If you’re after a good trivia question for upcoming Christmas BBQs, try this one: Which two other famous people died on the same day as JFK, 22 November 1963? The answers are CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley. Most readers will be well aware of CS Lewis, but not as many will be aware of Huxley.
The latter is the author of the influential book, Brave New World. The story is about a futuristic society in which happiness is chemically engineered. It’s a famous work which takes the line that happiness can be achieved through external influences. Such a contrast to the Christian worldview of Lewis, which says that happiness is only achieved through surrender to the Spirit of God as revealed in Jesus. And a contrast again to Kennedy, the first Catholic president and by all accounts, a man who desired peace in the world, would have pulled combat troops out of Vietnam, and above all, the person we can thank for life still existing on this planet due to his role in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
Peter Kreeft has written a highly acclaimed tale of an imaginary conversation between Lewis, Huxley and Kennedy somewhere in the afterlife on the day they died. The book, called Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley, takes a look at the worldviews of these three people who influenced their worlds in their own distinct ways. I haven’t read this book but I plan to buy it. Now would seem the perfect time of any to read what seems like a fascinating story.
The continuing allure of the Kennedy story
I’ve always been fascinated by the JFK assassination. Like millions of others around the world, I find the continuing mystery surrounding his death to be incredibly alluring. Everything about the story, a young President with movie star looks, his wife with equally stunning looks and elegance, the optimism he brought to America, and the national and global struggles that he oversaw during his brief presidency, make for a script that the most creative film producer would probably never have dreamed up.
Then of course there are the conspiracy theories. In recent days we’ve heard again that the reason these conspiracy theories arise is because we simply cannot accept that a lone citizen could so easily get rid of the most powerful person in the world. Many of the theories have been debunked, but one that has me convinced is the recent story shown on SBS called JFK: The Smoking Gun. While admittedly not a new theory, the author, former Australian detective, Colin McLaren, says he has the evidence to prove it.
Basically he claims that Oswald fired the first two shots but couldn’t have fired the third. That last shot which blew Kennedy’s head apart couldn’t have been fired by the same rifle that fired the first two shots. The first two shots (the first of which missed) were fired with ‘full metal jacket’ bullets which were not designed to explode on impact, like the third shot did. But if Oswald didn’t fire the third shot, that doesn’t necessarily mean there was a conspiracy either. What McLaren claims is that the third and fatal shot was fired accidentally by a Secret Service agent in one of the cars behind Kennedy’s. The evidence he puts forward is compelling, especially as it comes from ballistics experts.
There are other details which I won’t go into here, but this story left me quite stunned. The next couple of mornings I woke up feeling like a major world story had been revealed: “they’ve solved the Kennedy assassination!” It felt like major news to me. It’s the first theory I’ve heard where everything seems to add up.
The only thing that leaves me shaking my head about this story is that, if it’s true, it is almost incomprehensible how an unbelievable set of circumstances led to the death of a President. Not that the evidence isn’t there for it, but it is just incredible if true. McLaren also claims that when the first shot missed, shrapnel from it hit Kennedy, which you can seemingly see from the footage. For shrapnel to bounce up off the road and hit the President of all people or things when it could literally have gone anywhere, is bizarre in itself. But then, for the Secret Service agent to accidentally fire off his rifle and blow Kennedy’s head off, seems even more unlucky.
The Kennedys certainly do seem cursed, if you believe in that sort of thing. Jackie gave birth to a stillborn child a few years prior, and three months prior to the assassination, their two day old baby died of complications. Then of course Bobby was cut down five years later, and John Jnr died in tragic circumstances some years ago.
This day, marking the 50th anniversary of the killing of John f. Kennedy, is a day to reflect on. The enduring question remains, “what if he had lived?” What sort of world would we be living in now. The same can be asked of Bobby Kennedy. If he had become President, as he surely would have, how would the world be different now?
But yesteryear is gone. It happened and we can’t change it. So what we can do is reflect on the legacy of not just Kennedy, but Lewis and Huxley as well. What sort of world did they leave behind? Kennedy was seen as transforming into a great President when he was gunned down. The legacy of Lewis is established. He is perhaps the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th century and has made Christian faith perfectly reasonable for millions of people, especially through his famous Mere Christianity. As for Huxley, his ideal of a world where drugs and mood-altering behaviours like illicit sex leave everyone delirious has proved a delusion as the scourge of addiction takes hold of, particularly Western society, like never before.
I have been devouring the documentaries about Kennedy on TV lately. I wish there were some on all three of these fascinating people, and their combined legacy. There are certainly some very good articles out there. Here are a few of them:
Finally, here are some quotes from each man which reveal the worldview they subscribed to. Simply fascinating:
“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” — C. S. Lewis
“God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness.” –Aldous Huxley
“Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.” — John F. Kennedy