Guest Essay by Marshall Foster
For two hundred years, one small island nation built the greatest empire since Imperial Rome. Its ships ruled the seas, its colonies covered the world and the sun never set upon the Union Jack. Its empire controlled the gold and diamonds of Africa and the treasures of India. London was the world’s financial center. This nation among nations had the world’s currency and world trade itself was made possible only through the protection of her navies (which ended the age of the pirates).
On April 11th, 1912, the largest man-made object in history, the Titanic, set sail from Southampton as a symbol of this opulent empire. But, on April 12th the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank, sending over 1,500 souls to the bottom of the Atlantic. Looking back, this event seemed a warning, an ominous sign for the empire. Within three decades, the glory that was the English Empire was no more, and London, the jewel of the empire, lay wasted by the bombs of Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
What went wrong? By the early 20th Century, England along with most of Europe had abandoned their evangelical faith and turned to the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest. The missionary movement which had driven the age of exploration was overtaken by greed as the driving force of colonization. The economic plundering of underdeveloped lands displaced the building of independent Christian nations. Then England along with all of Europe was humbled by two horrific world wars, the loss of their colonies and a great depression.
Just when there was no hope and the barbarian Nazis were about to overrun Christendom, God raised up a leader and saved England from extinction. His name was Winston Churchill. In the darkest days of WWII his words stirred the English to remember their roots as a Christian nation and by divine grace their nation was saved.
How did this extraordinary leader turn the tide? First, he was honest about the collapse of the Empire. He said “I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but farther on the carpet ends. A little farther on there is many flagstones, and little farther on still they break beneath your feet.” While in parliament, before he was Prime Minister, Churchill tried desperately to warn England about the growing Nazi evil facing them. While Hitler launched a plan of rearmament, breaking his post-WW I agreements, England’s leaders convinced themselves that Hitler’s grievances were justified and that his demands were reasonable. Clinging to their deception, they signed treaties with Hitler, promising “peace in our time” which Hitler ignored. So the English quietly appeased Hitler with a new treaty. Churchill wrote, “The English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.” He was hated for his warnings of Hitler’s rise by the pacifists controlling parliament and became a political pariah during the 1930’s.
Second, Churchill’s historical knowledge was a strength which provided him with perspective for seeing both past and future events. He knew that history teaches lessons that men ignore at their peril. Churchill said “The greatest advances in human civilization have come when we recovered what we had lost: when we learned the lessons of history.” Historian Steven Mansfield, states, “Strong leaders throughout the centuries have learned to gain the experience of age and even of the ages, by learning what the past has to teach. History has the power to lift a leader out of the shortsightedness of his own times and give him the perspective of centuries.” Today, our real history, which is infused with the power of Christian faith and providential protection, is banned from public knowledge and censored from schools, media and all institutions. Now we know why!
Third, Churchill saw as his life’s purpose the reviving of the glory of Christendom and believed that a moral order governs in the affairs of men. Mansfield states, “For Churchill the primary issue of the war was faith. He firmly believed that WWII was a battle between Christendom and the sinister paganism of Adolph Hitler and throughout the War, he replenished his unusual moral courage in worship and prayer.” He read Scripture throughout his life, discussed it with staff and friends and quoted lengthy passages from memory. Many of America’s public figures today have been shamed into hiding their faith and promising that it “won’t be the deciding factor in their decisions.”
Finally, Winston Churchill called the English people to their duty to God and country, and they responded with faith and perseverance. As the bombs fell on London in the terrifying summer of 1940, Winston slept in a bunker beneath the city and then walked with his wife through the rubble encouraging the frightened Londoners. Churchill’s explosive energy and his words filled with faith and vision lifted people out of their numbing fear. Along with his humor and his tears, he led people to work toward a destined future of “sunlit uplands”. He believed that good would triumph over evil.
Notice that Churchill did not call people to look to him or to the government for their needs. He challenged everyone to become a hero and believed that every Christian had a “duty to preserve the structure of a humane, enlightened Christian society.”
Churchill’s immortal words should call us to action and duty at this time of eminent peril for America. On December 30, 1941, he said, “Do not let us speak of darker days; let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our [nation]…the broader world…lies beyond our struggles…We have to win that world for our children. We have to win it by our sacrifices. We have not won it yet.”
At this most critical moment in our history may we challenge one another to raise leaders out of our homes and prepare ourselves, our family and our friends to become leaders of character and with deep biblical and historical roots. With passion and compassion, may we each make a difference in our time and as Churchill said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently over- whelming might of the enemy.”