Master Aubren
Master Aubren

Our thirteen-month-old grandson sometimes makes me think of the Granthams in Downton Abbey!

Lord and Lady Grantham are central characters of the highly successful British drama.  They own and live in Downton Abbey, a fictional stately home in Yorkshire.  (The actual home is Highclere Castle, close to London.)

Lord and Lady Grantham have many servants, as was common a hundred years ago – in fact, right up until World War II (the series has now reached the 1920’s) and the advent of socialism.  In those days, over three million people in the UK were “in service.”  Today, the number is less than 100,000 with roughly three million unemployed!  (Actually, that’s not accurate any more, but it was some years ago.)  Don’t think it was any different in the United States – most middle class families had a servant or two a century ago.  Noah Webster defined a family as a husband and wife, their children and servants living under one roof.

Anyway, the Granthams order their servants to do this, that and the other and they do.

Far more fearsome is the Dowager Countess of Grantham, the widowed mother of Lord Grantham, who remembers being at Balmoral in 1860, when Queen Victoria was the hostess.  The Dowager Countess is played by the irascible Maggie Smith, who is now 78.  I think all would agree that Maggie steals the show.

So why does our grandson remind me of the Dowager Countess?

The reason is that, in Aubren’s mind, everybody else is his servant.  He commands and expects an immediate response, just like the Countess.

When the weather is nice, I take him out for a walk.  When he’s ready, he gives me a commanding look that says, as would the Dowager Countess, “You can get my carriage ready now, Rhodes.”  The usual response is “Yes, my lady!”  You can no more refuse Aubren than you can the Dowager Countess.

Once he’s in the carriage and we are out walking, I can’t stop to look at anything or talk to anybody.  He insists on constant movement.  He makes no allowance for the fact that I’m not into constant movement any more!

If the sun, a rare sight nowadays, gets in his eyes, he lets me know right away that he needs me to adjust his stroller so that he isn’t blinded.

He also lets me know when he needs his diaper changed, his nose wiped or a drink!

Like the Dowager, he gives no thought to me, or my needs!  In his mind, my sole reason for existence is to serve him.

It reminds me of what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 20:27,  “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave!”

In the family context, the father, as the biblical head of the family, is the chief servant.  His sole reason for existence is to serve his family.  Grandfathers are no different – I’m still a father, but now also a grandfather.  So now I have three or four times as many people to serve, just within the family.  Aubren is demanding, but, when I next visit Indianapolis and the sun is shining, I will be walking his twin boy cousins, Ethan and Evan, who will no doubt be the same.  Leeson, Aubren’s younger brother, is also inclining towards being rather imperious.

Grandchildren can be very demanding, but, I have to tell you, I love it.  I enjoy being a servant, just as the servants in Downton Abbey seem to enjoy their lives.  Like them, I know my place in the great scheme of things.

And there is one glaring difference between Aubren and the Dowager Countess – Aubren is cute!



What was America’s worst war?

I mean in the sense of numbers of people killed as a percentage of the total population.

Many would say the Civil War (1861-65), when 2% of the population died.

In fact, three times as many people, proportionately, died in the Revolutionary War, sometimes called America’s First Civil War, which took place almost a century earlier.

6% of the population died in the earlier conflict and tens of thousands fled the country when the war was over.  As with the later conflict, families were divided, brother fought brother and there were intense feelings on both sides.

Both wanted freedom.  The Patriots (or Rebels) wanted to free the thirteen colonies from British rule; the Loyalists (Tories) were convinced that, without a king, there would be anarchy.  They referred to their opponents as the “sons of anarchy.”

Gordon Wood, an American historian who has written a number of books on the Revolutionary War and the events that surrounded it, brought out in one of his books that England was then the freest country in the world and that the people in England’s colonies were even more free; so why did some colonists want even more freedom?

It’s a good question.

There were legitimate grievances just as there are against any government, but the American Revolution is different from all other revolutions in that the people revolting were not the poor and dispossessed.  They were, in fact, the aristocrats of the colonies.   They were actually better off than the people they were revolting against.

