Why Margaret Thatcher will not ‘Burn in Hell’
His Grace thought it might be useful to have a visual depiction of what a Labour councillor has wished upon Margaret Thatcher.
Shocking, isn’t it.
It is quite easy to say that you hope someone might ‘Burn in Hell’ as a hyperbolic corollary of the intense loathing or hatred you might feel for that person.
The picture speaks those words far more powerfully and eloquently than perhaps they could ever communicate by themselves.
Hell is a frightful place of eternal torment and unending suffering, where the flame consumes, thirst is forever unquenched and the teeth gnash and gnaw as the soul writhes in agony.
It is not the language but the image of that horror which haunts the mind.
As Baroness Thatcher lay ill in hospital with a serious bout of flu, Labour’s Cllr Florence Anderson, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said on her Facebook page: “Haha, I hope she BURNS IN HELL."
The thread has since been removed from public view.
Though it is reported that she also added: “I’ll dance on Thatcher’s grave, even if she is buried at sea.”
She counts Labour MPs Peter Hain, Jim Knight and Bridget Phillipson amongst her online friends.
They might like to re-consider their association will Cllr Anderson.
While Baroness Thatcher is not likely to lose much sleep over Cllr Anderson’s rant, His Grace thought it might be worthwhile to consider why Margaret Thatcher will not burn in Hell.
She is, and has been since her childhood, a committed Christian.
Her Christianity was grounded in the Protestant Nonconformity of devout and evangelical Methodism: her conservatism was Tory in its Burkean deference to the great institutions of state but thoroughly Whiggish and libertarian after Mill in its iconoclastic challenge to the big agencies of state; in her emphasis on the ‘work ethic’ kind of Protestantism, and her patriotic belief in the national British Christian spirit and her notion of morality as the opportunity for free choice. She had what some identified as a ‘puritan streak’, espousing the values of the English suburban and provincial middle-class and aspiring skilled working-class. These contrasted with the values of the establishment élite of the Church of England, landowners, university academics, the Foreign Office and the professions.
Her writings and speeches are unequivocal in the provenance of her theo-political worldview. In Statecraft, she wrote: ‘I believe in what are often referred to as “Judaeo-Christian” values: indeed my whole political philosophy is based on them’. In the second volume The Path to Power she went further: ‘Although I have always resisted the argument that a Christian has to be a Conservative, I have never lost my conviction that there is a deep and providential harmony between the kind of political economy I favour and the insights of Christianity’.
But a speech she made at the zenith of her power is perhaps the most illuminating of all her statements with regard to her theology, and it is worth looking at it in some detail because she began it by saying that she spoke 'personally as a Christian, as well as a politician’.
In a speech to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1988, Margaret Thatcher outlined what she identified as the ‘distinctive marks of Christianity’ which ‘stem not from the social but from the spiritual side of our lives’. And perhaps in a swipe at those ‘meddlesome priests’ who were critical of some of her policies throughout the 1980s, she declared that ‘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; but because we accept the sanctity of life, the responsibility that comes with freedom and the supreme sacrifice of Christ’.
In this speech, Margaret Thatcher was unwavering in her interpretation of Scripture which gives ‘a view of the universe, a proper attitude to work, and principles to shape economic and social life’: of how the theological ‘is’ translates into the political ‘ought’; how Christianity remains relevant to public policy. And so she emphasises the traditional conservative view of the family which is ‘at the heart of our society and the very nursery of civic virtue. And it is on the family that we in government build our own policies for welfare, education and care’. And with an appeal to the Apostle Paul, she reminded her audience that ‘anyone who neglects to provide for his own house (family) has disowned the faith and is "worse than an infidel".’ Yet she was not deluded by the biblical ideal, recognising that ‘modern society is infinitely more complex’ and that ‘new occasions teach new duties’. But some things are sacrosanct:
I believe strongly that politicians must see that religious education has a proper place in the school curriculum. In Scotland, as in England, there is an historic connection expressed in our laws between Church and State. The two connections are of a somewhat different kind, but the arrangements in both countries are designed to give symbolic expression to the same crucial truth: that the Christian religion – which, of course, embodies many of the great spiritual and moral truths of Judaism – is a fundamental part of our national heritage. And I believe it is the wish of the overwhelming majority of people that this heritage should be preserved and fostered. For centuries it has been our very life blood. And indeed we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible.To dispel any notion that Margaret Thatcher was simply exploiting Christianity for electoral purposes, it is possible to trace this golden thread of Christianity in speeches she made prior even to becoming Leader of the Opposition: there is a distinct and consistent Nonconformist leitmotif running through all of her political writings. Her government essentially constituted an applied theology; it was, she said, ‘engaged in the massive task of restoring confidence and stability to our people’ because ‘unless the spirit of the nation which has hitherto sustained us is renewed, our national life will perish’. She reintroduced into British politics a missionary mood that reflected her provincial and Methodist origins. And the ‘spirit’ of which she spoke was unequivocally and uncompromisingly Christian. She said: ‘I find it difficult to imagine that anything other than Christianity is likely to resupply most people in the West with the virtues necessary to remoralize society in the very practical ways which the solution of many present problems require’. Of which it was observed:
Thatcher comes as close as she can to identifying Christianity and Conservatism. One can speculate that for Thatcher any distinction between Christianity and Conservatism is a technical theological distinction, and that the values and principles associated with the two sets of beliefs were normally, temporally, indistinguishable. She comes very close to this position in her volume Statecraft when she argues that certain cultures are "more conducive to free-enterprise capitalism and thus to economic progress than others". She had in mind the "Judaeo-Christian tradition" as opposed to what she calls the "great Asian religious traditions" and the "religious traditions of Africa". It is not necessary to agree with this analysis – and there are many problems with it – to recognize that for Thatcher a spiritual renewal meant essentially a Christian cultural renewal, not to fill the churches, but to ensure economic growth and prosperity.Perhaps no prime minister since Gladstone could have risked telling a journalist that (s)he was ‘in politics because of the conflict between good and evil’, with the conviction ‘that in the end good will triumph’.
But it is not her policies which will save her from Hell. It is not her programme of government, her achievements or her world renown.
Margaret Thatcher is saved from Hell because Jesus Christ is her Lord and Saviour: He paid the price: she is forgiven.
Perhaps Florence Anderson might like to consider that, in a few years time, when the Lord calls Margaret Thatcher to Himself, the angels will not only rejoice in Heaven but the name of the Great Lady will endure throughout human history.
And Florence Anderson will be nothing but a speck of dust.
Criticise Margaret Thatcher’s policies, if you wish, and lament what she did to the country. Pity or dislike her, by all means: hate her, even, although it harms the soul of no-one but the hater.
But do not wish the horrors of Hell upon anyone.
By the looks of it, Cllr Anderson is not far from shuffling off her own mortal coil.
And as she approaches the Gates of Heaven and the Lamb's Book of Life is opened, the Lord might just say to her what the population of the country is now saying:
Those who wish others would burn in Hell are much more in danger of going there themselves.
Retract, apologise and repent, Ms Anderson.
Before it is too late.