In 1931, while visiting New York, Winston Churchill very nearly died in an auto accident.
Think about that: World War II with no Churchill. I’ve begun to re-read William Manchester’s Alone, the middle volume of his three-book biography of Churchill. It focuses on the run-up to the most catastrophic war in human history–a war which Churchill, practically alone, saw coming, saw the risks involved, and tried to move the Western world to avert calamity.
This maddeningly eccentric man, steeped in the Victorian Age with all its moral standards, all its virtues and its vices, became, at the age of 65–retirement age!–prime minister of Britain in 1940–with France fallen, the Third Reich triumphant everywhere, Stalin allied with Hitler, and the British army, minus all its heavy equipment, just barely saved from extinction by its mass evacuation at Dunkirk.
Think of a world without Churchill. Who else could have rallied Britain to fight on? Who else could have given the speeches, made the decisions, absorbed the punishment, and not only preserved his country, but led it to victory against a force that will be remembered forever as the most evil, ruthless power ever to arise in Europe? Who else could have survived a decade of political isolation, enmity, mockery, and massive disbelief of everything he said?
Churchill’s career reminds me of how a classical Japanese smith makes a peerless sword. He starts with a heap of scrap iron that no one else wants, melts and hammers it into a single rod, then folds it back upon itself and hammers it out again. Then folds, hammers, folds, hammers, over and over again, so that the steel will be in microscopically thin layers–hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of them. Heat, fold, and hammer. Heat, fold, and hammer. And at the end, much later, the product is a perfect sword that can cut through almost anything.
In Churchill’s case the smith was God, and all that folding and hammering was God’s way of forging one man into an instrument that would preserve an entire civilization. The work took many years, but God is patient.
One comment on “An Appreciation: Churchill”
Your words are quite evocative. Churchill had to be a truly outstanding character in order to have done what needed to be done. If you look around you and find that you are not the slave of a murderous Third Reich or living in a world where many people have that fate, you can thank Churchill. BTW, the British thanked him by voting him out of office shortly after he saved their collective toccus.
During the Battle of Britain, Churchill used to watch from observation points which provided no protection from either a bomb or stray bullet. He believed he was protected, and I believe that he was correct about the matter. He had a job to do and, by God (literally), that job was going to be done.
There’s an object lesson in this and I believe it to be applicable in our day. Churchill was a flawed man. He could be harsh and even unreasonable at times. He drank far too much and he was not moderate in much of anything, explaining his great bulk and his nearly perpetual financial woes. Over the years, many have seized upon these facts as a way of undermining his status as a hero of western civilization. What matters is the job he did. Would his critics prefer to have seen Britain fall while they waited for an untarnished hero? What can we learn from this which could apply to us right now?
As an interesting side note, Rock artist Peter. Frampton did an album a while back entitled “Thank You, Mr. Churchill”. The song of the same name thanks Churchill for making it possible that the composer was even born but points out, correctly I might add, that “hope is hungry now”. From what I am able to learn, Mr. Framton is not a believer and his hope that
“. . . we start waging peace
Instead of waging war”
is based on human solutions. However, he stumbles upon the solution later in his lyrics where he states
“Will there be peace on earth one day?
If so, I hope I will be near
‘Til we’re born with wisdom, war will still be here”
Looking forward to the New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:33-34 tells us: “33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
In the coming Kingdom, God’s law will be written upon our hearts. We will no longer need a Churchill, or some other human figure to defend us from evil, because evil will not exist. Every living human will have God’s own law written upon their hearts and working what is bad will not occur to us.
In the meantime, I thank Mr. Churchill for all he did. 77 years later we still benefit from his efforts. I also thank our loving God for providing such a man and allowing him to be forged into the strong character required for such a task.