A while back I bought a couple of books that made me stop and rethink some of the stuff I've known for years. One was Stonewalll Jackson the Black Man's Friend and the other was Patton, Blood, Guts and Prayer.
I hadn't really read much about Jackson's concern with the slaves' salvation and I was interested to read how Mr. Kean would reconcile Patton's having an affair with his own niece and his being a particularly devout believer.
In Jackson's case, most of what I had previously read went along the lines him being so fearless in battle because he believed in predestination and therefore believed that his time was appointed and God wouldn't let him be killed until that time so he didn't need to worry about it. Mr. Williams' book covers a sideline story about how and why Jackson started and supported a Sunday School for the slaves even though such an undertaking was illegal at the time. Williams casts doubt on whether Jackson ever really made peace with the whole predestination thing and that, in itself, sheds something of a new light on Jackson as a man of valor.
The tale told of Jackson's Sunday School class shows his deep and sincere concern for the spiritual welfare of his black brethran. One incident is particularly revealing. Shortly after the First Battle of Manassas, there arrived in Springfield Va. a letter from Jackson. The town turned out to hear the great man's words thinking the letter must be his account of the battle which he was so instrumental in winning. The letter spoke nothing of the battle. It simply asked about how the negro Sunday School was doing in his absence and included his tithe. Sometimes lot can be learned about someone from what they don't say.
All in all, it opened a new dimension in my feeble little understanding of the great man and that was certainly worth the book's price.
The Patton book proved worthwhile as well. I once had a Military History Professor who had held onto an intense dislike for Patton for over forty years. My Professor had been to one of Patton's little speeches and was disgusted by the language. He told our class that there was simply no excuse for someone to talk that way. When I did my term paper on Patton, I pointed out that several sources confirmed that he wasn't raised with that kind of language but had adopted it intentionally because he had to turn nice, American farm boys into cold blooded Kraut killers, I got an A and a comment on the paper thanking me for pointing that out as it was something the Professor had not considered all those years. Keane makes no excuses for Patton's language but does explain that it was something the man started doing intentionally to motivate his troops. I expected that much but really thought I had a trump card in that there was no way to say the man was a great Christian when he had an affair with his own niece and it may have gone on for years.
Keane makes no excuses for the affair. He simply tells us what Mrs. Patton told her daughter about it and leaves it at that. It seems enough.
The famous prayer for clear weather gets good attention and the various stories about the prayer's origins are covered and weighed in detail. According to the Pastors involved, Patton told them that prayer was a powerful force and that all of his men praying would bring an immense supernatural power to bear on the weather and the enemy.
The book goes into much more detail about the prayer and about Patton's religion in general than I care to write about. I don't intend to write a book review here. I just want to explain what it left me thinking.
What it left me thinking was that Patton was not so unlike so many of the great, heroic men in the Bible. David took another man's wife and then essentially had him murdered to cover up what he had done. Abraham was so afraid when a king noticed his wife was smokin' hot that he told the king that she was his sister so the king wouldn't kill him to take her and he let the king take her away to marry her. What a spineless worm! (And boy did that piss the king off when he found out about it).
So Patton was flawed but no more than the rest of us. He was flawed but still knew that the work he had to do, his success or failure, came from God and he was willing to turn to God and seek His provision for the troubles that were ahead.
A little bit deeper dimension on Patton as well.