I'm having a hard time understanding why Winston S. Churchill was included in this series of "Christian Encounters" biographies. Most of the other subjects "encountered," like Bach, St. Francis, Tolkien, John Bunyan, or Anne Bradstreet were true giants of the faith or at least of notable spiritual importance. Even William F. Buckley, another subject in the series, spoke and wrote frequently about his Christian faith. But Churchill? The best description of his spirituality may be either his description of himself as a "flying buttress" of the church -- ie, supporting it from the outside -- or his mot that he was ready to meet his Maker, but "Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."
Taken on its own, "Winston Churchill" is an acceptable, if far from perfect, short biography of The Man of the (Twentieth) Century, though one that unlike most brief biographies is weighted far more toward His Early Life than toward his later years of greatness. Author John Perry makes a valiant effort to portray WSC as a man of deep-seated Christian faith which, if it did not express itself in day-to-day piety, certainly shaped his world view, his prose, his belief in his own destiny, and his conviction that ultimately all things turn out for the best. In so doing, Perry quotes what must be a substantial percentage of everything Churchill ever wrote or said that included a mention of "God," but like those attempts to prove America's founding fathers were evangelical Christians because they wrote "endowed by their Creator" in the Declaration of Independence, it was ultimately unconvincing. When you cite as evidence of Churchill's belief in God his comment that Hell must exist in order for Earth's Hitlers to receive the punishment they deserve, it strikes me as grasping at straws.
What strikes me as a more credible description of WSC's faith comes in the author's discussion of the Victorian era, and the influence of a broad Anglican interpretation of Christianity on all levels of society. Churchill's references to Biblical texts and mentions of God in his speech and writing seem at least as much a reflection of the cultural atmosphere in which he came to maturity, and the influence of his nurse Mrs. Everest, as evidence of personal faith. Perhaps the best explanation of that comes in a line Perry quotes from former Churchill secretary Phyllis Moir: "He is not religious in the sense that a man like Lord Halifax is; he has no natural faith, no instinctive piety. Rather his own successes induce in him a feeling of awe, of reverence and gratitude toward the Providence that has treated him so kindly and guarded him so well" [p. 135]. Which raises the question, again, of why include Churchill in this series? Because people buy and read biographies of Winston Churchill?
As a stand-alone bio, "Winston Churchill" is, as I said, acceptable but not great. There are a few editorial errors (references to "Eaton College" or the mention that the last Tsar of All the Russias was a cousin of England's "King George VII"), plus a few simple historical ones, like mentioning WSC won the nonexistent "Nobel Prize in history" for his six volumes on World War Two (in fact, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for "for his mastery of historical and biographical descriptions as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values"). Still, the book is far from hagiographic, and whatever the argument about Churchill's faith it doesn't try to fashion him as a plaster saint. There are better short biographies, and more convincing explorations of WSC's psychology, philosophy, and world views. But this "Christian Encounter" with the man left me unsatisfied.