Jacob Rees-Mogg is a remarkable British politician: although he is well known in Britain as a wealthy, old-Etonian and Catholic aristocrat with no cabinet experience, he rocketed last summer into the lead in popularity among potential Conservative successors to Prime Minister Theresa May.
The ascendancy of Rees-Mogg is all the more remarkable in that he has never made any secret about his theologically orthodox Catholic beliefs. Tim Farron, the former leader of Britain’s centre-left Liberal Democrats, is also a devout Catholic, but compared to Rees-Mogg, he was, until recently, much less candid about his faith. Challenged by journalists to state his views as a Catholic about homosexual sex, Farron would habitually evade such questions, saying little more than that his personal views did not matter.
Then on April 19, Farron let his guard down. Pressed in the House of Commons to affirm his personal beliefs about homosexuality, he claimed that he was proud to have joined with other Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative MPs in backing the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act of 2013.
It seems, though, that this declaration did not leave Farron entirely at peace with his conscience. On June 14, he quit the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. In a statement he explained: “To be a leader, particularly of a progressive liberal party in 2017 and to live as a committed Christian and to hold faithful to the Bible’s teaching has felt impossible for me.”
On Sept. 6, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, celebrity journalists for Britain’s ITV television network, subjected Rees-Mogg to thorough-going interrogation about his Christian beliefs on their nationally televised show Good Morning Britain. Unlike Farron, Rees-Mogg was altogether forthright.
Although Morgan and Reid well knew that Rees-Mogg had voted against the same-sex marriage legislation that Farron had supported on a free vote in 2013, they pressed Rees-Mogg to restate his position on same-sex marriage. He simply responded: “I am a Catholic and I take the teaching of the Catholic Church seriously on matters of faith and morals.”
To that, Morgan smugly observed: “I am a Catholic, but I do not agree with the Catholic Church on this issue.” Rees-Mogg calmly rejoined. “That’s fair enough, but I support the teaching of the Catholic Church … Marriage is a sacrament and a sacrament is under the authority of the Church and not of the state. This is exactly the argument that Thomas More made in his opposition to the marriage of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.”
On the issue of abortion, Rees-Moggs was no less straightforward: “I am completely opposed to abortion. Life begins at the point of conception.”
Reid seemed incredulous: “Are you completely opposed to abortion in all circumstances?” she asked. “Yes, I am,” replied Rees-Mogg. “Rape and incest?” she pressed. “I am afraid so,” he said. “Life is sacrosanct and begins at the point of conception.”
After Morgan pointedly recalled that Farron had “basically depth-charged his leadership” by standing by his Catholic convictions, Rees-Mogg placidly observed that the Conservatives are much more tolerant of religious faith than the Liberal Democrats. “The Lib Dems pretend that they are liberal, but they could not cope with having a Christian as their leader,” he said. “It is all very well to say that we live in a multicultural country until you are a Christian — until you hold the traditional views of the Catholic Church. And that,” Rees-Mogg emphasized, “seems to me fundamentally wrong.”
Morgan told Rees-Mogg: “You are a favourite to replace Theresa May as Conservative leader, people are now mobbing you in the street. You’re becoming a bit of a pin-up to ladies of a certain disposition.”
While mobbing in the street was somewhat of an exaggeration, it is true that many, especially young, voters in Britain appreciate Rees-Mogg’s honesty, candour, and integrity. But is he a future prime minister?
Not likely. Rees-Mogg may recently have ranked first among a lengthy list of potential Conservative candidates to replace May, but no poll has shown him to have the support of more than 30 per cent of his fellow party members.
Regardless, for Rees-Mogg, political success is far from the be-all and end-all. Both he and, more recently, Farron have convincingly demonstrated that in their considered judgment, becoming prime minister matters far less than steadfastly upholding the truth as God gives them to see the truth.
Would that we had more faithful Christian politicians like them.