Selfish Individualism Or Christian Principle? A Critique Of Margaret Thatcher’s Idea Of Individual Liberty With Reference To Methodism -- By: Ross Maidment

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 14:2 (Sep 2017)
Article: Selfish Individualism Or Christian Principle? A Critique Of Margaret Thatcher’s Idea Of Individual Liberty With Reference To Methodism
Author: Ross Maidment


Selfish Individualism Or Christian Principle? A Critique Of Margaret Thatcher’s Idea Of Individual Liberty With Reference To Methodism1

Ross Maidment

Abstract: Much has been written about Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and her political ideas, including individual liberty. There has also been some consideration of whether or not her political thinking was influenced by her Christian faith. In recent academic research, this claim has been scrutinized. Notably, Eliza Filby (King’s College, London) has offered an historian’s critique of the way Thatcher invoked Christianity, in the context of the apparent secularisation of British society in the 1980s. Filby argues that whilst Thatcher’s critics correctly claim that her belief in the liberty of the individual created a more secular society, this was never Thatcher’s intention. This essay offers a theological critique of Thatcher’s idea of individual liberty, which has been criticised as mere ‘selfish individualism,’ but which Thatcher herself claimed to be a Christian principle. It presents a full account of Thatcher’s idea, how she connected it with Christianity, and the extent to which it can be legitimately claim to be a product of her own ‘Nonconformist’ tradition. Special attention is given to the theological tradition of Methodism in which Thatcher was raised.

Choice lies at the heart of the Christian revelation […] there is something wrong in believing a man [is] fit to choose his eternal destiny but not to decide on the education of his children.2

1. Introduction

Margaret Hilda Thatcher (née Roberts, 13 October 1925—8 April 2013) took her religious faith seriously. It shaped her personality and, at times, even her politics. It is widely known that her Christianity was rooted in the Protestant Nonconformist tradition of Methodism, and she often emphasised the so-called Protestant ‘work-ethic’ throughout her Premiership. Mrs Thatcher claimed that her political convictions were consonant with the insights of Christianity: ‘Although I have always resisted the argument that a Christian has to be a Conservative’, she wrote in her memoirs, ‘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’.3 Mrs Thatcher claimed to speak ‘personally as a Christian, as well as a politician’ in an address to the Church of Scotland General Assembly on 31st October 1988.4 In this speech, famously referred to the ‘Sermon on the Mound’, Mrs Thatcher outlined most meticulously the...

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