Sayeeda Warsi has part time responsibilities as Minister for Faith and Communities when not working at the Foreign Office. At Cambridge University in a speech which called on the ghosts of Churchill and Thatcher to promote faith at the top table of public policy formulation she has claimed a mantle that Winston once held for himself regarding defending the Church of England from the outside.
However, we need to take Warsi up on distorting both Churchill and Thatcher, as she tries to stand on these giant’s shoulders for her own ideas that faith should be at the heart of Government policy.
For by saying “Churchill was a big supporter of the Established Church” she misses that he would have been appalled that a Minister for the Faith does not exist. Churchill described Hinduism as “beastly” and described Mein Kampf as the “new Koran.” Regarding whether you had faith or not Churchill said:
If you tried your best to live an honorable life and did your duty and were faithful to friends and not unkind to the weak and poor, it did not matter much what you believed or disbelieved.
Warsi makes the claim that Churchill’s “wider criticism of totalitarian ideologies was that they were ‘Godless.'” For Churchill the foundation of tyranny was injustice:
“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”
Regarding Thatcher, her religious principles legitimised the economic policies which would bear her name. Less state intervention, self reliance, a free market would also allow a spiritual revival as communities embraced “Christian ethics” and showed benevolence to each other rather than state handouts. The problem is what spiritual comfort individuals can give each other when an entire community is economically destroyed.
What milk of human kindness sustains when a neighbourhood must rely on food banks for milk. The Good Samaritan, Thatcher noted, had wealth and good intentions – both essential for the public good. Yet when wealth disappears in the community, good intentions cannot sustain individuals. Those “Marxist ideologues” in the Church of England were not the only ones to notice in the 1980s, nor indeed now.
Thatcher’s view was not faith at the top table but at the dinner table. As she said
Christianity is about more than doing good works. It is a deep faith which expresses itself in your relationship to God. It is a sanctity, and no politician is entitled to take that away from you or to have what I call corporate State activities which only look at interests as a whole.
So, you’ve got this double thing which you must aim for in religion, to work to really know your faith and to work it out in everyday life. You can’t separate one from the other. Good works are not enough because it would be like trying to cut a flower from its root; the flower would soon die because there would be nothing to revive it.
For Thatcher, religion was for an individual and not to be imposed on society as a whole through the power of the state. The idea of faith groups advocating state power at the heart of government for their causes would have concerned her. She advocated them working in the community, not pluralism in government policy formulation. Religion was for her an intensely personal thing.
By all means Baroness Warsi be the new flying buttress as Churchill regarded himself. But do not misrepresent giants of history. Because rather than shoulders of giants, we can easily show you do not even have so much as a leg to stand on.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog