Yesterday I was shopping in my local high street and came across a stall staffed by half- a dozen members of the British National Party (BNP). I could have walked straight passed and ignored them, but decided to ask them a simple question. I first asked the lady behind the stall with all the leaflets- “Could my black British friends join the BNP if they were so minded?”- she wasn’t sure. I then directed the same question at the candidate standing for the BNP. He said emphatically “No!” I asked why not, as this is a British National Party and my black friends are British. He said it was because of the colour of their skin. He then added that he wasn’t racist- it was just a matter of keeping Britain a pure white country. He then got a bit of a history lesson from me about the so called ‘purity’ of the very mixed race nation that is Great Britain and our very proud history as a tolerant and inclusive nation. After around 10 minutes of this he then started to get angry, raised his voice and completely disengaged from any kind of rational and informed discussion. He saw me as someone who had betrayed his vision of a pure, white nation. A woman who was giving out leaflet swore at me when I took a couple, tore them up and then put them in the waste bin.
On this day of Pentecost we remember how the Lord sent his comforter- the Holy Spirit- who then inspired and equipped the apostles to go out to the nations with the life-transforming message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This message would set the prisoners free, clothe the naked,bring hope for the poor, feed the hungry and care for the fatherless. For over two thousand years it has been a message of hope, love and inclusion that pays no regard to colour, creed or nation- the first truly international faith.
My conversation with the BNP reminded me just how for from the central message of Christ- love and inclusion- their policies are and has made sure that I will be voting in the forthcoming elections if only to help ensure they get no encouragement whatsover. If you are reading this as a Christian, atheist, agnostic, humanist and you despise racism and what it stands for then please think about casting your vote on June 4th for any party but the BNP. Show them that Britain’s not racist.
The Times Newspaper recentlycarried an interesting piece from former hostage and special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the importance of Independent MPs at Westminster. Terry says about recent events; ” As spectator sports go I have to confess to mixed feelings. I take little delight in seeing anyone publicly injured and humiliated. But along with the vast majority of the population, I am amused and angry. Amused at the ducks, the moat, horse manure, dry rot and phantom mortgages. Angry that, as Jonathan Aitken (who ought to know about these matters) said on the Today programme, compliance has replaced conscience. The truth is that the gunpowder has been accumulating for a very long time. Increasingly a professional class of politician has grown and the more professional they have become, the more remote they are.”
The former Church Army Evangelist was irritated by Roy Hattersley recent observation that independent MPs were a waste of space. Waite says, “ He knows as well as I do that there is virtually no difference between the two main parties in Westminster and the vast majority of Labour and Tory politicians are gagged, bound and beaten by the whip. No self-respecting individual in touch with the the people of this country and wishing to represent them could possibly submit to that. It reduces the individual to mere voting fodder and that is what the majority have become. Small wonder that they turn their attention to dealing with dry rot at their second home rather than speaking boldly in Parliament.” It seems as if Terry’s frustration that politicians see themselves as an elite class has had an impact “Quite truthfully my mind is not yet made up and I guess there are a number of people in the same position as myself. We want the best for our country and if we take on the burden of office we will not take it on lightly and certainly not for personal gain. Perhaps a main contribution will be to put a bit of ginger into Parliament and encourage the long overdue reform of both houses. It is a total disgrace that once reform of the Lords was set in motion it was put on hold mainly because further reform would be too great a threat to the Commons. . Parliament is important but not the moribund Parliament we have suffered for far too long. The transformation from duckhouse to doghouse was rapid and took everyone by surprise. Now is the time for the people of this country to rally round those men and women willing to serve their country as independent Members of Parliament. They won’t have all the answers but they may well bring some fresh air into a political hothouse that has been suffocating for far too long. “
Sounds to me like this is the beginning of a stump speech. Terry’s autobiography “Taken on Trust”was considered a classic account of man’s survival at the limits of human endurance. If he can survive the Lebanese gulag with the three resolutions of no regrets, no false sentimentality and no self-pity- he sounds like the right sort of independent guy for Westminster.
For the full report see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6367904.ece
This week I opened a copy of The London Evening Standard to find a strange bedfellow amongst the adverts for forthcoming concerts from Bryan Adams, Booker T, Spinal Tap and James Morrison. The Catholic singing trio The Priests are to play London’s Hammersmith Apollo on 17thJune. Performing live in concert with a full orchestra The Priests, who have already been seen on GMTV and the Classical Brits, will perform songs from their number one album including Ave Maria, Irish Blessing and Abide with me. Can you imagine the light show and the costume changes at this gig? I am sure it will be a sell-out concert and make a tidy profit.
