It is the 2nd of January. Radio airwaves are full of speculations about this dark hour for America. News about rioting in Iran, about our president's Tweet regarding the millions America has sent to help Pakistan, while she has received from our largesse and at the same time harbored the very terrorists who were attacking - as ISIS - Afghan and American forces in the region. News too from North Korea's president boasting that a nuclear button sits on his desk to be pressed at any time, with a capability to send nuclear warheads to any part of the continental USA. The former Chief of Staff of America says we are closer than ever to a nuclear war with N. Korea. These are "dark hours" indeed.
Speculation is everywhere. Uncertainty spreads. Fear is often expressed. We want to lay it at the feet of our new, untried, self-centered, self-confident, sometimes bombastic president.
Many shake their heads, and roll their eyes. Not a few are working diligently to bring about circumstances that will shame and unseat our president. It is not a popular or respected thing to speak well of our president, to commend him for good steps he has taken. Apparently gone is the sense of loyalty toward our leader on which democratic government depends.
Then, on New Year's Day, I keep the family tradition of an afternoon movie on New Year's Day. I learn that "The Darkest Hour," showing at the Edina Theater, is about Winston Churchill. Four of us go - two daughters, and our 16-year-old grandson.
It becomes clear that the film tells the desperate story of Hitler's armies on the march in Europe. His Panger divisions are unstoppable. His mighty Luftwaffe has control of the skies. Between Calais and Dunkirk on the French coast 300,000 British troops are pinned down, praying hopelessly for evacuation somehow, across the English Channel.
Neville Chamberlin, England's Prime Minister, has sought peace with the Third Reich. He is rebuffed, coming home in shame and failure. Parliament calls for his resignation.
He and his closest colleagues grasp at some way to win a negotiated peace, even while Hitler's forces overtake Europe, one country after another.
In a desperate move Parliament and an unwilling King George VI turn to the one person who has stood up to enemy forces, especially in South Africa's Boer War, the unpredictable, uncontrollable, now much older Winston Churchill.
Suddenly the older, bent, cigar-smoking, hard-drinking Churchill is given the vote, to the misgivings of many. The camera records his volatility, his irascibility, even his shouting unkindness to the young woman sent in to act as his secretary, and to type his acceptance speech. It shows too, the old man gently scolded by his wife for his unkindness. "You are the Prime Minister, you must learn to be kind," she says.
He goes to Parliament and declares the only way to defeat the advance of Hitler, is to prepare not for peace, but for all the risks of war.
The small cadre who want to sue for peace, plot against the "madness" of the new Prime Minister's insistence - seeking even the King's help in unseating Churchill.
We watch the battle rage within Winston's mind and heart. In the middle of dictation, his young secretary answers the question about where he was, with "You were mumbling." He seems almost unhinged.
He calls Roosevelt in Washington. No help. He calls the admiralty. There is little competence or will. Finally he calls for every small boat on the English coast to be commandeered to cross the channel to Dunkirk to carry Britain's surviving army of 300,000 back to safety in England. It is a mad, daring plan. The admiralty at first were timid. Then Winston phones back - "That is an order!" And the small boats sail - tiny sloops, fishing boats, outboard motors, small speed boats leaving the White Cliffs of Dover for Dunkirk.
The Luftwaffe, commanding the skies, could sink them all. But miraculously clouds roll in. The whole shore is obscured. And this unlikely, entirely amateur civilian fleet, is loaded up, and carries nearly the full 300,000 young soldiers home to their own shores. England lives to fight again.
The camera watches the blustery Prime Minister responding to the question of the young secretary with only one word "courage, my dear, courage."
In the meantime the Prime Minister is being driven to Parliament - ostensibly to lay out a plan for peace. But, he is caught, helpless, in a London traffic jam.
And the Prime Minister of England, who had never ridden the London underground, leaps from his car, goes down into the Underground, and boards the train for Westminster. His fellow passengers are astonished. They all make way for him. Soon he is talking with them. Finally he says, "I have a question for you. What would you do if faced with the forces of Hitler's Germany, would you sue for peace?" Suddenly, they all remonstrated, with one voice - "Never, we would never sue for peace. Nevah! Nevah!"
And with that answer, from the people themselves, we see England's Prime Minister striding out of the train at Westminster, into the parliament building and to his seat from which he stands and declares there is only one answer for England in the face of the Nazi threat. We must fight with all we have, he says. "We will fight them on the seas. We will fight them on the beaches. We will fight them in the fields. We will fight them in the streets. WE WILL NEVAH, NEVAH, NEVAH GIVE UP!"
It is the true word, spoken. That all recognize. And around which they all rally. Suddenly the fog is lifted. The way ahead for England is clear. The answer - from the heart of the country - is given, to their "Darkest Hour."
People in the theater audience clapped. Some cheered. We all were stirred. A lesson of history had been writ large before us.
As I look back I am struck by how "Trumpian" Winston Churchill appeared in those days of crisis so long ago. In so many ways he was a grump. He had to be lectured on how to be kind. He shouted in cabinet meetings. He was considered a know-nothing and a bully. Established, seasoned politicians wanted him gone. Finally, on the subway, a child's voice ringing out NEVER! from the crowd, struck him in the heart and made him see the wild, daring thing he must do.
I tried to say on Christmas morning, to the few scores of Christian friends I was given to address, we too, are called to do wild daring things for our Leader and Lord. We are called to be transformed - beyond all our abilities - into an "incendiary" force of courage, to speak true to our time about the moral, ethical, faithful way our King Forever is calling us to go. To call the Church to go to its knees in repentance, and to point out the way of forgiveness and healing, that alone can bring God's chosen and called people back to Jesus' courageous way of sacrifice to win the heart of our country and our culture to His dangerous but righteous road of love. It is the way that changes us all, and will change us and our land.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES