British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently got married in Westminster Cathedral and quoted from the Psalms in a media interview weeks later, hailed Christianity as “a superb ethical system” but added that he would count himself “as a kind of very, very bad Christian.”
In a lengthy biographical piece published in The Times on Saturday, British writer Tom McTague prodded him further on his faith.
A friend of the prime minister reportedly told several news outlets that he suspected that Johnson believed in a “pre-Christian morality system with a multitude of gods and no clear set of rules.”
So when The Times put this to Johnson, he responded, “Christianity is a superb ethical system and I would count myself as a kind of very, very bad Christian. No disrespect to any other religions, but Christianity makes a lot of sense to me.”
McTague also noted that the prime minister’s “ability to invite underestimation seems to shield him from the usual rules of politics.”
“There’s a magic to Boris that allows him to escape some of the political challenges that he’s had since he became prime minister,” the writer quotes Frank Luntz, an American pollster who was friends with Johnson at Oxford, as saying. “People are more patient with him, they are more forgiving of him, because he’s not a typical politician.”
Last month during the G7 summit in England when ITV’s Robert Peston asked Johnson whether he was now a practicing Roman Catholic, the prime minister initially sought not to respond by saying, “I don’t discuss these deep issues, certainly not with you.”
The reporter then told Johnson that Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer had said he didn’t believe in God. The prime minister then quickly quoted Psalm 14: “The foolish man has said in his heart there is no God.”
While the prime minister was baptized a Catholic, he twice married as an Anglican before his third marriage with Carrie Symonds in May.
The question of his faith as Britain’s first Catholic prime minister (while in office) became a serious issue last month because, as a Catholic, Johnson can no longer send the names of Church of England bishops to Queen Elizabeth.
Instead, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland “will send the names of new Church of England bishops to the queen, after a warning that the prime minister could be banished from office if he keeps doing so himself,” The Telegraph reported.
An unnamed source at No. 10 told the publication that the rule is “incredibly anachronistic” because a Jewish or Muslim prime minister could nominate a bishop but not a Catholic.
In response to questions about Johnson’s Christian faith and conversion to Catholicism, one senior Tory reportedly said earlier that the prime minister “does not have a religious bone in his body.”
Johnson’s great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, was a Turkish Muslim journalist and politician who was brutally murdered by a mob that supported Ataturk. He knew England well, and when the British occupied Constantinople for four years at the end of World War I, he collaborated with them.
In the BBC series “Who Do Think You Are,” Johnson talked about his great-grandfather having memorized the entire Quran as a young boy. And it was in that interview that Johnson also mentioned that, as a student, he had won a Scripture knowledge prize.
As part of a Bible reading project for the King James Bible Trust, in which a reading of the entire Bible was posted on YouTube, Johnson read from Isaiah Chapter 11. He called the King James version the “single most beautiful and influential work of English literature.”