I’ve been watching a series on cable TV about Winston Churchill that dates back to 2003. I probably watched it then, but you forget a lot in 10 years. The earth has revolved around the sun a few more times and stuff has happened. Plus, as you get older you (hopefully) gain wisdom, which changes your perspective on a lot of things.
So far I’ve seen 2 episodes, up through 1943, with at least 1, maybe 2, more coming up. Churchill certainly had an interesting life, and he was without a doubt brilliant. He probably accomplished more in each year of his adult life than most of us do in our entire lifetimes.
In a lot of ways he reminds me of Benjamin Franklin. Both men were geniuses, and both were ambitious—sometimes unscrupulous, unbending in error, even ruthless. In many ways they were not only deeply flawed, but also seemingly oblivious to their faults. They had all the qualities of heroes: high moral virtues and deep personal failings. It’s strange how we humans always want to make gods of our heroes, ignoring the cracks that appear beneath the surface. We elevate them to a pedestal, then curse them when they turn out to have feet of clay.
I’d always admired George Washington as coming as close to the ideal of virtue as any man is able, and I wasn’t alone. Washington holds a high reputation among our Founders. Flaws, yes, but comparatively minor ones. But a few years ago I started reading Henry Wiencek’s An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America. I’d always known Washington owned slaves, of course, but when I read the details of his mistreatment of them, I slammed the book shut and almost threw it against the wall. I deeply abhor even the notion of slavery, and I vowed to never esteem such a man again.
And yet, over the years my perspective has shifted somewhat on that as on many things. There’s no question that Washington’s treatment of his slaves was unconscionable and unjustifiable. I have to admit, however, that he was merely a man of his time. And over his lifetime he did change, gradually allowing even escaped slaves to serve in his army and learning to esteem their abilities, finally directing in his will that his slaves be set free at his death.
It’s tempting when writing a series like this one to view the genuine heroes of our history as gods. I admit that I tend to do that. Thankfully that’s where research provides a reality check. The naked truth is that we’re all flawed, and when we look into the most intimate depths of our heroes’ lives, we’re humbled to learn that even they are as human as we are. Reminds me of a cartoon from long ago in which a small character called Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Indeed.
That reminds me of something else, of Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Only God is perfect and holy and righteous and to be trusted in all things. Let’s remember that whenever we’re tempted to make gods of our social, political, and military heroes, either past or present.
I posted this on my Northkill blog a while back, and thought the readers of this blog might find it helpful too.
I’m sure you all know that anyone who aspires to write accurate historical fiction lives and dies by research. While digging into a period, I regularly run across fascinating sources that have provided those little details and insights that make my stories not only factually accurate, but also lend social and cultural authenticity. I’m especially thrilled when I find firsthand accounts from the period or histories written not long afterward that contain tidbits of information I haven’t found elsewhere.
Below are a few of the many sources I’ve lucked upon. They run the gamut of topics, and a few of them pretty obscure. But all are very helpful and a few even had me jumping up and down when I found them. Thank goodness nobody was around to witness that loss of writerly dignity!
If you have the iBook app on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, you can now read all the volumes of the American Patriot Series on your device! Click on the link below to go to a listing of all my books, including my latest release, One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story!
This month I’m the featured author on Amber Perry’s
Historical Christian Romance Review blog, and I hope you’ll join us and check
out my interview. I’m also offering a free copy of one of the books of the
series to a lucky winner, and all you have to do to be entered in the drawing
is to leave a comment, so please come on by!
Book 5, Valley of the Shadow, Fall 2014 Book 6, Refiner's Fire, Spring 2016
Book 7, Forge of Freedom, Fall 2017
The American Patriot Series is the only truly comprehensive fictional series on the American Revolution. Painstakingly researched using a wide range of primary resources as well as the latest popular and scholarly histories of the American colonial and Revolutionary periods, it contains a highly engaging and accurate account of the founding of the United States.
While the series is written for adult readers, it is also appropriate for students from middle school through college age. The books of the American Patriot Series will engage students and bring history alive in a way that non-fiction texts cannot.
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