September Journal in a Pandemic Year, Trinity 16

“How few men are strong enough to stand against the prevailing currents of opinion!”

Churchill, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria

“Let us free the world from the approach of a catastrophe, carrying with it calamity and tribulation, beyond the tongue of man to tell.”

Churchill, House of Commons, April 1936 (1)

The above quotes reminded me of our president. Indeed, and often surprisingly, many of Winston Churchill’s words remind me of the other social outcast and truth-teller of our times, our president.

The times are troubling: anarchy, looting, burning, and tearing down of not only our communities but our history as a people, a free people, and a people who not only free others, but cherish freedom and die for freedom worldwide.

I’ve been reading Andrew Roberts’ Churchill: Walking with Destiny. I was familiar with the 1930’s appeasement movement, the many voices of power in Britain who thought that Hitler would be friendly if Britain was friendly. It is a natural temptation of a goodhearted, good people, to trust others, and to blame themselves for others tyranny (the bully in the schoolyard who stole my lunch must have done so because of something I said or did).

While a natural temptation and a natural good as well, the desire to appease, or to make peace at any cost, isn’t always the wisest plan in the real and fallen world of bullies, whether on the schoolyard or in foreign countries or in our own cities—Seattle, Portland, New York, or Louisville. Real bullies only understand a return of force, unfortunately and tragically for those of us who desire peace and tranquility. History shows us this, and those who study history know this. But alas, our public schools, grade school through college, have not taught true history. It will be up to us to remind those who did not study our past, how the past informs our present. The 1930’s appeasement of Hitler nearly allowed an evil tyrant to take over Europe. He would not have stopped there, but would have taken America’s eastern ports, launching into our own homeland his campaign of terror.

Today, it will be up to us to stand against “the prevailing currents of opinion” decreed by major media outlets. It will be up to us to stand against bullies, mob rule, and cancel culture. The alternative is to  forfeit the public peace needed for freedom to thrive. A conundrum, and not for the faint of heart.

On the other hand, all we really need to do is cast our vote, and love and respect one another.

It is curious that Winston Churchill did not describe himself as a Christian. He was a nominal Anglican and believed in the values of the Western world, indeed the British Empire: respect for the individual, freedom, rule of law and fair justice, representative government, the culture of arts and the growth of science that could only be nurtured in this relatively peaceful social order. 

He didn’t seem to realize that his Western values were Judeo-Christian, and that without the belief in a higher authority, a God of love, it was questionable if such a society could survive. But he counted on society to believe, something we cannot trust today. We shall see. We may have used up any moral capital left on the shores by the receding tide of faith, or perhaps these values will be replenished by folks that hold these truths to be self-evident without believing in God. One can only pray that this is so.

If not, we need to evangelize as we have never evangelized before, just like my Hermit Abram in Angel Mountain. We must preach the gospel of our God of love, our God of human dignity, our God of equality under the law, our God of personal freedom and personal responsibility. Only within this creed can we preach the Ten Commandments and stop those who steal and murder and destroy.

The Epistle today was one of the great Pauline readings, one that always comforts me and fills me with hope, for Paul lived in a tyrannical and terrible time as well. Paul would understand being at odds with the prevailing opinions. He writes to the Ephesians:

The Epistle. Ephesians iii. 13.

“I DESIRE that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Italics mine.) (1928 Book of Common Prayer, 212)

We must be rooted and grounded in love so that we can comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of Christ. We must see clearly and do the best we can for our nation, to free the world from approaching catastrophe.

We must not appease the bullies for the sake of peace. We will only invite more bullying.

And we might heed the words of Winston Churchill, a lone voice in the wilderness of appeasement:

“The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that when nations are strong they are not always just, and when they wish to be just they are often no longer strong…” 

Winston Churchill in a speech to the House of Commons, 1936 (2)

(1) Roberts, Andrew. Churchill, Walking with Destiny (Viking, 2018), 397.

(2) Ibid, 399.

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