The Real War

The Real War

Dear Thomas, 

As I look back on that day some 30 years ago, when our first crop made it to harvest, I remember thinking how you had your whole life in front of you. Later you say, you wish you could fight for your country just like your father did, but I never told you everything I did during the war. Tonight I want to tell you the truth.

The revolution never ends. It was hallowed as a triumph of the righteous over the wicked. But the battle lines were not clearly drawn. The real war, the one between good and evil, was fought within ourselves.

War brings out the worst

Robert Rogers attacking Abe Woodhull

How else to explain that Robert Rogers, a man who tried to kill me, taught me the trick that saved our crop and thus our family? Or that Edmund Hewlett, a man I tried to kill, became a great man of science?

God sees the evil and the good in war

John Graves Simcoe

The hated Colonel Simcoe, now Governor Simcoe (of Upper Canada), abolished slavery in his province. The man, who took your grandfather from us, who oppressed so many colonists, gave freedom to generations of others.

These contradictions tortured me for years…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In war there are surprises

Turn: Washington’s Spies

Abraham Woodhull’s letter to his son Thomas, shown here in part, ended the four-season show called Turn: Washington’s Spies.

a book about the warThe series, produced by AMC (2014-2017) is based on Alexander Rose’s book, Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring (2007)—the true story of the Culper Ring.

The Culper Ring

The period is 1776 to 1781. Long Island farmer, Abe Woodhull and three childhood friends formed an unlikely spy ring, which eventually helped turn the tide during the American Revolutionary War.

Humbled by their sacrifices, I felt in awe that our fledging nation prevailed against such odds.

Woodhull’s reflections on the lessons of war constitute the most important takeaway of the show…

The real war, the one between good and evil, was fought within ourselves.

War is a ongoing fact of the human conditionFor us—right now—this is a searing word of truth. In any clash of human beings, things are not as cut and dried as we’d like to think. Woodhull grappled with the contradiction of goodness that surfaced in men he considered archenemies.

We can have righteous goals, but fail to win “the real war,” if we choose evil means to attain them—a genuine temptation in any struggle.

We can hide evil—such as bitterness—in our hearts, yet be transformed through suffering to ultimately choose good.

War is ruthless

Simcoe’s aggression toward the patriots

Such is the story of John Graves Simcoe, a colonel of the British army. As portrayed through Turn, Simcoe is a terrifyingly brutal man. Countless times, he savagely kills anyone in his way and would’ve been a war criminal by our standards. His list of enemies grows on both sides—Patriots and British. As I watched the show, I longed for someone to take him out.

(Spoiler alert…) But near the end, Simcoe appears to be mortally wounded and is told to put his affairs in order. Finally, the dreaded Simcoe will die! Yet something happens to him as he lies upon a deathbed. Something deep within seems to shift, and miraculously, he recovers. As the war ends, Simcoe is assigned a leadership role in the province of Ontario. The show tells only some of his accomplishments.

war brings out the worst and sometimes the best in people

The real John Graves Simcoe

In real life, Simcoe founded York (now Toronto) and introduced institutions such as courts of law, trial by jury, English common law, freehold land tenure, and most notably, the abolition of slavery (long before its abolition in England or the United States). He is regarded by Canadians as a founding figure in their history and is commemorated annually with Simcoe Day in Toronto.

Incredible. Who am I to judge what lies in the heart of any man or woman?

It comes down to the real war, the one between good and evil, the individual choices fought within us—before God, not men. Will we win this struggle? It begins with hating what God hates…

There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
 A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.”

— Proverbs 6:16-19, emphasis mine (NASB)

free speak and debate are better than warThese seven things are raging in our day. For all our technology, science, education, medicine, and knowledge, the human condition remains. Especially strife. Defined as “angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues,” strife is the present climate of our culture.

And God hates the spreading of strife.

Unity not warWill we condemn those we don’t like or disagree with? Will we turn violent in the name of good? Will we justify ruthless or lawless acts for the sake of the cause?

Choose God over war

Will we stay close to the heart of God?

Or will we stay close to the heart of God and love what He loves?

Blessed are the peacemakers, the humble, the ones who bring unity…treating others as we want to be treated…listening in order to understand, even when it’s difficult to agree…understanding the balance of justice and mercy…choosing forgiveness and grace over bitterness…and praying instead of participating in shouting matches.

Will we represent the living God?

For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

James 1:20 (ESV) 

What are your thoughts on the real war?


  1. I really like this Susan. I believe it IS possible to speak truth into a situation in a way that encourages peaceful unity. I also believe that there is wisdom in not even entering in to some conversations. Actions speak way louder than words. If our actions reflect or mimic the actions of Jesus, we will be so much more effective.

    • Thanks Paul! I felt moved to present these truths without getting political. A delicate dance but hopefully helpful.