So Margaret Thatcher has died. And with her death has come streams of both vitriol and praise in just about equal measure. True to form, Lady Thatcher has divided opinion in death, just as she did throughout her tenure as the country’s first female prime minister.
It’s been fascinating reading articles and watching documentaries about the person behind the Iron Lady. Here was a woman who professed a Christian faith which, according to her, informed many of the political decisions she made.
Historian Antonio E Weiss has claimed that, of all the British prime ministers since Harold Macmillan, Thatcher was “by far the most vocal about her faith whilst in office, and the only one to draw direct and explicit parallels between her personal beliefs and her political ones”.
To make such a claim is heresy to many who can’t see how Thatcherism could in any way reflect the teachings of the Jesus they follow. For some, Thatcher – the most openly Christian prime minister, according to Weiss – may very well have talked the talk, but she certainly didn’t walk the walk.
The same could be said by some opponents of President Obama. The US president has said that “Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings” and that “we achieve salvation through the grace of God”. But his Christian chat hasn’t stopped one in four Americans suspecting that their president might be the actual antichrist.
The policies Thatcher implemented that benefitted the top earners and did little for those in poverty clearly contradict the “last shall be first” ethos of the kingdom of God.
Thatcher could have spouted St Francis of Assisi quotes all she liked; but there’s no way she was a real bona fide Jesus-follower. She may have claimed, as she did in 1978, that it is in the concept of “the Church as the Body of Christ” that “we learn the importance of interdependence and the individual achieves his own fulfilment in service to others and to God”, but that didn’t make her a Christian.
Not a real Christian like me.
Was Blair’s invasion of Iraq ‘Christian’? Are Cameron’s welfare reforms ‘Christian’? Regardless of what you or I think, they have all claimed to be followers of the Christian faith. And really, that’s a matter for them and God.
Because as soon as I start to take it upon myself to decide who’s in and who’s out, I can’t help but turn the finger on myself. I think about the vast range of different things I’ve done in my life. Some of them have been alright. But believe it or not, some of them have been pretty awful. Maybe not milk-snatchingly awful (for all you know), but awful all the same. I’m pretty “openly Christian”. Christianity is my day job. The Christian thing even makes up a lot of my extra-curricular activities. I can quote Bible verses. I pray. I give away my money. I walk the walk.
But I only have to take a look at my actions to stop myself from making any judgment on the authenticity of Thatcher’s faith. Because when I die, and people look back on my life – how much of it can they truly say has been impacted by the faith I profess?
My music choice? Not really. My clothes choice? Nah. The way I speak to my little sister when I’m in a bad mood? Nope. And then there are the not-so-trivial things that I’m too ashamed to mention here. The dark thoughts that fleet through my head. The hate; the anger; the hypocrisy; the selfishness.
We’ve all sinned – some in big, politically-sized ways; some in so-called ‘smaller’ ways. Regardless, we all fall short of the glory of God. But thank God that His grace is enough; for Barack, Tony, Dave, Maggie and me.