Krishna of the American folk panthoen, and threw up his hands over the task of distinguishing between the ‘real’ and the “Legendary parts.”  He goes on and on about what others wrote about Crockett as though there really was any debate about fiction and myth.  The Davy Crockett Almanac was full of exaggerated or embellished  stories and escapades about life in the wilderness frontier.  Is this so surprising, given the public’s continuing interest in adventure?  Yes, David Crockett was a talker who told stories about his life in the backcountry.  To this day, people who hunt, fish and hike in the backcountry occasionally embellish their own outings

He came from very humble beginnings, his family was so poor he was hired out as a child to work off his fathers debt.  He was in the Creek Indian wars with Andrew Jackson’s army.  Later, as a politician, military and community leader David Crockett developed an ability to capture people’s interest.  He became an effective campaigner and won several elections, eventually serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He disagreed with Andrew Jackson’s positions on squatters rights and Indian resettlement.  As a consequence, he fell out of favor with Jackson and the entire Tennessee delegation.

One of many interesting quotes from Davy Crockett is, “Make sure you’re right, then go ahead.”  Crockett did not put his political career and personal interest above his sincere beliefs of right and wrong.  He had been dirt poor himself and knew the plight of the poor.  When his political career ended, he went to Texas in search of higher ideals and died in the Mexican war at the Alamo.  Historians seem to take great pleasure in pointing out that Davy Crockett was not killed in battle, as portrayed in movies and TV, but was captured and executed by Santa Anna.  Real life is not always the stuff of fictionalized movies, but people like to admire public figures, particularly when they are associated with societal themes like “manifest destiny” which was very popular during that time.  This was pointed out in the book along with references to James Fennimore Cooper’s popular fictional tales of Indians and longhunters.

There were many excerpts of various stories from the Davy Crockett Almanacs and statements attributed to him.  The tales, movies, plays and TV shows with their fictionalized hyperbole do not diminish the real man who had faults like everyone, but remains an important example of leadership, independence, rugged individualism, and a pursuit of right over politics.  Whether a soldier is captured or killed in battle is not necessarily something within their control, therefore, what bearing it has on his heroism eludes me.  Moreover, I find no interest in various writer’s views of publicity or fictionalized videos aimed at generating a profit for the producer.  The fact that David Crockett became a celebrity and legendary character after his death does not require exhaustive analysis into each portrayal dreamed up to garner a profit off the public’s fascination for backwoods adventure.  The awarded success in 1992 of the movie, “Last of the Mohicans”, suggests the public still has a thirst for the early American wilderness adventure.

Tales of Davy Crockett’s entanglement with “critters” has some plausible basis.  It was interesting to see that elk were once native to Tennessee and bear extended even into its western regions. About fifteen years ago the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reintroduced elk into the state and they are thriving.  Most recently, cougar have returned on their own volition, being observed in the central region of Tennessee.  Bear are migrating westwards once again as the mountainous east becomes over-populated with them. Sightings of black bear have been noted as far west as Cookeville, which is ninety miles east of Nashville.  Finally, alligators have been seen in the Mississippi river near Memphis.  This book is among the worst I have ever read and left me with very little information I cared about or that even directly related to David Crockett.  However, it encourages me that I can write a book some day and I’m still interested in Davy Crockett, American Indian tribes, and the early frontier.

For Cause and Country

For Cause and Country, written by Eric Jacobson, is one of the very best books on the Civil War Battle of Franklin, TN.   It is an excellent read for those interested in the Civil War in general or the Battle of Franklin.  It is a thoroughly-researched book and gives an excellent battle narrative including incorporating eyewitness accounts from both sides.

This battle fought in November 1864, only about four months before General Lee’s surrender, was one of the last major actions in the Civil War.  Confederate General John Bell Hood led his Army of the Tennessee in a desperate invasion of Tennessee after he had just been soundly defeated in Georgia by Sherman’s army and lost the pivotal city of Atlanta.  Lee, holed up in Richmond with a far inferior army, could only hold off Union General Grant for a time and had no potential for offensive action.  Hood hoped to draw Sherman back into Tennessee for a decisive battle and remove his threat from the Deep South.  However, Sherman simply sent a portion of his troops to Middle Tennessee to join with other troops already there under General Thomas which together heavily outnumbered Hood.  Sherman took the rest of his troops on the famous “March to the Sea” which effectively destroyed much of what was left of the infrastructure of the South.

Hood’s Tennessee invasion started off well and he just missed trapping and destroying a part of Thomas’ army in Spring Hill, a few miles from Franklin.  A very upset Hood moved on to Franklin where the same Union troops that escaped at Spring Hill were waiting in a strongly fortified position.  Hood, determined to not let the Union troops get away again, made an unwise, very costly, desperate charge directly into the fortified line and the Confederate troops were slaughtered with heavy losses.  The Confederate troops performed with amazing courage but were sacrificed.  Despite the victory, the Union army retreated over night to rejoin the main body of troops in Nashville, which were its orders.  Hood moved on to invest Nashville with what was left of his army but, a couple of weeks later, the Union army attacked and decisively defeated the Confederate army.  The Army of Tennessee was largely destroyed and with Lee surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia shortly thereafter the war was brought to an end.

Today, the battlefield is a relatively quiet place which I often walk and contemplate the courage and sacrifice of both sides.  A national battlefield park, although purposed, was never approved by Congress.  Most of the land was bought up by residential or commercial interests over the years and except for two spots is was thought the battlefield could never be reclaimed.  The two preserved spots were the Carnton Mansion, where the wounded and dead were brought and where blood from the soldiers is still evident on the floors, and the Carter House and a small plot of ground around it were a part of the battle was fought.  However, just in the last decade or two the “Battle of Franklin Trust” was formed to try to reclaim as much of the battlefield as possible.  Led currently by Eric Jacobson, the author of this book, it has done an amazing job of purchasing battlefield land including several homes and businesses at very high costs.  This is possible as Franklin happens to be located in one of the wealthiest counties in the country and there are many people who care for and are invested in the battlefield.  The Trust even formed a partnership with the State of Tennessee who, at an appointed time after more land is purchased and a new visitor’s center is constructed, is going to take over the maintenance of the new Carter Hill Battlefield Park.  It contains a Confederate graveyard where most of the confederates that died in the battle are buried, just outside Carnton Mansion.   I would encourage anyone interested to visit if you are in the area as it is a very important historical preservation to honor both sides that fought in the battle.