“I think it’s an extraordinary poll. It’s the first time I’ve heard something like this,” said Theresa May, somewhat aghast to hear that she has been voted by Christians the political party leader most like Jesus. Not physically, of course (the beardy sandals type is much more Jeremy Corbyn), but in her essential character integrity and policy advocacy, the Prime Minister is deemed to be more like the Son of God than any of the other UK party leaders.
Looking at the line-up – Corbyn (Labour), Farron (LibDem), Sturgeon (SNP), Wood (Plaid Cymru), Nuttall (Ukip), Lucas/Bartley (Greens) – perhaps that isn’t so difficult to believe. It isn’t clear if options included the Northern Ireland parties, but maybe Nigel Dodds (DUP) and Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Féin) are unknown quantities to the interview sample.
Perhaps methodological quibbles are irrelevant: asked directly for a Premier poll ‘Which political leader do you consider to be most like Jesus?’, a whopping 46% responded Theresa May.
Corbyn scored 27%; Farron 20%; Lucas/Bartley 3%; Nuttall 2%; Wood and Sturgeon both scored 1.5%.
Before the ensuing chat thread is captivated (once again) by fulminations about same-sex marriage and sheer incredulity that anyone could possibly think Theresa May to be a ‘real’ Christian, it is worth examining this data.
Stephen Beer (of Christians on the Left) posits a plausible rationale: “I thought that the proportion who were suggesting that Theresa May was most like Jesus was very roughly in line with the proportion who say they’re going to vote Conservative nationally,” he told Premier. “I wonder whether your poll is really reflecting, in the first instance at least, national voting intentions at that point, rather than any strong conviction from Christian communities in the country.”
Polls are fluid, but today’s top line appears to be: Con 48%; Lab 33%; Green 2%; LibDem 7%, Ukip 4%. Data for the SNP and Plaid is skewed because they’re not UK parties, but somewhere between 0.5%-2% looks about right.
So Stephen Beer might be onto something correlative: Theresa May is considered to be most like Jesus by those who want to see her returned to No.10, which makes complete sense, for why would Christians vote for a candidate they don’t consider to be the most Christlike?
For some, of course, Theresa May is more anti-christ than Christlike. Or even anti-mary:
…these women would not value children. They would be bawdy, vulgar, and angry. They would rage against the idea of anything resembling humble obedience or self-sacrifice for others. They would be petulant, shallow, catty, and overly sensuous. They would also be self-absorbed, manipulative, gossipy, anxious, and ambitious. In short, it would be everything that Mary is not.
That’s a fair summary of a robust left-wing view of Theresa May (and Margaret Thatcher, for that matter). Andrew Brown unpacks it further in the Guardian:
Our Lady of the Foodbanks makes such an improbably Christ-like figure… I don’t think that anyone could look at her policies and conclude that she was the most Christian of the party leaders. If you are on the left, the way her government treats the unemployed, the old, the young, and anyone else without a private income is morally outrageous… Her policies on asylum seekers are brutal enough to lose the support of the left, while the right thinks she is far too secularist in her refusal to prioritise Christians who are fleeing persecution. No other party leader has such a wide spectrum of policies offensive to different shades of Christian opinion.
And he takes Stephen Beer’s theme a step further: those who believe Theresa May to be most like Jesus are actually seeing in her a reflection of their own Christian identity and political ideology:
Most Christians in this country – and certainly most Anglicans – are hostile to immigration, and don’t believe welfare recipients are victims of circumstances outside their own control. Anglicans in particular are significantly more likely to support Brexit than non-Anglicans of the same age and class.
At the same time they are socially liberal, with no strong hang-ups about sexual behaviour or even abortion. They believe in straight divorce and gay marriage. All this is entirely in line with May’s platform, and thoroughly out of line with the opinions of the bishops and other clergy. When they look at the party leader, they see in Theresa May the one who most resembles their Christian selves, and therefore, they believe, the one who must be closest to Jesus Christ, the perfect man.
There may be some truth in this also: in a liberal democracy, since Jesus Himself isn’t standing for election and there’s no hope that the government will be upon his shoulder anytime soon, Christians are exhorted to discern the lesser evil; to vote for the candidate who is most like Jesus, even if that reflection is oftentimes rather hazy.
And yet Theresa May is the only political leader who talks openly about her faith in a positive and consistent way. “I’ve been clear and everybody knows that faith plays a part in my life and faith guides me in everything I do,” she told Premier Christian Radio yesterday. Jeremy Corbyn (atheist/agnostic?) has no such transcendent guide: he usually waffles on about community and general faith (often linking it to race and equality). Evangelical Tim Farron has U-turned on so many of his Christian moral convictions (or at least on same-sex marriage and abortion) that he scarcely now seems to be convinced of much at all. And Paul Nuttall is a pro-life Roman Catholic, but he tends to bark about Christianity only in the context of ‘British values’ (which seem to be dominated in policy terms by burqas). Other leaders’ views have been summarised by James Mildred, who asks: “One wonders if William Wilberforce were alive today, if such a man would ever have survived in modern society where those who are more evangelical seem to face outright suspicion and hostility.”
Theresa May is no William Wilberforce, but if you balk at all talk of her Christlikeness, consider instead that she is quite possibly the most Wilberforce-like of the current crop of political leaders. His overriding mission and his whole political vocation was to abolish slavery; hers is now to extricate us from the EU. And therein lies perhaps the most interesting revelation from this Premier poll: they found overwhelmingly that the most important issue for Christians in this General Election is not the NHS, or education, or homelessness or poverty: it is Brexit.
Cometh the hour, cometh the woman.
It has taken a while for eyes to see and minds to understand that the UK can be a shining city upon a hill far better when its light is not dimmed by the anti-Christian, anti-democratic, anti-freedom forces of the Eurobeast. A UK government can be more righteous, if not more Christlike, when it is sovereign enough to be so.