It’s no wonder then that this was not a popular uprising as movies have sometimes suggested.  The country was very divided.  By some estimates, the division was a third, a third and a third – a third in favor of the revolution, a third who were loyal to the crown and a third that were largely indifferent.

Tired of war after six years of fighting, on the eve of the final battle, the number of people who were supportive of remaining under the Crown was higher than those who wanted to sever the tie and build a completely independent republic.

That final battle, the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, was to be decisive.

In their latest novel (2012), “Victory at Yorktown,” Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen are fair to both sides, until near the end when it is clear where their loyalties lie.

They bring out that, immediately prior to the battle, many in Congress wanted to negotiate with London on British terms.  Russia’s Catherine the Great had offered her services as mediator.  The proposal was that the new United States of America should remain within the British Empire but would maintain its newly created federation.  A total amnesty was proposed for those involved in the rebellion.

Washington had to persuade them to wait, to see first how the battle went.   If the battle was lost to the Continental Army, then a peace treaty would have been signed in Britain’s favor and the US would have remained within the Empire, under the Crown, similar to the way Canada is today.

If the sole combatants had been Washington’s Continental Army and British regulars, the British would have won.  But the French came in and made a big difference.  The British lost and their army surrendered.

Even then, the British could have simply sent another military force to continue the war.  Britain was the greatest military power on earth at the time but the parliament in London voted against further funds for the prosecution of the war.  The subsequent Treaty of Paris in 1783 recognized the new United States of America as a sovereign nation, albeit one without a sovereign!

The French paid dearly for their support of the rebel forces.  The country’s finances were in trouble as a result of the conflict and before the decade was out they had their own revolution, exacerbated by radical ideas brought back from America by French soldiers.

Following Washington’s victory at Yorktown, about 100,000 loyalists fled the country, mostly to Canada.  That was roughly 10% of the country.  Many loyalists remained – far more than left.  Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson came from an Anglophile, East Coast family that always toasted the king on his birthday, right up until after World War II (“Picking up the Reins” by Norman Moss, 2002, page 65).

In reading the book “Victory at Yorktown,” you realize how easily the battle could have gone the other way.  It’s too easy to say it was won because the French Navy was there.

There is also a biblical explanation.

Genesis 48 tells us that the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to become “a multitude of nations” and a “great” nation.

Many people in Victorian times and the early part of the twentieth century believed this prophecy was fulfilled in the British Empire and the United States.  The British Empire comprised dozens of different countries, each different from the other.  They were all united by a common loyalty to the Crown.

If the US had lost the battle of Yorktown and remained within the empire, it would have been a part of the multitude of nations.  It had to be separated from the Crown even though, arguably, most did not want that separation in 1781.

The country went on to become what Winston Churchill called “The Great Republic.”

At the same time, the loyalists that moved to Canada made Canada the great Dominion of the British Empire, which it became.

The Battle of Yorktown was likely a foregone conclusion!


Margaret thatcher

It was announced today that former British Prime Minister, Margaret (Baroness) Thatcher, has died of a stroke at the age of 87.

It is impossible to appreciate the difference she made without looking back to the changes that took place after World War II, when Britain entered a different era.

At the end of World War II, the British people voted in a Labour government, rejecting their wartime leader, Winston Churchill.  The new government was pledged to radical changes at home and abroad at a time when Britain could least afford it.

In accordance with socialist convictions at the time, major areas of the economy were brought under state control – railways, coal mines, steel, health, to name just four.  At the time, socialism was all the rage.  The Soviet Union was still looked up to by many, after its significant efforts in World War II, as “the worker’s paradise.”  Other countries in Europe had also embraced communism, along with China, North Korea, North Vietnam and Mongolia.  Many of the countries in western Europe were social democracies, meaning that their economies were mixed, with government heavily involved in many areas, including healthcare.

It was to be a long time before most people realized that government should not run businesses.  Even today, the conviction remains in most western countries that healthcare is best administered at the government level.

