Growing up in an area that was steeped in Civil War history, I suppose my love for tales of that era is not all that unique. I know I am not alone in saying I thoroughly enjoy reading not only the history and first-hand accounts, but also historical fiction that is based in that time period. The historical fiction genre has many fans, and many offerings, as a trip to your local bookstore will quickly reveal. Many also enjoy watching films set during that time, including the classics like Gettysburg and Gone with the Wind. However, if you asked what the best Civil War period historical fiction film is, many critics say Shenandoah.
Perhaps it is Jimmy Stewart’s unique speech, or maybe it’s his character, Charlie Anderson’s, stubborn but straightforward thinking. Or, it could be the picturesque beauty of the landscape, or even the idealized family life of yesteryear that makes the film so enjoyable. More likely, what draws the viewer is the seemingly small decisions with monumental results that plunge the family into the midst of a war they had hoped to avoid.
Early in the film, Mr. Anderson, a farmer in Virginia, is determined that he is going to keep his family (six sons, a daughter, and daughter in law) out of the war. Even as the battles grew increasingly closer to the borders of his 500-acre farm, Anderson decides that, because he had built his farm without slaves, the war was none of his concern.
When asked about his apparent apathy, he sternly replies, “My corn I take serious because it’s my corn, and my potatoes and my tomatoes and fences I take note of because they’re mine. But this war is not mine and I take no note of it.”
Nonetheless, war, particularly on the edges of your farm, has a way of forcing even the most stubborn to take note of it. The Civil War would certainly be no exception. The Anderson family goes from completely unengaged in the War to absolutely and irrevocably changed by it through the course of the film. A chain of events, set off by the youngest Anderson boy being mistakenly taken prisoner by Union troops, results in exactly the kind of suffering and loss that Mr. Anderson had hoped to avoid.
When Charlie Anderson receives word that his son has been captured, he utters a line that is the pivot point of the entire movie.
“Now, it concerns us”
Now. Now, that his boy has been captured. Now, that light of his life, his youngest son, the one he affectionately called “Boy” is in a prison somewhere. Now it concerns him.
Perhaps you should have taken the war seriously before now, Mr. Anderson. Perhaps, you should have noticed that the sound of artillery was getting closer. Maybe, you should have sat down and talked with your boys about being careful after all those skirmishers got shot on your land. Perchance, you might have stifled your indifference and noticed that your baby boy was wearing a Confederate hat as he headed off to hunt squirrels in a WAR ZONE!
Wake up Mr. Anderson! You stayed so busy with YOUR corn, YOUR farm, YOUR fields, YOUR potatoes, YOUR tomatoes, YOUR fences. So busy, that the war around you didn’t even matter until it had snatched Boy right out from under your nose.
Oh, Mr. Anderson… why was your concern so late in coming? Now, you are going to start on a journey to get him back that is going to cost you dearly. Your family will never be the same.
IF you get him back, Boy will never be the same.
In fact, by the time you see him again, he’s going to have been in prison, he is going to have been shot. He is going to receive scars that will never go away.
Why Mr. Anderson? Why were you not concerned before now?
But wait, reader, before you scold Mr. Anderson, ask yourself a question.
How concerned are you with the spiritual war that is going on just outside the doors of your Christian home? Are you so busy with YOUR job, YOUR house, YOUR vacation, YOUR cars, YOUR life, that you have failed to recognize the danger that is lurking for your CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN?
What habits, friends, entertainment, or priorities are they picking up that may be putting them in a place of vulnerability for being overcome by Satan?
Are you concerned now? Or, will you only be concerned when your child becomes one of the nearly 70 percent that leave the faith to never return.
Are you concerned now? Or, are you holding your concern for when your child becomes one of the nearly one million young people to attempt suicide each year?
We are in a spiritual war! What will it take to get you to turn off the TV, cancel the guys fishing trip, forego the ladies trip, say no to some overtime, or whatever else it is that you are wrapped up in?
What will it take to have you engage your children in spiritual things?
Are you waiting for an opiate addiction? A pregnancy? Razor marks on their thighs?
Great, you taught her how to apply make-up. Great, you always get him to practice. But, what about their spiritual wellbeing?
Does it concern you now?
It’s time to engage your children in prayer, discipleship, and church attendance. Spend some time teaching them the faith before you teach them how to throw a curveball or land the perfect back handspring. Tell coaches and leagues that infringe upon spiritual events that your children will not be involved. Let nothing take priority over their spiritual wellbeing. Know their friends. Dig through their social media (Have the password for every account). Ask where they are going and when they will be back. Find out what they are watching and to what they are listening. Talk to them spiritually.
If they are captured… All the tomatoes, potatoes, fences, and fields cannot fix the damage.
Neither will all the extra vacations, bass boats, shopping trips, new cars, fine homes, and job promotions.
Mr. Anderson, you cannot sit this one out. Your kids are on the line.