The Power of One

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(UPDATED: March 2016) 

South African born, Australian novelist, Bryce Courtenay, shot to fame with his first book, The Power of One, in 1989. The three-part book tells the powerful story of the struggles and growth into maturity of an Anglo-African boy nicknamed Peekay.

The book and its title suggest that one person has the power to achieve a great deal. It reflects the notion of "self-made" men having significant power.

In a somewhat different way, it reflects sentiments expressed in a song first made popular by crooner, Frank Sinatra: I did it my way!

Paul Anka, while on a visit to France in 1967, heard a song that impressed him. He managed to get rights to the lyrics and adapted the lyrics and tune, then made it available to Frank Sinatra, who recorded it in 1968. It virtually became Sinatra’s signature song, though many other artists have sung it through the years.

The song’s character is nearing the end of a supposedly full life and has no regrets, as the second and last verses declare:

I’ve lived a life that’s full -
I’ve travelled each and every highway.
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way. ...

For what is a man? What has he got?
If not himself - Then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way.

Yes, it was my way.

Many of the world’s problems, many problems experienced in small groups, or even by individuals, happen because far too many people are interested only in doing things THEIR way.

The Norwegian nation discovered this reality in July 2011, when 32-year-old Anders B. Breivik, aka Andrew Berwick, decided to deal with that country’s multiculturalism HIS way. He demonstrated the immensely destructive Power of One with his bombing of government buildings in Oslo and his shooting rampage at a multicultural political youth camp.

On one day in July, this one lone individual, exerted the Power of One with such force that eight people died from his bombing and a further 69 died from his shootings at the youth camp. Many others were injured. The nation was shocked and stunned by the atrocities committed by one of their own.

Breivik also released (published on the Internet), on the day of his attacks, his rambling thoughts and "borrowed" comments, entitled: 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence. Under the name, Andrew Berwick, supposedly in London, Breivik’s "compendium" presents his beliefs, worldview, perceptions of what was happening in Norway and Europe, and his perceived solutions to the problems. It is a lengthy document, with an extensive table of contents, some 1507 pages divided into three major sections, and several pages of self-promotional photoshopped pages of photos of himself - revealing some serious delusions of grandeur.

A great deal of Breivik’s "compendium" material is not his, but has been lifted from a number of other people who have Internet blogs or websites expressing their views. A mixture of polemic and political diatribe material through to sensible but controversial articles and arguments, to bomb making recipes, personal diary entries (Breivik’s) to question and answer material (where Breivik asks his own questions and answers himself) including: “Q: Who is your favourite contemporary author and why? A: That would be Fjordman. Despite a couple of attempts, I have not been able to meet with him even though he is Norwegian...I found that Fjordman had written about many of the same topics I was writing about. The only difference being that he was a professional essay writer and I was not. Our views are quite similar with the exception of me being an actual armed resistance fighter. I had researched hundreds of writers in the past, many of whom are good. However, I really felt a connection to Fjordmans essays. He is most likely the most talented right wing essay writer in Europe...”

Breivik was so obsessed with "Fjordman" that he quoted and used some of his material and comments some 111 times in his "compendium".

"Fjordman" was a "pen-name" or pseudonym used by fellow Norwegian, 36-year-old Peder Jensen, in his blogs dealing with problems relating to multiculturalism, and quoted on various sites - especially right-wing and racist ones. Jensen had never met Breivik and had never had any concerns expressed over his blogs by authorities, but because Breivik regarded him so highly (and used so much of his material) Jensen was investigated by Norwegian authorities. His computer was confiscated. He had to prove he had no real connection with Breivik, his views and his extreme murderous actions. He obtained legal advice, publicly revealed his identity and gave an exclusive media interview before going into hiding.

Norwegian tabloid newspaper, Verdens Gang (VG) ("The way of the world") reported: "Jensen has a masters degree in culture and technology from the University of Oslo, and has studied Arabic at the University of Bergen and the American University in Cairo. In his master’s dissertation he wrote about censorship and blogging in Iran. He has never been a member of any political party in Norway, and after completing his compulsory military service, he says he has never touched a gun. After the terrorist attack and his blog being cited as an influence, Jensen says he will never use the alias «Fjordman» again. “I don’t wish to be associated with Breivik and his horrible actions”, he says."

While fellow Norwegian, ‘Fjordman’/Jensen, quoted by Breivik more than any others, faced very serious investigation and had needed legal assistance to clear away any notion that he had anything to do with Breivik’s extreme views and actions, he wasn’t the only one tainted by association and Breivik’s quoting of other people’s materials.

All authors quoted by Breivik were initially regarded with concern and even suspicion – being negatively impacted by association through Breivik’s use of their materials.  This included Christian Englishman and local British Christian political party candidate, Kyle Spotswood, quoted by Breivik only once.  Being a Christian in England (not Norway) did not prevent him being initially tainted and under suspicion.  This was not helped by Breivik’s claim that he was a Christian (later denied by him) and by some Norwegian police and other authorities referring to him as a ‘Fundamentalist Christian’.  This negative tainting by association was short-lived.

Examination of various quoted sources and authors soon revealed that they did not share Breivik’s extreme views, let alone being guilty members of any international network of extremists associated with Breivik.  Never-the-less, it was generally accepted at the time, that quotes and authors should be carefully checked.

However, in spite of Breivik’s initial claims, and being quoted and used by Breivik in his rambling and wordy ‘revolutionary manifesto’, it seems that no one else was involved in his extreme beliefs and even more extreme actions. His was the destructive Power of One.

The years of investigation and enquiry from 2011 through to today (early 2016) have failed to convince authorities that Breivik was legally insane, and more importantly, that any others mentioned in his “Manifesto 2083” (including ‘Fjordman’/Jensen and Kyle Spotswood) were part of his distorted conspiracy, agreed with or endorsed his extreme views and actions.  Years of investigation and scrutiny have revealed that he was a lonely, self-centred individual who was very much the destructive Power of One.

