“The Bank of Observance”

“The Bank of Observance”

I am in the final stages of writ­ing a book on the reli­gious beliefs of post-World War II Pres­i­dents. In the chap­ter on Dwight Eisen­how­er, I wrote that although Eisen­how­er asked for the “bless­ing of Almighty God” on D-Day, few assess­ments of him would dwell on his reli­gious char­ac­ter: “In fact, Eisenhower’s faith might be more accu­rate­ly described by Win­ston Churchill’s remark that he had made “so many deposits in the Bank of Obser­vance” as a youth that he had been con­fi­dent­ly with­draw­ing from it ever since. Can you con­firm the quo­ta­tion? —D.H., Virginia

Hap­py to assist. From Churchill by Him­self, chap­ter on Reli­gion, cit­ing Churchill’s 1930 autobiography:

Hith­er­to [until age 21] I had duti­ful­ly accept­ed every­thing I had been told.…I always had to go once a week to church.…I accu­mu­lat­ed in those years so fine a sur­plus in the Bank of Obser­vance that I have been draw­ing con­fi­dent­ly upon it ever since. Wed­dings, chris­ten­ings, and funer­als have brought in a steady annu­al income, and I have nev­er made too close enquiries about the state of my account. It might well even be that I should find an overdraft. 

–Churchill, My Ear­ly Life (Lon­don: Thorn­ton But­ter­worth, 1930, pp. 127–28.

He also had a more suc­cinct remark which you may prefer:

I am not a pil­lar of the church but a buttress—I sup­port it from the outside.” 

—Cir­ca 1954. Gilbert, Win­ston S. Churchill vol. VIII (Lon­don: Heine­mann, 1988, p. 1161. Rec­ol­lec­tion of Sir Winston’s last pri­vate sec­re­tary, Sir Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne.

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