Saturday, 17 May 2008

New Scotsman: David Torrance: Did Thatcher get raw deal over her Sermon on the Mound?

[...] From the moment it became known that the Lord High Commissioner, Sir Iain Tennant, intended to invite her to attend, some ministers whipped themselves up into an indignant fervour. On the day of the speech, five even argued – with Mrs Thatcher looking on – that she should be prevented from speaking and walked out before she had uttered a word, an astonishing display for men who claimed to support free discourse. "There was a form of Christianity in her speech," one of the five sarcastically conceded recently, "but you could also say there was a form of Christianity in apartheid."

But then when it came to criticising Mrs Thatcher, there was a belief that anything, however gratuitous or insulting, was acceptable. There was more than a whiff of Dr Johnson in the reaction. "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs," he quipped. "It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

But not everyone who filled the chamber that day was offended by Mrs Thatcher's preaching. The Kirk, then as now, had its conservative elements, and Andrew McLellan – who became moderator in 2000 – remembers watching a row of ageing former moderators clapping enthusiastically as the prime minister made her way to the lectern. Indeed, she was applauded several times during the speech, although this could have been out of politeness.

And rereading the speech 20 years on, it is striking how courteous and balanced some passages are. "The Tenth Commandment recognises that making money and owning things could become selfish activities," Mrs Thatcher said. "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."

What Thatcherism did with the wealth is why the ideology caused such controversy. But although the speech's central assertion caused a row, noted the journalist Hugo Young, "it wasn't greeted with incredulity. It was now fashionable to be rich not poor, to consume rather than to 'care'".

After nearly a decade of Thatcherism, neither the Kirk nor the Church of England any longer resembled the Conservative Party at prayer. "Christians will very often genuinely disagree," Mrs Thatcher observed, "though it is a mark of Christian manners that they will do so with courtesy and mutual respect." Ironic, then, that her lucid – and very personal – exposition of Christianity was greeted by many with neither. Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

No comments: