Nov. 1, 2013
The bitter joke around the country these days is that, while President Obama’s approval ratings are the lowest they have been, Congress’ approval rating is lower than the Taliban’s. Well, there’s good reason for that. Most of us approve of what the House is doing and are angry at what the Senate is doing. Or, we love what the Senate is doing and loathe those crazy folks in the House. The key to all that loving/loathing is not what we think of Congress, per se, but what we think of our own representatives and senators.
But today, I want to salute Congress -- both parties -- for doing something right. They have just installed a bust of Winston Churchill. It was a special project of Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio). Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joined in the praise at the ceremony.
And John Kerry, the longtime U.S. Senator from Massachusetts (D), is certainly right to point out that is may seem strange for the British Prime Minister to be so honored in the same Statuary Hall where our great revolutionary, Sam Adams, is honored. But, as Sec. of State Kerry says, it is right to do it. Sam Adams stood for liberty. He was willing to pledge to his fellow Signers of the Declaration of Independence his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor.
Winston Churchill, before and during, and after World War II, pledged his life, his fortune and his sacred honor to the cause of freedom. In 1938, he stood in the British House of Commons to warn his countrymen of the false dawn of hope represented by then-Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s “historic” meeting with Hitler at Munich.
Churchill was then out of power and certainly out of favor with his party’s leaders. No one wanted to hear that “peace in our time” -- as Chamberlain called his agreement with Hitler -- was a mirage. “We were offered a choice of war or dishonor;” Churchill told a disbelieving parliament and people, “We have chosen dishonor and we will have war.”
In less than one year from the day he pronounced those grim words, Britain was at war with Hitler’s Germany.
Churchill almost never went to church. When in 1940 an Anglican vicar greeted him at a national prayer service, he told Churchill the Prime Minister he would like to see him come back and to call him “a pillar of the Church.” Churchill, leaving early, lighted his cigar and told the vicar “you may call me a buttress of the Church; I support it, but from outside.”
Even so, Churchill knew his people. And he knew his American cousins. When he had had delivered that famous address in Commons on the Czech crisis of 1938, he used biblical language.
I do not grudge our loyal, brave people, who were ready to do their duty no matter what the cost, who never flinched under the strain of last week -- I do not grudge them the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies:
"Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."
What strikes me about this passage -- from the Book of Daniel Chapter 5 -- is Churchill’s generosity toward his errant fellow citizens. He clearly loves the British people—even though he thinks they are wrong to cheer Chamberlain’s dishonorable sellout.
This is an important lesson for us today. We have always thought ObamaCare was wrong. We have always opposed it. And yet, the American people twice have chosen Barack Obama to lead them. We must not now be found to be exulting in the misery of millions who voted for this president and who have been so cruelly deceived.
But they should know the truth.
Churchill did not always say the popular thing, but he said the necessary truth. And he said it with Christian charity -- even when he may not have shared his countrymen’s Christian faith.
It will be vitally important for us and the causes we champion not to engage in that ignoble exercise known as schadenfreude. That German word means “taking enjoyment from the sorrows of others.”
Millions of our fellow citizens are suffering from the shock and disappointment of the “debacle” of the ObamaCare rollout. Many of them voted for this administration and for its supporters in Congress. We can take no joy from their distress.
Churchill was able to unite his country and lead it against the most monstrous tyranny the world had known -- Hitler and his Nazis -- because he never said “I told you so.” Everyone knew he had told them so.
When some young supporters wanted to drive out of public life the “guilty men” who had appeased Hitler and allowed him to grow strong, Churchill said no. “If we open up a quarrel between yesterday and today, we shall lose tomorrow,” he wisely said.
Thus, some of the worst appeasers of the 1930s became staunch warriors against Hitler and Nazidom in the 1940s.
Even today, when this administration is failing so clearly at home, and when its policy of appeasement is so evidently collapsing abroad, Churchill offers us wisdom we can apply in our own time.