In early 1940 the British and their allies sent a force of some 350,000 men into the low countries of Europe to stem the tide of German advance into France, Belgium and Holland. Caught in a brilliant pincer movement by the invading German forces the beleaguered British Expeditionary Force was pushed back to the beaches of the small Belgian town of Dunkirk. To everyone’s surprise the Germans halted their advance to regroup. As England and the world waited for what appeared to be the sure and certain annihilation of 350,000 men a three word message was transmitted from the besieged army at Dunkirk. It read simply, "And if not." The British people understood the biblical import of the cryptic message. It was a reference to the Old Testament book of Daniel, where Daniel and his friends chose death rather than worship an image of the pagan king, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up" (Daniel 3:17-18). The British Expeditionary Army, surrounded, cutoff and on the brink of destruction was declaring to Britain and to the world that even in apparent defeat they were, in fact, victorious. The message, more eloquent than a sermon delivered in St. Paul’s Cathedral, galvanized the British people. In a matter of hours thousands of boats of every description headed across the dangerous waters of the English Channel and, at the risk of their own lives from enemy fire, began the evacuation of the heroic but beleaguered army in what historians now refer to as "the miracle of Dunkirk."
The salient Christian affirmation is this: we have faith in God and faith in His grace and we hope that we will be saved from evil in this world. We hope He will deliver us. But if not, we will never bow to evil. We will never surrender.
C.S. Lewis said it beautifully in The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape, the demon, says to his nephew:
Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's [God's] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.The West loses its Christian faith and culture at great danger to itself. Christianity is and always has been a hard check on secular power. Christianity is subversive. It has inspired countless defenses of civilization, from Rome to Tours to Vienna to Lepanto to Dunkirk to communist Poland and Eastern Europe.
Christianity is a refusal to bow to unjust power. It is a refusal to submit to totalitarianism, to nihilism, to idolatry, to evil. It is a refusal to submit to lies.
Why it is so hated by so many? After all, Christianity is a humble love of God and of man. But it is more.
Christianity is defiance.