Harry’s Book Review: Rora

Book Title: Rora
Author: James Byron Huggins
Copyright Date: 2001, 2007 Bronze Bow Edition
Publisher: Bronze Bow Publishing, LLC
ISBN: 978-1-932458-51-0
Audio, e-book or foreign translation avail? No
Suitable for children? Teens and up

Rora is a work of historical fiction revolving around the defense led by Joshua Gianavel in an effort to save his people, the Waldenses, who lived in the Rora valley in 1655. This is a story of religious persecution, but it requires no great leap of imagination to see how this relates to our own civil rights today. At its core, this is a story about standing up for what is right in opposition to those who ignore their consciences for the sake of personal or political gain.

The Waldenses (or Vaudois in French) were an old religious group with roots going back, arguably, further than the Roman Catholic Church. They had their own translation of the New Testament, the Lingua Romana, in a time when Rome forbade the possession of the scriptures. They did not believe they required a priest in order to obtain forgiveness, but rather that forgiveness comes directly from God. They did not believe that prayer required a church, but rather that a prayer said in a barn was just as good. They did not believe that the bone relics
in Rome were of any value before God at all. In the eyes of Rome they were heretics and had to be eliminated.

Rome had been trying to get rid of the Waldenses for some time. An agreement had been struck in 1561 which was to grant them freedom to worship, but the Inquisition would not accept that agreement as valid. Only one generation prior to 1655 the church had attacked the Waldenses and killed some 16,000 of them, however, some escaped and survived and came back to rebuild. Consequently, the Inquisition came back to exterminate them once again.

Joshua Gianavel had been a mere boy the last time Rome tried to wipe out his people. He had escaped into the Alps then. Hiding in the forests he learned about troop movements and how an organized military had to function. Evidently he learned exceptionally well. His understanding of strategy and his ability to defeat large, trained forces with only a small, untrained band proved to be a serious challenge to the army of Piedmont and the Inquisition. He put up a fight against seemingly insurmountable odds and simply would not be defeated.

I would rather not offer any spoilers regarding this novel. If I may editorialize a bit, this is one book which I believe should be on the short list of everyone who has the right to vote. This novel paints the clearest picture I have yet seen of the reasons why our first and second amendments are so important. I can’t say the author had those issues in mind when he wrote this
book, but given the state of our national discussion on gun control there is a very timely comparison to be made to our own future and Europe’s past.

With regard to the first amendment, the combination of religion, free speech and the press has always seemed to offer a bit of a puzzle to some folks. The situation of the Waldenses offers clarity for that. The crimes for which they were to be exterminated all revolved around issues for which the first amendment would offer protection. They believed in relating to God without an intermediary priest (religion), they publicly preached their different religion (free speech) and they had their own copies of the scriptures (the press—no, it’s not just about reporting the news). In America in 2013 it’s hard to imagine there being much of an issue with the Waldensian world view, and that is one of the great successes on the part of our founding fathers. In 1655 that world view was grounds for your entire people group to be eradicated. And it is in 2013 too. The situation in the South Sudan is regularly shared here on Survivalblog, and that is not the only place it is happening.

The situation in Rora was one in which the government of Piedmont and the Inquisition wanted to wrap up their cleansing quickly and with as little international notice as possible. One of the factors in the novel was the possibility of intervention on the part of Cromwell and England. Keeping things as quiet as possible was a priority. Things are no different today. No one
wants to defend the actions they know are wrong. If they cannot hide the actions, they will offer whatever reason may be considered plausible to the international community, but certainly not declare it as a religious purge. Consider the situation of the Kachin people in Myanmar (Burma). They are a Christian minority in a Buddhist nation and they are under attack. Right now
they are in the mountains fighting a battle as a minority in a situation very much like that of Joshua Gianavel’s. Religious persecution is alive and well in the world today. We in America are simply blessed in that our founding fathers took lessons learned elsewhere and applied them here. We are enjoying the benefit of their wisdom.

This audience probably has little need to hear any defense of the Second Amendment, but one point that is worth making is on the subject of the ability to resist tyranny. Lately there seems to be no shortage of critics who insist the second amendment is outdated because there is no way the citizenry could stand up to the military. Rora is about that very issue. The odds faced by the
Waldenses were every bit as long as the odds the American citizenry would face today, yet the Waldenses stood up for what they believed in spite of those odds, and with a brilliant leader they won battles which no one expected them to win. And yes, history backs up these victories.

I can already hear the arguments about how technology has changed and the mismatch today is even greater than it was then. No doubt, but stop and ask a Marine about his experience in the sandbox and how thoroughly we have prevailed against third world non-uniformed combatants. Sure, we can wipe a city off the map if we so choose, much like what happened to the Waldenses in the Pelice, but when it comes to the mountains it is another matter entirely, much like Rora. Add in the issue of a house divided and there is plenty of validity to the argument that an armed citizenry can hold tyranny at bay. It is a matter of having the will to do so.

It should also be noted that the mismatch in equipment may even out during a conflict. The inhabitants of Rora did not have cannons to start with, but they acquired them in battle. If America’s own military were to be turned on its own citizenry, a very justifiable fear if there is any truth to the rumors of litmus test on our top brass, I would expect that there would be some patriots in the armed forces who would not comply and quite possibly would transfer equipment from the military to the civilian world. By no means would it be an even fight, but I believe there would be a stronger will on the part of those fighting for freedom than there would on the part of those fighting under orders to kill those they thought they were to protect.

Joshua Gianavel is an excellent picture of the will to fight. With the foundation of his experiences as a child he knew what his enemy was about and he knew what future his people faced. His choice to fight against far greater odds is what made history. It can be done. Do you have the will?