Faith Leaders Reflect on Margaret Thatcher's Legacy

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LONDON -- Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is being laid to rest Wednesday with full military honors.
    
World leaders and dignitaries from 170 countries are attending the funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip will be among the mourners.
    
Thatcher was nicknamed the "Iron Lady" during her 11-year tenure as prime minister.
    
She's known for transforming Britain by privatizing state industries, deregulating the economy and causing social upheaval whose impact is still felt.

Thatcher's Faith Legacy

Many are reflecting not only on her political legacy, but also on the Christian principles she lived by. 

Baroness Thatcher grew up in the Methodist Church. Lord William Carey, the former archbishop of the Anglican Church, said her Christian faith underpinned all her values as a leader, displayed when she quoted from St. Francis of Assisi before taking office.

"Well she was a very explicit Christian," Carey said. "In that famous statement from St. Francis of Assisi, she was actually saying, 'These are the values I want to live my life by' and she did.  She attended church services, she was a very faithful Christian brought up as a Methodist, and she was a very faithful person of prayer."

Baroness Caroline Cox, now a well-known advocate on behalf of the persecuted Church, remembers when Thatcher summoned her when she was being recommended to become a peer in the House of Lords.

"Well I was glad I was sitting down because I would certainly have fallen down with amazement," Cox recalled. "But then what was really impressive was she said 'you've always got freedom to speak and vote according to conscience.'"

Baroness Cox also believes Thatcher was driven by her Christian principles, particularly when she was campaigning for Christianity to be taught in schools.

"I think she was very clearly in those Christian values," the baroness said. "One of the areas where I was active in the 1980s was trying to bring Christianity -- the teaching of our Christian heritage -- back into the teaching of religious education in our schools, and I think I had a lot of support in the house, and I think Margaret Thatcher gave me a lot of personal support."

A Giant Among Statesmen

Before serving as Thatcher's press and public relations director, Harvey Thomas directed missions for Billy Graham in the United Kingdom for 15 years. Thomas, who miraculously survived a terrorist bombing attack in 1984 that was meant for Thatcher, says she was a giant among politicians and statesmen.

"She didn't mind a good argument anytime, but she knew what she believed in and that's what she set out to do. And that's what put her above many other politicians, even of her own age, and certainly above the vast majority today who have no idea what they want to do and if they did, they wouldn't know how to do it."

Thomas said despite the pressures she faced, Thatcher never compromised her Christian principles.

"I think the thing that she said to me most of all in (nearly 14 years) was, 'No, we've got to do it this way because it's right.' Now whether she was or not, people have the right to judge, and history will judge, but her motivation was because she believed it was the right thing to do and that's why she did it.  Now that came from her Christian faith."

Thomas says even Ronald Regan told him he was inspired by the legacy Margaret Thatcher was creating for Great Britain.

"He said, 'You know what I want to do in the United States is what Margaret Thatcher is starting to do in the United Kingdom. To get the government off the backs of the people and basically that was a big theme: 'Let the people be independent. Let the people have something to leave to their children.'"

Thatcher's strong belief in God and her adherence to Christian values inspired her policies. Lord Carey suggests it was her commitment to those universal truths that left a lasting impact on Great Britain and led to the end of the Cold War. He says despite his sadness at her passing, he's reassured that her quality of life is now far greater in heaven.

"Well, I feel a sense of sadness because she was a great leader, but her mind was going. There's no quality of life left. So, we as Christians believe that when we die then we're with the Lord and that we take for granted and that is where she is."

So as the country pays their respects to the former prime minister, many will remember that unlike many of those who succeeded her, she refused to bend and compromise those beliefs that helped make Great Britain great.

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Peter Wooding

Peter Wooding

CBN News UK Correspondent

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