Saturday, February 16, 2019

Was Winston Churchill a Hero or a Villain?

Was Winston Churchill a villain or a hero? At first glance this question is ridiculous, especially to members of an older generation in Britain. I can only remember my father shedding tears once in all his life but he did so watching the televised broadcast of Winston Churchill's funeral on the BBC. Dad had lived through the Blitz in London as an evacuee from Guernsey and for him there was no greater symbol of victory against Nazi fascism than the bulldog features of the great man himself.

John McDonald, the shadow Chancellor and member of the UK Labour Party's frontbench, caused uproar this week responding to the question during an interview. He was pushed to a one-word answer and came down on the side of villain. Nicholas Soames, Churchill's grandson, said that he believed his grandfather's war record spoke for itself and was not in danger of being tarnished by the comments of a "Poundland Marxist!". McDonald defended his position in the press subsequently by pointing to Winston Churchill's record of sending in the military to the Welsh mining village of Tonypandy to suppress a strike, but he also acknowledged Winston's heroic stand against the evils of fascism.

So the question may be a stupid one, as the answer is complicated. My view is that at different times in his life he could have been described as both. Churchill himself was deeply embarrassed about his role in the First World War's Gallipoli campaign which went so badly wrong and in which hundreds of thousands of young men died. He might also have been viewed as a villain by the French because of his destruction of the French fleet after the surrender of France to the Nazis. He was certainly a very difficult man to work for, as many a tear-stained secretary has pointed out. But he was a human being, capable of great glory and yet making enemies and mistakes. He was as flawed as any of us who are marked by human frailty and sin.

The vicious ire stoked by John MacDonald's comment is not helpful in overcoming the terrible divisions that there are in British politics today. And we must avoid the temptation to either idolise prominent people from the past or demonise potential leaders in the present. We are all a mixture of villain and hero, and capable of great heights and profound depths in our behaviour. Thank God for a divine mercy revealed in the lives of flawed leaders like Moses, King David, Samson and Simon Peter that was able to take the clay of human frailty and create the fabulous tableware of redeemed lives.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Was Emiliano Sala Worth £15 Million?

The tragic and sudden death of Emiliano Sala, together with pilot David Ibbotson, is causing huge sadness around the footballing world. In Cardiff, Nantes in France, but particularly in his homeland of Argentina, his loss is felt so keenly by so many. Here in Guernsey we are uniquely linked to the tragedy due to the fact that the light aircraft in which he was a passenger ditched some 25 miles north of our island. Locals have followed the intense search both for survivors and then latterly for wreckage and bodies with bated breath. Our prayers are with the families of both men, and for their friends, team-mates and supporters.

One sad aspect of the disaster is the report that now Nantes are instigating legal action to recover the £15 million that they are due in respect of the transfer. There must be confusion over who is liable for this loss and whose insurers should cover it, and it appears somewhat insensitive and premature to be jumping straight into litigation even before the body was recovered and confirmed as Sala's, as it was on Thursday.

Some might claim that nobody should be worth such a sum, certainly not such a young person, but I want to say that the loss of the money might actually focus minds on the true value of any individual. My answer to the question of whether he was worth £15 million is "No - he was worth infinitely more than that!". It's a reflection of modern thinking that we would perhaps lament the loss of a footballer more keenly than another in similar circumstances but that would be wrong. This young man was precious in the eyes of his family, his loved ones and friends, but ultimately, in the heart of God. God gave his only son Jesus to redeem men and women who bear his image and share his spirit and the loss of any of us is a cause for immense sorrow. And David Ibbotson was of equal value too, whether or not his flying skills were in any way to blame - which nobody is yet suggesting.

Forget the £15 million - it's only money! Disregard the fact that a major team might get relegated from the Premier League - it' only a game! Focus on the families of both men in prayer and support, praying that David's body will also be found soon. And let's not kid ourselves that life is a given, or a guarantee, for any of us - we need to be ready and face our eternal future with hope - hope in Christ.