TestMarket - Limited-Time Specials: Save 35% on God In Number 10: The Personal Faith of the Prime Ministers

Limited-Time Specials: Save 35% on God In Number 10: The Personal Faith of the Prime Ministers

Date:
Jun 15, 2024 07:05 pm
Limited-Time Specials: Save 35% on God In Number 10: The Personal Faith of the Prime Ministers
Category: Church History
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Rating: 4.80
Total Rating Count: 14
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Title: A great read.
Content: This is such an interesting book. Not only does it explore the Christian background, or not, of each successive occupant of No 10 from the beginning of the 20 Century, but it is also gives a perfect snapshot of each Prime Minister’s character and the obvious successes or failures during their time in office. Fascinating.
Rating:
Title: Insightful and accessible
Content: Congratulations to Mark Vickers for writing an insightful introduction to the faith, or lack of faith, of an extraordinary range of Prime Ministers. This book is written for thoughtful non-specialists and will probably become the standard introduction to a topic of immense interest. The only serious deficiency is that, given the recent turmoil in British politics, a sequel may be needed rather sooner than expected.
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Title: A valuable resource for political historians
Content: Excellent addition the wealth of info on Prime Ministerial biographies due it it being a hitherto ignored aspect. A knowledge of the Church of England and its practices will help readers with this as much as knowledge of political history as the theological references are numerous. Knocked a mark off for occasional inconsistences in the depth of essays. The blurb boats that John Major fully assisted and yet his essay is one of the blandest, shortest and least incisive of the lot. No real reason to stop at Blair. For me looking at Brown/Cameron/May would have been far more relevant than some of the pre-war PM's.
Rating:
Title: Highly recommended, succinct, surprising and without cynicism
Content: Far more interesting than you might think – Vickers’s novel approach reveals much about British leaders that is unexpected and gives greater depth to their personalities, though not in all cases. Inevitably, given the author’s starting point - as a Church of England vicar - those who had some real engagement with Christianity come out better. This is particularly the case with that affable, vague figure, Stanley Baldwin, who turns out to have been a lifelong ardent searcher, to such an extent that he changed church several times and felt himself – most humbly - to be ‘chosen as God’s instrument’. Asquith, Lloyd-George, Churchill, Atlee and Wilson, men largely without religion – but also the more significant 20th century prime ministers (excepting Thatcher) – come across as narrower and more opportunist than their spiritually concerned and conflicted peers, notably Balfour, Baldwin, Macmillan, Douglas-Home and Blair. Vickers employs a reliable and illuminating structure, first giving a brief potted history of the political career of the prime ministers, then delving into their spiritual biographies, as attested by admirably wide-ranging sources. His judgement is subtle and generous, and is founded on a vibrant if somewhat ‘muscular’ conception of what it means to be religious: ‘to make full sense of Christianity, to experience it as a lived reality, requires active membership of a community, the Church… to attain this conviction that we are loved and created for something that transcends the immediate and the temporal.’ One might quibble with the use of the definitive article – ‘the Church’- in this context, as well as the apparent absence of reference to personal, non-ecclesial experience. Still, the author has a pleasing fineness and toughness of mind, so that he does not shy away from making nuanced, discriminating judgements, for example, in his assessment of John Major’s religion: ‘Was Major the first secular Prime Minister? … he was in many ways the first to be raised … outside… the practice of Christian faith… It is clear, however, that interest in faith remained a live issue [for Major] and that the attempt to live a Christian life was sincere.’ It is heartening to read about these major figures without the deep vein of cynicism which pervades most contemporary political analysis, which seems incapable of taking any good intentions at face value or of being non-partisan. As Vickers writes, these ‘twentieth-century Prime Ministers constitute a surprisingly decent set of individuals – although an exception might be made for Lloyd George. As a group, they were honest, hard-working and public-spirited. Arguably, these values reflect their Christian backgrounds’ (even when they were not practising Christians). Another unexpected finding is that, according to Vickers, over the century Prime Ministers became ‘more believing’, whereas the country became rapidly more secular. In a brief conclusion, Vickers notes that ‘the proportion of Prime Ministers losing fathers during childhood is striking: Balfour, Asquith, Lloyd George and Callaghan’ while a further five premiers – Bonar Law, MacDonald, Chamberlain, Churchill and Eden – had either absent or notably neglectful fathers. He builds briefly on this to assert that the case studies of these 19 individuals overturns Freud’s correlation between the father-child relationship and belief in God. Freud wrote that ‘the personal God is nothing more than an exalted father… youthful persons lose their religious belief as the authority of the father breaks down.’ However, the American psychologist Paul Vitz argued persuasively that ‘if psychological factors can account for a belief in God, then similar explanations for atheism’ are equally plausible. The nine Prime Ministers who lost their fathers, or were emotionally distanced from them, were all atheists, agnostics or with distinctly lukewarm faith. ‘By contrast, Baldwin, Douglas-Home, Thatcher and Blair enjoyed good relations with their fathers and were uncomplicated believing Christians.’ However, family and religious background is not determinist: Atlee had a good relationship with his devoutly Anglican father but became an atheist. Faith, as Vickers writes, is ‘a matter of free will and personal choice.’ Given Vickers’ focus on 20th century prime ministers, there is of course no discussion of the first British Prime Minister without a Christian background, Rishi Sunak – though I suspect that Sunak would fit the mould of being more religious than the bulk of the population. (Disraeli was ethnically Jewish but a practising Anglican.)
Rating:
Title: Very good
Content: Both insightful and descriptive.
Rating:
Title: A great read.
Content: This is such an interesting book. Not only does it explore the Christian background, or not, of each successive occupant of No 10 from the beginning of the 20 Century, but it is also gives a perfect snapshot of each Prime Minister’s character and the obvious successes or failures during their time in office. Fascinating.
Rating:

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