When Britain was faced with either going to war to protect Czechoslovakia or giving in to Hitler’s demands, they chose appeasement.[i] The cheering throng welcomed Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain home and rejoiced in his promise that by giving in they would have “Peace for our time.” Instead they got World War II.
Winston Churchill, the great war-time leader who replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister, made the most damning indictment he could of Chamberlain’s sacrifice of Czechoslovakia to appease Nazi Germany. In speaking to Parliament upon Chamberlain’s return he said:
“We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat . . . . the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” Churchill prophesied that only with “a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, [could Britain] arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” [ii] That is precisely what Britain did!
Why did this incredibly gifted speaker choose to phrase his condemnation, so pointedly meaningful for his audience, with the words: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting?”
How many in this generation could even comprehend what Churchill was saying? Churchill’s wording is an exact quote from an even more damning warning given through the Old Testament prophet Daniel to Belshazzar, King of Babylon. How far has Western culture strayed from its Biblical foundation since Churchill’s time so that now, due to Biblical illiteracy, few understand the powerful Biblical reference used by Churchill—a reference he expected to resonate with all listeners in his day.
Churchill was reminding Parliament of what happened at a huge feast in ancient times when King Belshazzar was wining and dining the lords of his kingdom using vessels the Babylonians had plundered from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. During the feast a hand appeared and wrote on the wall. No one could interpret until Daniel, the Jewish prophet, was called. He told Belshazzar:
“And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Daniel 5:22 – 31)”
The prophesy was fulfilled that night. The Medes and Persians overthrew Babylon which has been a ruin to this day.
This story is the common heritage of Jews and Christians. For century after century Judeo-Christian scriptures informed the thinking of leaders of the Western world. It was part of that powerful faith that lead the Founding Fathers to proclaim so boldly that there was a Creator who endowed us with life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness. How can a nation, ignorant of that foundation, hope to preserve the institutions they created? How can those who believe mankind is no more than the accidental effusion of a hostile planet protect the Constitution crafted on such religious premises?
A tidal wave of secularism has swept over Europe and America since Churchill’s day. Those who claim all religion is a superstitious search for meaning where there is none now dominate much of academia and the media. Religious literacy has plummeted. How many of this generation, visiting the magnificent cathedrals of Europe, can tell the stories displayed most beautifully in stained glass windows? In ages past, everyone could. Expressions of belief in God, and theories premised on there being an intelligent Creator, are excluded from schools and civic functions with the rigor once reserved for witch hunts. Lost to our political culture is the fact that it was their belief in a Creator that empowered the founders of this nation to craft the Declaration of Independence and our marvelous Constitution. It was Thomas Paine’s call to Biblical precedents in Common Sense that lifted a nation from an attitude of subservience to one fighting for independence. Can we pass that that most precious heritage onto our posterity if we do not also pass on the religious beliefs upon which it is based?
Atheism is essentially and unavoidably pessimistic. If mankind is no more noble than germs—just another branch of evolving life—then the death of mankind in a nuclear holocaust is no more meaningful than the death of billions of bacteria each time someone washes their hands. Atheists claim that mankind keeps turning to religion/superstition because of some frantic need to find meaning for life amid its inevitable challenges. They are wrong. Rather we are religious because we know, innately, that there is a deep, abiding significance not only to life generally, but to our individual lives—that there is something perfectible about every human being. We know we do not live just to die and disappear. It is that outlook, that religious outlook, that underlies our country’s greatness, not some federal program or bureaucratic regulation. It is the scriptures that deal with the truly great problems of life— and provide the great solutions.
Believers should not submit to the ignorant demands of those who, through inadequate religious education or outright rejection, have no spiritual roots. We want religion to be independent of government control and government to be neutral on religious issues. But we do not want our country or our culture to become a religious vacuum as many atheists so ardently demand. Such a moral vacuum will collapse on itself, destroying the religious foundation of this country. If we permit that to happen then it will be said of this generation: “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting!”
[i] See post on “Appeasement”, January 9, 2012 in truthtofreedom.com