The Spiritual Differences Between the French Revolution and the American Revolution
For all my French friends, and Americans of French ancestry (like me) — Happy Bastille Day (the French call it "La Fête Nationale" or "Le Quatorze Juillet")!
July 14, 1789, was a pivotal moment in the early days of the French Revolution. However, it certainly was not a peaceful taking of votes for independence as in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. On July 14, 1789, a mob in Paris stormed the Bastille — a fortress/prison. The mob feared that they would be attacked by King Louis XVI's army, so they wanted to grab all the guns and gunpowder they could. The Bastille looked like a good ammo dump to plunder.
The fort also held political prisoners ... on that day it held a total of seven. The troops inside eventually surrendered, and the mob then proceeded to murder the officer in charge along with seven other soldiers. And that is the event the French use to celebrate their independence from tyranny.
The story almost sounds similar to our story of the minutemen at Concord Bridge, except we were trying to prevent the British regulars from taking our guns and gunpowder, which we as free people already legally owned. The minutemen also did not murder soldiers who had surrendered; our militia fought British regulars in a running gun-fight all the way back to Boston.
Both the American Revolution (1775-1783) and the French Revolution (1789-1799) happened around the same time period, shared many of the same ideas and goals, and both eventually resulted in free constitutional republics. However, there was most definitely a spiritual component to both events, and these components for a while drove the two nations in two separate directions.
1. The French Revolution was decidedly anti-Christian.
This sounds surprising at first, since France was evangelized by the early church in the first century, and has claimed Catholicism as its main (or only at times) religion for centuries. Yet, by the late 1700s the church was the largest landholder, was free from all taxation, and was seen by many as just as corrupt and extravagant as the royalty that ruled the nation.
Beginning in 1793, the French revolutionary government abolished the Catholic monarchy and confiscated all church property. Cities and streets that had been named after saints were given secular names. Some 30,000 French priests were exiled and hundreds were murdered by mobs. The Christian calendar was replaced by one that measured the years beginning not with the birth of Jesus, but with the first year of the revolution. The seven-day week was also banned and replaced with a ten-day week.