The Catechism of Appeasement

I’m 117 pages in to the second volume of William Manchester’s definitive biography on Winston Churchill. Manchester is writing about the period of Churchill’s being out of government favor from 1932-1940. No one wanted to listen to him. He was still a part of the Parliament but he was a “back-bencher”, not a part of the ruling party and out of favor even in his own party. The mood of the conservative party, the Liberal party and the Labour party was peace through negotiation, peace without a military footing of strength, peace through appeasement. 

Churchill didn’t believe it.

He was convinced that if the French and the British did not maintain a strong military, they would have no teeth in their attempts to keep Germany from rearming and planning a new war. Further, he was convinced that weakness would only invite Hitler and the Nazi’s to take advantage of the situation and lead to war. 

He was laughed at and ridiculed.

Still, he maintained his voice and convictions. And he did have a few friends who were well placed to feed him information about what was actually happening in Germany. Appalling and evil things were going on as Hitler took liberties with other people’s liberties and the standing British government’s naive belief that Hitler could be appeased or mollified.

So, why all this well-known history on a blog that seeks to encourage and care for pastors and other Christian leaders? Answer: this prescient quote from page 117 that sounds a lot like a news report from CBS today.

” . . . he became as well informed as the prime minister and in some ways more so, because certain documents, inconsistent with the catechism of appeasement, were suppressed or altered before they reached the P. M.’s desk. Winston, however, had seen the originals, and seen them first.”  

William Manchester,
THE LAST LION:
Volume 2 (Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone, 1932-1940), p. 117

When I read the quote above, I couldn’t help but think of the kind of things going on in our own media and government in our own time. The present government and the media have a narrative of how they see the world, what they think the needs of the moment are and what they think are the exigent decisions that must be made. They may be right. They may be wrong. We all have opinions on the matter. The media and the government mood is that the leftist interpretation of the age is “the right side of history.” Just like in Churchill’s pre World War II days. Exactly like. The government and media in Churchill’s time were wrong. And their “wrongness” encouraged Hitler’s aggression and for a time, furthered his evil designs. That much is clear.

But here is my take away.

I ask the question,

“How (in Churchill’s day) did they arrive at such a wrong and disastrous result? How did they come to be convinced of such a false narrative?”

No doubt the answer is complicated, but one clear and major part of the answer is they (the government with its commitment to appeasement and the media’s own desires for a specific view of the world) created an environment where contrary data to the desired result caused them to systematically suppress information that would allow any other view to even be considered. 

One of the results of this policy was that the only men in government who saw the situation clearly, and who tried to sound the alarm, Churchill, was ridiculed, laughed at, despised, relegated to the back bench, ignored and viewed as a warmonger. But it was Churchill, with all of his flaws, egocentrism, foibles, and sins who was right about Hitler and the impending doom of Europe. He may have been alone. He may have been the butt of jokes. But he was right. He understood his times better than almost everyone else in Britain. 

I was reminded of this when I saw this clip from CBS News and saw later that it had been briefly scrubbed from the CBS news website. (It is still available online because it was captured and put up on Twitter and has since been restored to CBS after outcry about censorship.) But it is troublesome that if even for a a few days, such a contrary view was dismissed as if it had never happened.

CBS NEWS Clip

As the correspondent gives her report on the effect of government policies related to COVID on children’s education, particularly girls, you can almost feel the tension rise around the table among the other media personnel. Her recitation of statistics and consequences and the failure of government policy to keep up with the changing science and related to new research and experience with the virus is “not the company line.” And later it was censored. I’m thankful that it has been put back up (although you have to hunt to find it), but it is ominous that such discussions are so rare in the mainstream media. Talking points that don’t fit the narrative of the government or the media are not welcomed. {Post post Addition: I think I have been fair in my assessment of the current media in the mainstream but it should be pointed out that FOX News and other more conservative sites sometimes are just as guilty of “stacking the deck” for their desired narrative.}

So what’s the point?

This.

As Christians let’s make sure that we are more like Churchill than the cultural mavens of the time. We need to be people, especially as leaders, who stand for the truth and facts in context no matter where they take us and no matter what it costs us. We may be ridiculed. But it is a small price to pay when freedom is at stake. And remember, that our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus not to a political party or even our own country. We are citizens of heaven and will serve the nation best by serving Him and His kingdom first.


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