God & Churchill: How the Great Leader’s Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours by Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley
About this book: When Winston Churchill was a boy of sixteen, he already had a vision for his purpose in life. “This country will be subjected somehow to a tremendous invasion . . . I shall be in command of the defences of London . . . it will fall to me to save the Capital, to save the Empire.”
It was a most unlikely prediction. Perceived as a failure for much of his life, Churchill was the last person anyone would have expected to rise to national prominence as prime minister and influence the fate of the world during World War II. But Churchill persevered, on a mission to achieve his purpose. God and Churchill tells the remarkable story of how one man, armed with belief in his divine destiny, embarked on a course to save Christian civilization when Adolf Hitler and the forces of evil stood opposed. It traces the personal, political, and spiritual path of one of history’s greatest leaders and offers hope for our own violent and troubled times.
More than a spiritual biography, God and Churchill is also a deeply personal quest. Written by Jonathan Sandys (Churchill’s great-grandson) and former White House staffer Wallace Henley, God and Churchill explores Sandys’ intense search to discover his great-grandfather―and how it changed his own destiny forever.
About the authors: Jonathan Sandys is an international public speaker on the life, times, and leadership of his great-grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime prime minister. Jonathan recently launched a blog—Never Surrender!—that focuses on life lessons from his great-grandfather and draws parallels between the events of yesterday and today. Jonathan and his wife, Sara, host the Churchill’s Britain tours, taking visitors behind the scenes at many locations that were significant in Winston Churchill’s life. They live in Houston, Texas, with their son, Jesse.
For a daily quote from Sir Winston Churchill, click here.
Wallace Henley, senior associate pastor at Houston’s Second Baptist Church, is coauthor with Jonathan Sandys of God and Churchill. Henley’s career, of more than forty years, has spanned newspaper journalism, politics, academia, and the church. He has also lectured widely on worldview, and served as an adjunct professor in worldview studies at Belhaven University, which presented him its top award for excellence in classroom teaching in 2014. He has spoken about leadership in twenty-two nations. Wallace has authored more than twenty books, some as a collaborator with Dr. Ed Young, his pastor. Almost all of Henley’s books deal with the confluence of culture and biblical revelation.
As an aide to President Nixon, Henley worked on domestic policy and assisted with presidential briefings and other writings. As a journalist, he was a reporter and an editorialist. Today, he continues to comment on contemporary cultural issues through his column in The Christian Post.
Wallace and Irene Henley have been married since 1961. They have two children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Why I read this book: To understand the past as well as my own time; to be informed and encouraged.
Will especially appeal to: those with an interest in history, especially WWII history, and those who keep current on current events.
Why I cared: because seeing evidence of God’s sovereign hand in the life of one great man provides both encouragement for today and hope for our future.
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My take: God & Churchill isn’t my typical read, nor is this shaping up to be my typical review. Instead it seems to be landing somewhere between a review and an exhortation. To start, let me just say that after reading this book, I’m convinced that lessons learned from and about Churchill, particularly in regard to his faith, are supremely relevant to our generation today.
If when you started reading this post you simply skimmed past the book description, go back and read that first paragraph again. The fact of Churchill’s eerily accurate premonition is both fascinating and well documented. His vision laid the foundation for every substantial decision that followed. Could he have become the great leader he was (arguably the 20th century’s most pivotal one) without a foundation of the Judeo-Christian belief system? After reading the underpinning role of Christian faith in Winston Churchill’s life, I believe not. The Prime Minister was at his core an ethical man. He once said, “…someone told me that Ethics were concerned not merely with the things you ought to do, but with why you ought to do them” (p.13). Christianity is what gave Churchill his why.
Before reading this biography, I knew next to nothing about Winston Churchill’s early years or his private life. Upon learning about several key events in his earlier years, the significance of them cannot be dismissed. “Churchill could not have known at the time how all of these events, high adventures, miraculous unscathings, and even the most dire setbacks and failures were preparing him for the day when his number would be called to step up and lead the free world against the incursions of tyranny” (p.46).
Though it may be stating the obvious, if Churchill was the great hero of the story of World War II, Hitler was the villain. And again, it cannot be denied that these two were pitted against each other, on behalf of nations, in a battle of life or death. The personal parallels between these two men are fascinating. For instance, Hitler, like Churchill, “was sixteen years old when he predicted a grandiose role for himself in the future” (p.49). Even more fascinating–and for us, more troubling–are the parallels between the rise of Nazism and the rise of terrorism–ISIS in particular–in our day.
If there is one overarching theme to Churchill’s life, it is God’s sovereignty. While the first part of this book is an interesting–if, at times a bit dry–analysis of Churchill’s life, leadership, and the study of his faith, the last part is the most relevant. Within its pages, I found hope, and yes, even guidance, for our time. If you read this book (and if you are a serious student of today’s current events, I recommend you do), and you read but one chapter, may it be this one: Churchill and the Character of Leadership. One year from today, we Americans will have elected a new president. In the next twelve months, our responsibility toward that end has never been keener. It’s up to us, today, to educate ourselves on the candidates, the issues, and what’s at stake. It’s up to us to elect a president who will, because of his or her character, rise to meet the unparalleled challenges we face as a nation and on the world stage. I don’t believe I’m using hyperbole to say that the fate of civilization as we know it may depend on our choice. Just as it did for the British people in Churchill’s time.
Thanks to Tyndale House for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: I’d like to start reading more biographies of great leaders. Do you have any to recommend?