Growing up in England in the 1950’s and 60’s, there was a sense of terminal decline.  The economy seemed to be in perpetual crisis, culminating in the 1967 devaluation of the British currency, which, in turn, led to the collapse of the sterling area.  Britain’s currency had been the second reserve currency after the US dollar since Bretton Woods, with all former British colonies (except Canada) using it to trade and leaving their savings in British banks.  By 1967, Britain could not maintain the value of its currency and change was inevitable.

At the same time, the postwar Labour government had started dismantling the empire.  This process speeded up during the 60’s.

In the first few years of the 70’s, the crisis just seemed to get worse and worse, with the unions holding the country to ransom.  In 1974, the country introduced a three-day working week in an effort to conserve power.  In the middle of winter, people were freezing.  Television stations (of which there were only three) had to close down at 10.30 pm to save power.  Because too many people all went to the toilet at once (the British do not say “bathroom”), the TV stations had to stagger their closing times so as not to drain the water supply!

By 1979, the British were tired of this continual decline and voted in a new Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher, who became the first woman prime minister in British history.  In contrast to the terminal decline of previous decades, the 80’s were an exciting time to be in Britain, with significant changes taking place.  Of course, these changes did not please everybody.

In trying to turn things around, Mrs. Thatcher had to tackle the unions, who were very powerful.   Unemployment increased rapidly in the first few years of her period in office, but she stuck to her avowed policies of returning the country to greatness.  The prime minister was unyielding – “the lady’s not for turning” as she proclaimed at a Conservative party conference.

Internationally, her strong will shocked other countries, un-used to British leaders standing up for their country.  In 1982, when Argentina seized control of the British Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, she sent a military force to forcibly take them back.  She frequently battled with EU leaders who she thought were taking advantage of Britain.  When on a visit to Poland, she insisted on meeting with Lech Walesa, the anti-communist union leader, whom she encouraged to pursue a course that contributed to the collapse of communism in eastern Europe.  Whereas it was generally believed that once a socialist revolution had taken place, there was no turning back, she showed that things could be reversed.  Eastern Europe is very different now that it’s free!  It was the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who named her “the Iron Lady.”

In the UK itself, you can see clearly what a difference private enterprise makes when you take a journey by rail today!

Millions of people who once worked for the state now work for private companies.  The City of London, Britain’s financial center, which accounts for 20% of the UK economy, was radically altered by her administration.  Other nations copied her actions – extending free enterprise and reducing taxation.

Having made a major difference to Britain’s economy, Mrs. Thatcher failed to address what is arguably the biggest drain on national finances – the National Health Service.   With her passing, it is doubtful anybody else will ever have the courage to tackle the NHS, which means that the financial burden is set to continue.

Internationally, there were two great failings – Zimbabwe and Hong Kong, the last two British colonies of any consequence.  Her policies led to the disastrous dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, which continues to this day; and, it was felt, she could have got a better deal for Britain’s most economically successful colony, Hong Kong, when it was returned to China in 1997.

Margaret Thatcher, it has been said, put the “Great” back into “Great Britain,” at least for a time – the country once again seems to be unraveling in the Great Recession.  The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, described her as one of the “defining” political figures of her age.

She was returned to power in 1983 and 1987, but finally ousted by members of her own party who did not appreciate her strong will and abrasive manner.  Living in the UK at that time, it was hard to find anybody who said they supported her, but when election day came, people voted with their wallets!  Most people felt they were financially better off with her in office.

Change is always risky.  Mrs. Thatcher set in train policies that continue to change the country, some in ways she would not appreciate.  Decentralization led to devolution, which gave the Scots their own parliament – and may result in Scottish independence next year; her beloved House of Lords was made more democratic during Tony Blair’s government; her staunch pro-Americanism led Tony Blair to back unpopular wars instigated by the United States; her anti-EU rhetoric may culminate in Britain leaving the EU within the next two years.

The greatest compliment to Mrs. Thatcher lies in the fact that all successive prime ministers, whether Conservative or Labour, have lived in her shadow and have continued most of her policies.  For her, and now the country, there was no turning back!

On a personal note, she paid a heavy price for her commitment to her convictions.  On at least one occasion she talked of her regret at not having time with her grandchildren, saying, “You can’t have it all.”

The government has said that she will not be given a state funeral but will be honored with a ceremonial funeral, on a par with the Queen Mother and Princess Diana.   At her own request, she will not lie in state.

A century from now, it is likely that only two prime ministers will be remembered from the 20th century – Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher!


Kim Jongun

Exactly a century ago the world was booming.  Globalization was all the rage, with the European empires dominating the globe.  It seemed like scientific progress would never end, with peace and prosperity for all.

Then, suddenly, it all came crashing down.  The repercussions are still with us to this day.

The dramatic turning point was an assassination in the Balkan city of Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, arguably the most significant event of the century.  The Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot and killed by Serbian nationalists.  This event triggered off World War One.  Within weeks the world was at war and stock markets would take years to recover, if they recovered at all (Russia’s new government simply abolished the capitalist system – others were to follow suit).

Four great empires collapsed in the wake of World War I.  Two others continued but fell apart after World War II, which, in turn, was a consequence of WWI.  Could the American empire collapse in the wake of a serious conflict, triggered by an event thousands of miles away?

Most people in 1914 had likely never heard of Sarajevo (most people even now!).  Just as an unexpected event in an obscure part of the world led to history’s most monumental conflict, with ripples that still continue, a sudden, dramatic development could change the world today.

Could Pyongyang be the trigger?

At the time of writing, North Korea is increasingly belligerent, threatening South Korea, the US, and Japan.  The hermit kingdom, as its often called, has nuclear missiles which can reach an estimated thousand miles – meaning it could easily hit South Korea, killing millions, Japan, and even Alaska.  The capital of South Korea, Seoul, is a short distance from the border.  The North has the world’s fourth biggest military.  An invasion of South Korea would involve US troops immediately.  A significant percentage of American troops would be killed if the North begins by using its nuclear missiles.

Of course, such a move would be suicidal on the part of the North – but the new young head of state, Kim Jong Un, is clearly irrational and paranoid, two character traits that often afflict dictators.  The communist monarchy that rules North Korea (Kim is the third generation member of the family to rule) is totally out of touch with reality, a consequence of its self-imposed isolation.

Bible prophecy does not mention any great conflict in the region of the Koreas.  The focus of prophecy remains the Middle East.  Talking of events that will take place before His second coming, Jesus Christ said:  “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.”  (Luke 21:20)

Daniel 11:40 talks of an end-time clash between the kings of the North and of the South, two powers north and south of Jerusalem.  North Korea is decidedly east.

However, it should be noted that the United States, still the world’s greatest military power at this time, is not mentioned in events to take place at the very end.  This suggests a major set-back for the US sometime between now and the events prophesied in Luke and Daniel.  A war In the Far East could be that major set-back.

Even if limited, it would have potentially disastrous economic consequences.  South Korea is one of the world’s major economies.  Japan is the third greatest economy.  Any attack that involved either (plus the US) would have major repercussions on economies and stock markets around the world.  The loss of tens of thousands of US troops in South Korea would also be devastating for the US.

War may not happen.  Whenever North Korea makes threatening noises as it is doing now, it’s likely there is some internal conflict that is being worked out.  Maybe Mr. Kim is showing his military that he really is in charge?  Maybe there is growing fear of losing control?  The number one priority of the regime always has been, is, and will always be, self-preservation.  Maybe they are just paranoid because of a recent UN vote imposing greater sanctions.  Who knows?  Without a free press in the country itself, we may never know.

While North Korea is not a focus of prophecy, events on the Korean peninsular could still have an impact on the world just as they did sixty years ago during the Korean War.  It should be remembered that the conflict then did not result in any victory or defeat – it ended as a draw, with no power gaining the victory.

In any conflict now, likely nobody would win and everybody would lose.


Hmmm . .

China has become one of the largest producers of bibles in the world”  (The Economist, March 30th, 2013).

“…Christians make up 5% of the population, some 67 million people……Unofficial  headcounts say that China has more Christians than members of the Communist Party (about 82 million people)”  (ibid.  Information from Pew Research Center).

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill