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The Liberty Valance Factor

One of the best movies that I ever did see was an old John Wayne black and white western from the early 60's named, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It was a story about a lawyer from the east named Ranse Stoddard who was brilliantly played by Jimmy Stewart. Ranse headed west to find himself a 'fish out of water' as he realized a major problem...the west was null and void of any law. Much to Ranse's chagrin, he was targeted and robbed by the villain of the story, Liberty Valance. Valance passed the time robbing stagecoaches and terrorizing the travelers and townspeople. 

 Enter stage left, Tom Doniphon. Doniphon was played by the one and only John Wayne. He was a good man but known to be tough and strong and thus greatly feared by Valance; he never wanted to find himself crossing Doniphons path and avoided all conflict.  At one point in the film I thought, "when you are strong even the bullies leave you alone! Wouldn't that be something if America could learn this concept as a nation", but I digress. Let's get back to the story because I am angling to make a very unique point as this tale develops.  You see the movie goes on to show that Ranse gets in a gun fight with Valance and even though he has no experience shooting or using a gun at all, he somehow manages to kill Valance and is deemed the town hero!


Ranse not only became the town hero but moved on to governorship. His political career continued as senator, and he eventually becomes a vice president. He knew that if he even gave a nod to the presidency, it would be an easy win as he was known as "The man who shot Liberty Valance" and adored by the masses. This adoration though was based on a lie even though Ranse truly believed he was the man who shot Valance dead. At one point the story is shown in flashbacks and a scene starts out where Jimmy Stewart now a very important senator, attends a funeral in his hometown in Arizona. The townsperson who passed wasn't really known by most of the community and pretty much the only folk that remembered him were the old timers. By this time the name Tom Doniphon had been forgotten. Ranse was questioned by the local newspaper man as to why as a famous senator, would he come back to attend this near stranger's funeral. 

In response, Jimmy Stewart tells the truth after 30 years--for the first time ever!   You see, when he first was running for state senator his opponent accused him that he only was famous because he shot a man, and that killing someone was no basis to be elected as senator let alone deemed a hero.  Ranse was a proud man and a good man, but the guilt was too overwhelming, so he decided to quit and go back to practicing law. 

In another scene, in comes an angry Tom Doniphon . He is beyond irate because not only did Jimmy Stewart steal away his girlfriend, (played by the beautiful Vera Miles), but he was angered at Ranse's ignorance and the plain truth about the shooting of Liberty Valance.  He blurts out to Ranse, "You didn't kill Liberty Valance...I DID!". 

Below is a short clip of a Doniphon's admittance. The scene is powerful, and also is the precursor to the moral of the story. 

What hit me hard and what I want you to see as this story unfolds is this: In everyday life there is a type of a person who is known as "the man who shot Liberty Valance".  These are people who are literally basking in the sunlight of an undeserved glory whilst some unknown is really the reason for that glory; I have always referred to this persona as having "The Liberty Valance Factor".

In my estimation the moral of the story goes even further.  As I see it, behind all successes and behind every successful person there is an unknown person who has contributed so much to who we are! I cannot help but put this in a spiritual context.  I can see how the very person who is unfortunately so very unknown to a lot of people is none other than Jesus Christ. He is The Creator of you and the entire universe. The God of the Old Testament who actually wrote the 10 Commandments with his own fingers. He is the God who talked to Adam and Eve in the garden, the God who loved Abraham as his best friend: the God who protected king David who was person many people hated in his day, but God saw in David a great leader.  God actually said that David was a man after His own heart!   

In conclusion it is your God and Savior who died for you so that you may have eternal life and be a part of the family of God. He is the one who deserves the credit and to be known! For He has given you every good thing that you have!