Obits Overlook Margaret Thatcher’s Devout Christian Faith

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Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

Update (April 10): The Economist notes Thatcher’s “Sermon on the Mound,” her “impassioned” defense of “individual salvation over social reform, the legitimacy of moneymaking when combined with altruism, and the ‘responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ.'”
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Obituaries are flooding the Internet following the death today of Margaret Thatcher, the United Kingdom’s first female prime minister—and one of the most controversial yet influential to ever hold the post. But overlooked is how her Christian faith inspired the Iron Lady’s politics.

“Few obituaries are likely to mention her devout Christian faith, which was the foundation of her political programme and the bedrock of her conviction for less government, lower taxes, more freedom and greater personal responsibility,” notes Cranmer, a British blog on religion and politics. It rounds up the many statements that Thatcher made on faith and politics over her career, including a 1988 speech given at the “zenith of her power” (in Cranmer’s estimation). “We must not profess the Christian faith and go to Church simply because we want social reforms and benefits or a better standard of behaviour,” Thatcher told the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1988, “but because we accept the sanctity of life, the responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ.”

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation offers a 1978 interview in which Thatcher explains her view of “religion and personal responsibility.” Among other comments, she cited C. S. Lewis as an influence, and said:

“Methodism is the most marvellous evangelical faith and there is the most marvellous love and feeling for music in the Methodist Church which I think is greater than in the Anglican Church. But you sometimes feel the need for a slightly more formal service and perhaps a little bit more formality in the underlying theology too.”So throughout my life I have felt the need for both things, to some extent for the informality, for the works you do; but always I found myself groping out for more of the actual teaching of the religious basis. As I say, I went for something a little more formal. I suppose it’s first one’s belief and then one’s background.”

 

The Telegraph rounds up tributes from British clergy.

CT reviewed The Iron Lady, in which Meryl Streep portrayed Thatcher, and noted when Suzan Johnson Cook compared herself to Thatcherduring her contested selection as the United States’s ambassador for international religious freedom.