Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Of Silk Purses and Sow's Ears

I suspect that I may be unique in that I do not hold a strong opinion one way or another on the subject of Margaret Thatcher.  We are told that she was raised as a Methodist, and this is either proclaimed proudly or admitted sheepishly by Methodists depending on their political outlook.  Possibly I’m just too young to have formed a strong opinion.  At the time I was far too busy with important things like Lego castles and Transformers to pay much heed to what boring-looking people on the news were up to, what with their disappointing ability to turn themselves into cars or fire lasers at anything at all.

All this is really just preamble to a story I read in the paper last week about a speech that Margaret Thatcher wrote.  It was a blistering attack on the Labour party for their support of the mining unions and refusal to condemn picket line violence, accusing them of having been infiltrated by extremists and riven with factions.

This speech was to be delivered at the Conservative Party Conference in 1984.  It was never made.  An IRA bomb was detonated at the hotel hosting the conference, killing 5 people.  In the wake of the bombing, Mrs Thatcher received hundreds of letters of support, sympathy and condolence, many of which came from Labour politicians, and this moved her deeply.

She tore up her aggressive, antagonistic speech and wrote something rather gentler.  That handwritten first draft was later taped back together and kept.  The newspaper story quotes someone from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation as saying “It is ironic the speech is softened by an act of great violence.”

I suggest that that person is very wrong.  It wasn’t the act of violence that softened the speech; it was the acts of kindness, sympathy and compassion from people who were her political enemies that made her rethink her angry words.  It is a good example of what I have written about before about the existence of evil.  After all, without hurt, without hate, without these acts of violence and evil, how could we forgive, how could we love, how could we show compassion and courage and solidarity?

I’m not trying to claim that the perpetrators of that attack are in some way noble or good for having created the conditions in which such virtues are necessary, but when people ask why a good God would permit such things to happen, I will point to the wonderful and unexpected outcomes that can be the result of the evils in our world.

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