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Theresa May and Charles I. And Jack Nicholson.

May 31, 2017


Of all the UK party leaders, Theresa May is the most avowedly Christian.  She’s also by far the most mendacious, having broken her word over and over again.  Right now she is telling repeated lies regarding prosperous versions of Hard Brexit.  And by the time I’m typing this, I’m reasonably sure that “Liar Liar” by Captain Ska will have become the most downloaded song in Europe.

So is her religion all hypocrisy?   Not necessarily.   I was thinking of another High Anglican, indeed the supposed supreme martyr of High Anglicanism – Charles Stuart, King of England, Ireland, Scotland and (nominally) France.  Charles actually has churches dedicated to him in Tunbridge Wells, Plymouth and Falmouth.  Charles broke his word over and over and over again, whenever he had to deal with Parliament in any capacity whatsoever. Following his initial military defeat by parliamentary forces, he prevaricated, delayed and deceived over and over again, feigning compliance while secretly planning further military campaign.  He was eventually tried and executed, not because his enemies had always sought his head, but because they finally realised that you cannot cut a binding deal with someone who believes themselves to be accountable only to God.

The fact that someone’s stated religious beliefs are completely inconsistent does not make that person a hypocrite.  People sincerely feel they believe all sorts of inconsistent things. The double-dealings of Charles Stuart were not the result of two-faced hypocrisy (breaking into diabolical laughter and shouting “the fools! the fools” once other people have left the room) but the result of a belief that his own privileged relationship with God exempted him from having to keep faith with mere “subjects”.


Theresa May, I think has a similar sense of righteousness which precludes any perceived need to keep faith with the unregenerate.  Mere mortals do not deserve to be kept faith with.

It’s always tempting to say that when you feel shamed by those who claim the authority and adjectives of a faith with which you feel you are in sympathy, that these shameful people are not “real” Christians, Muslims, Jews… etc. etc. etc.  Theresa May’s Christianity seems bereft of charity, compassion, empathy, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness and any of those happy abstractions some of us might regard as defining.  Such is her pitifully low opinion of humanity that you’d wonder why she thinks Christ saw fit to die on a cross on behalf of such a deplorable species.  But I can’t go around saying she’s not a Christian just because she seems like the utter negation of every Christian principle I’ve ever heard of.  She represents, rather, an interpretation of Christianity or a tradition within Christianity that is ancient and often dominant.  Hers is the Christianity that is primarily concerned with preserving the privileges of a tribe.  Hers is a Christianity for people who want to feel better than other people, who want to feel secure and proud about the cultural centrality that they feel this particular affiliation confers.  In many parts of the USA this is the only version of Christianity on offer and it’s increasingly becoming the dominant version of Christianity in Britain.  The 1990s “Prosperity Gospel”, defying just about every Biblical precept I’ve ever been taught, is now triumphant, but in a sense its message gestated for centuries within various forms of Protestantism, and a vaguer sense of tribal privilege has attached itself to Christianity ever since Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire (more the work of Theodosius than Constantine).

Perhaps, instead of Jeremy Paxman, Theresa May should have been interviewed by a young Tom Cruise – somebody who could have pressed the right buttons over and over again to the point where, like Jack Nicholson, she could have blurted out that Brits can’t handle the truth.  Or, more importantly, don’t deserve the truth.


Theresa May has come close to going full Nicholson when lying about Brexit.  By constructing the negotiations to come as a sort of poker game, she keeps talking about not giving away the Government’s hand.  She will be commander of the marine garrison at Guantanamo Bay, surrounded by hostile Cubans and doing whatever it takes to keep the base going, including stuff that fat pampered lazy civilians probably don’t want to know about.  The treatment of EU nationals in Britain may be subject to various “Code Reds”.

The odd thing about Theresa May’s privileged conversations with God, from which the rest of us are excluded (much as ordinary people are to be excluded from conversing with the EU), is that God’s vision for Britain is seemingly so limited.  It is nothing more than – tell the people whatever it takes to preserve the power and prestige of a small group of people for the short to medium term.  What is “strength” or “stability” in or of themselves?  Strength on behalf of what?  Stability for whom?   Theresa May’s God has no grand plan, only a short term tactical sense of what it takes for Theresa May to continue in office.

Charles I similarly jumped from contingency to contingency, saying whatever he liked to whomsoever he liked to buy time and curry favour, confident that his only real obligations were to God.

Of course, should Theresa May actually lose this forthcoming election, her “severance” package” will be far less harsh than that of poor Charles’.


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