When the recent revelations that thousands of children were beaten, raped or abused by clergy and members of religious orders Vincent Nichols, the new Archbishop of Westminster urged Catholics to pray for the victims yet said that it takes courage for the guilty clergy to confront their pasts. As the Archbishop himself pointed out; “Wounds need to be healed..they need to be met with honest, compassionate sensitivity…and start the road to recovery and healing.” Would it be appropriate for the Priests to help start this process and donate some of their profits to the victims of abuse perpetrated by some elements within the Catholic Church? That really would help the priests to go to number one in my charts.
This week I read that a Church in Westbourne held a special community thanksgiving service for a murdered Big Issue seller. Hundreds of homeless people die or are killed across the UK every year and their passing goes unmarked. Thank God for the Editor of The Baptist Times who made the story of Ralph Millward front page news.
Ralph was an alcoholic and Big Issue vendor in Westbourne whose pitch for sales and sleep was outside the town’s Marks and Spencer store. His battered body was found outside the store on the morning of Friday, May 8th. Three youths aged 14 and 16 have been remanded in custody after appearing in court charged with murder. Ralph was well-known in the area and his brutal murder has sent shock-waves through the streets of this close-knit town. West Cliff Baptist Church has a well established ministry of reaching out to the local homeless community and Ralph had regularly used the services provided since their inception. The Revd Richard Burfoot, Ministry Team Leader at West Cliff said the church was ‘’privileged’ to have known Ralph- a gracious, gentle and polite man who lived a broken existence.”
At Friday’s weekly breakfast drop-in candles were lit and a two-minute silence held to remember Ralph and a memorial service began with a community processions from M&S attended by hundreds from the community. This community seems to me to bestowing Ralph such dignity, respect, compassion and love. It reminds me of the episode in The West Wing when Toby Zeigler organised a full military funeral for a homeless ex-Vietnam veteran who had died wearing a coat Toby that had donated to a homeless shelter. Zeigler was profoundly moved by the plight of the man who had served his country with such bravery and honour.
On behalf of the Christ who showed love and compassion to the outcasts, the scorned and the rejected- I’d like to thank the Christians and people of Westbourne for showing similar respect for the life of Ralph.
In last Saturday’s Guardian newspaper, Joanne Columbinefrom Bury in Lancashire makes an incisive contribution in response to the recent loss of trust in the Catholic faith:
“ If you must believe in an imaginary friend(or god, if you prefer), why not opt to worship him/her/it from the comfort of your own home in the manner of your choosing. Or do you require all that rigmarole and ceremony to give your faith meaning? Do the religious believe in god, or do they believe in the ritual, togetherness and sense of community. If it’s the latter, perhaps they could join a choir, football club or gardening group and avoid all the pain, hatred and intolerance religions routinely inflict on others.”
Well, have you got a better strategy for mission?
This is the text of a Joint Statement from Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York:
“The European Parliamentary and local elections on June 4th will take place at a time of extraordinary turbulence in our democratic system. It is a time for great vigilance over how to exercise our democratic right to vote. The temptation to stay away or register a protest vote in order to send a negative signal to the parties represented at Westminster will be strong. In our view, however, it would be tragic if the understandable sense of anger and disillusionment with some MPs over recent revelations led voters to shun the ballot box. Those whom we elect to local councils and the European Parliament will represent us and our collective interests for many years to come. It is crucial to elect those who wish to uphold the democratic values and who wish to work for the common good in a spirit of public service which urgently needs to be reaffirmed in these difficult days. There are those who would exploit the present situation to advance views that are the very opposite of the values of justice, compassion and human dignity are rooted in our Christian heritage. Christians have been deeply disturbed by the conscious adoption by the BNPof the language of our faith when the effect of those policies is not to promote those values but to foster fear and division within communities, especially between people of different faiths or racial background. This is not a moment for voting in favour of any political party whose core ideology is about sowing division in our communities and hostility on grounds of race, creed or colour; it is an opportunity for renewing the vision of a community united by mutual respect, high ethical standards and the pursuit of justice and peace. We hope that electors will use their vote on June 4th to renew the vision of a community united by the common good, public service and the pursuit of justice.
They are so right. My previous post at https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/the-bnpwhat-would-jesus-do/#comment-169 has proved to me the most viewed and commented on so I guess this has stirred up emotions on all sides about free speech, democracy, racism, hate and unity. I hope you are encouraged to do the right thing and support unity, diversity and justice.