Breivik shows the dangerous extremes of wrong and unbalanced thinking that is tinged with supposed religious convictions. Acknowledging his actions were atrocious, he nevertheless felt justified in his murderous actions because he believed European Western values were being sold-out through the influx and influence of Muslim migrants and the Islamisation of Europe. He regarded multiculturalism as a total failure. He claimed to be Christian, interested in Freemasonry and the Knights Templar and linked to other white supremacist right wing groups in Europe and England. His understanding and notion of Christianity was nothing like the Biblical discipleship of Jesus Christ that is part of the commitment and lifestyle of millions around the world. It is nothing less than the vague idea, held by many without much thought or commitment, that if you are Western, white, and hold to certain cultural values, you are automatically a "Christian" - as distinct from a Muslim born in certain Middle Eastern countries (many of whom believe that EVERYONE is actually born a Muslim but become something else - and if you are born in a Western country, then after your "Islamic birth" you "automatically" become a "Christian"). As they often assume being a Westerner equates being a Christian, Breivik assumed that if you are born a European and hold to certain European values, and especially if sometime in your life you attend a State Church, you must be a Christian.

Breivik (and many others) certainly failed to equate Christianity with the radical discipleship of Jesus that commits people to living according to Jesus teachings, example, lifestyle and values.

Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize, suddenly discovered, in July 2011, that it is not exempt from extremists. The nation will remain in shock for a long time.

Mainstream political leaders in Britain, France and Germany, while acknowledging the positive contribution of many migrants, have also, in recent times, stated that their multicultural programmes have failed and tensions have increased. In a number of European nations there has been an increase in neo-Nazism and right-wing politics. The sad reality is, that no matter how unbalanced Anders Breivik may be, or may be regarded, many of his views echo across Internet cyberspace and are being voiced and listened to around the world.

Add to this growth of right-wing extremist thinking, the exclusive and destructive views of Islamic and other religious extremists, and a powder-keg of violence has the potential to erupt elsewhere, as well.

We advise people, and especially Christians, to be on the LOOKOUT for inappropriate and extremist thinking and expression, and endeavour to do their best to reach out to others with Truth, Compassion and Balance.

While Breivik is just one example (of many) of the destructive Power of One, many others are example of the encouraging, constructive and helpful Power of One. One person can be a powerful force for good. One person CAN make a real and positive difference.

Just one example is that of young American girl, Rachel Beckwith. Brought up in a Christian family Rachel was encouraged to be compassionate. At school, when aged only 5, she heard about a charity called, Locks of Love, through which people donated locks of hair to be turned into hairpieces for disadvantaged children and young people suffering significant long term medical hairloss. She wanted, and had, her long locks of hair cut off and donated to help cancer kids. Following her haircut she determined to grow it long again and make another hair donation - which she did a couple of years later.

Then this year Rachel heard about a charity raising funds to help provide clean drinkable water. She decided to help the American group, CHARITY:WATER, and began fundraising for them. In her own words: "On June 12th 2011, I’m turning 9. I found out that millions of people don’t live to see their 5th birthday. And why? Because they didn’t have access to clean, safe water so I’m celebrating my birthday like never before. I’m asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to fund freshwater projects in developing nations. Even better, every dollar is "proved" when the projects are complete, and photos and GPS coordinates are posted using Google Earth. My goal is to raise $300 by my birthday, June 12, 2011. Please consider helping me. Thank you so much!!!" Her mother helped her set up a social network page to promote her fund raising efforts.

She was disappointed that by her 9th birthday she had only managed to raise $220. The tragedy struck in July. On July 20 the family vehicle was struck by a trick in a 13-vehicle pile up and young Rachel was critically injured. She died from her injuries on July 23. In the days between her initial injuries and her death, the family’s pastor re-opened her social network appeal to help reach the intended $300 target she had set for her birthday the month before. Church members and friends quickly rallied to the cause and generously contributed to her fund raising appeal - often in increments of $9 - in recognition of her birthday wish (though one 5-year-old girl gave her piggy bank savings of $2.27!). Within those couple of days her story, her fund raising appeal, and her injuries had so touched and motivated people around America and overseas that contributions for CHARITY:WATER in her name soon exceeded the donations raised by teen idol, Justin Bieber who had set a target of $17,000 for his 17th birthday and succeeded in raising $47,544! Her family was able to tell her how well the appeal was going, though Rachel remained in a coma before they turned off the life support systems.

Since her death, the appeal in Rachel’s name has continued to multiple, with people from around the world contributing. Rachel’s appeal closed at the end of September 2011. By the fortnight before closure, more than 31,600 people had contributed over $1,251,00 to Rachel’s appeal to bring clean water to others in need.

Rachel Beckwith, in her very short life, displayed the overwhelming and inspirational Power of One in making a constructive and positive contribution to others.


Let’s not underestimate the potential Power of One for the good of others, even if that one is a young child!

Long before Bryce Courtenay came up with his best selling novel, The Power of One, and long before Frank Sinatra crooned, "I did it my way!", American Baptist pastor, James Allen Francis, preached a sermon to young people in July 1926.

In his sermon James Francis spoke of Jesus in a way that could have been entitled, the Power of One - instead, with some slight revision his material was published in a book of sermons as: One Solitary Life:

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college.

He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.

When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

Jesus, the Christ, that One Solitary Life, is the supreme example for the transforming and compassionate Power of One to contribute to the good, welfare and life of the world. Make sure you don’t underestimate his positive and life transforming Power of One!

(TACL - Aug - Sep 2011 - Vol. 32 No. 4) (UPDATED: March 2016)