Margaret Thatcher served as prime minister of England from May 1979 to November 1990 - a pivotal time in the world's history. This was when European communism collapsed, the Soviet Union passed into the dustbin of history, and the eastern half of Europe was freed from the clutches of the Soviets. I was in my second year of college when we witnessed people tearing down the Berlin Wall on television. My college friends and I wondered what it meant for the future. It had been there all of our lives and even though it was thousands of miles away, what it stood for deeply affected us and the rest of the world. Margaret Thatcher, a strong woman, was one of the leaders responsible for the fall.
I know that no world leader is perfect. They all make decisions that are unpopular, even wrong, but they are in their positions to enact the common good - that is their God-ordained purpose as leaders. I just like Margaret Thatcher because she was a strong woman who stood up for what she believed and who tried to make the world a better place.
To honor her, I'd like to post this speech I read this week that she gave to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. You can read the full text here.
Here are some excerpts:
May I also say a few words about my personal belief in the relevance of Christianity to public policy—to the things that are Caesar's?
The Old Testament lays down in Exodus the Ten Commandments as given to Moses , the injunction in Leviticus to love our neighbour as ourselves and generally the importance of observing a strict code of law. The New Testament is a record of the Incarnation, the teachings of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Again we have the emphasis on loving our neighbour as ourselves and to "Do-as-you-would-be-done-by".
I believe that by taking together these key elements from the Old and New Testaments, we gain: a view of the universe, a proper attitude to work, and principles to shape economic and social life.
We are told we must work and use our talents to create wealth. "If a man will not work he shall not eat" wrote St. Paul to the Thessalonians. Indeed, abundance rather than poverty has a legitimacy which derives from the very nature of Creation.
Nevertheless, the Tenth Commandment—Thou shalt not covet—recognises that making money and owning things could become selfish activities. But it is not the creation of wealth that is wrong but love of money for its own sake. The spiritual dimension comes in deciding what one does with the wealth. How could we respond to the many calls for help, or invest for the future, or support the wonderful artists and craftsmen whose work also glorifies God, unless we had first worked hard and used our talents to create the necessary wealth? And remember the woman with the alabaster jar of ointment.
I confess that I always had difficulty with interpreting the Biblical precept to love our neighbours "as ourselves" until I read some of the words of C.S. Lewis. He pointed out that we don't exactly love ourselves when we fall below the standards and beliefs we have accepted. Indeed we might even hate ourselves for some unworthy deed.
None of this, of course, tells us exactly what kind of political and social institutions we should have. On this point, Christians will very often genuinely disagree, though it is a mark of Christian manners that they will do so with courtesy and mutual respect.[Applause]What is certain, however, is that any set of social and economic arrangements which is not founded on the acceptance of individual responsibility will do nothing but harm.;and,
But I go further than this. The truths of the Judaic-Christian tradition are infinitely precious, not only, as I believe, because they are true, but also because they provide the moral impulse which alone can lead to that peace, in the true meaning of the word, for which we all long.
To assert absolute moral values is not to claim perfection for ourselves. No true Christian could do that. What is more, one of the great principles of our Judaic-Christian inheritance is tolerance. People with other faiths and cultures have always been welcomed in our land, assured of equality under the law, of proper respect and of open friendship. There's absolutely nothing incompatible between this and our desire to maintain the essence of our own identity. There is no place for racial or religious intolerance in our creed.
When Abraham Lincoln spoke in his famous Gettysburg speech of 1863 of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people", he gave the world a neat definition of democracy which has since been widely and enthusiastically adopted. But what he enunciated as a form of government was not in itself especially Christian, for nowhere in the Bible is the word democracy mentioned. Ideally, when Christians meet, as Christians, to take counsel together their purpose is not (or should not be) to ascertain what is the mind of the majority but what is the mind of the Holy Spirit—something which may be quite different. [Applause]