I hadn’t heard of The Christian Council of Britain until yesterday. I was watching a debate on BBC Tv’s The Big Questions about the BNP and to my surprise saw a Christian minister Rev Robert West (in dog collar) a failed BNP candidate in the recent Euro elections saying that it is God’s will to “preserve nations as ethnic groups”. The other BNP rep on the show said that the people have a tendency to “caricature the policies of the BNP with an emotional tirade.” I know nothing about the Rev West, but under challenge from Jonathan Bartley he would not reveal how many people were members of his organisation, so I went on line to check it out. Its mission statement is (my highlights):
“To promote Christian views and values in our Nation and society; and to counteract cultural and ideological challenges and threats from extreme ideologies which would seek to undermine, persecute, or legally prosecute Britain’s national and Christian heritage as a basis for an attack on the free, open, liberal and democratic nature of her People, and of their society. The Christian Council of Britain has been set up to fulfill this Mission Statement through national and local campaigning and by obtaining a voice in the media for patriotic Christians. We promote and defend the Christian stance in government consultations on policy and legislation and we challenge anti-Christian, anti-family propaganda and activities in the media, the professions and wherever else they occur. We will work with like-minded organisations to end the undermining of Britain’s Christian family morality and Christian heritage from whatever source these attacks, insidious or overt, long-term or sudden, originate from.
As the Rev West was so evasive about the numbers and backing for his organisation. I checked out what Churches Together has to say about The Christian Council of Britain:
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland associates itself with the recent statement from the Methodist Church concerning a body calling itself the “Christian Council of Britain”, and wishes to make absolutely clear that there is no connection between CTBI or its predecessor the British Council of Churches and the “Christian Council of Britain”.The statement from the Methodist Church said: A body calling itself the Christian Council of Britain and apparently associated with the BNP recently started joining protests against Jerry Springer: The Opera. Anthea Cox, Methodist Coordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social justice, said, “I am outraged that the BNP and its allies are using Christianity to further their agenda of segregation and division. I think most Christians will be deeply affronted by this and want to speak out against such misguided extremism. We reaffirm our earlier statements that Christian belief is incompatible with any political party or philosophy that is based on hatred or treats people as inferior because of their race, beliefs or for any other reason. We are deeply concerned that some people are now appropriating Christian language and symbols for policies that are the very opposite of Christian values.”
The CCB has claimed that the Bible justifies its support for the BNP’s repatriation policy. But the Revd Ken Howcroft, Coordinating Secretary for Conference and Communication, said “this was a way of interpreting scripture that was used to justify apartheid in South Africa, the banning of mixed-race marriages and the setting up of homelands. The South African Council of Churches condemned this interpretation, and some of the churches that did support this interpretation later formally repented. In Galatians, Paul writes ‘In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile,’ and this makes it clear that there is no Christian basis for racial discrimination or separation.”
Now we know the sort of ‘Christian’ organisation that BNP’s Nick Griffin promised to support in his recent Times interview and the sort of ‘Christian’ values held by the Rev Robert West- More jackboots than Jesus.
In yesterday’s Times Online Nick Griffin , the leader of the BNP announced that: “We promised we would give 10 per cent of our wages to local community groups and if we made anything in expenses we would pledge to do the same with that. We will not be putting any money into the BNP but to local community groups to help them celebrate St George’s Day or promote a Christian Christmas.” Who would have imagined that the notion of community tithing and helping to promote Christmas would be championed by the far right? What does the church feel about taking this money? So is this a simply a cheap PR stunt, and what is the nature of the “Christian Christmas”that Mr Griffin has in mind? Let’s set the BNP a challenge to outline its definition of which groups they will be financially supporting and what they mean by “Christian Christmas”. How do they square their support for Christianity,an inclusive faith which is growing fastest in the UK within the back churches, and sweeping across Africa, South Amercia and the East with their exclusive political agenda. Someone should tell Mr Griffin that the son of God is not blue-eyed Robert Powell but an Aramaic speaking Palestinian Jewish refugee who wouldn’t be allowed to join the BNP. That’s the sort of truth we all need to confront.
P.S. A report commissioned by the Red Cross published earlier this week and reported in The Independent highlighted the following facts:
- Almost 25% of people believe there are more than 100,000 asylum applications each year- about 4 times the real figure of 25,670.
- On average people think that the UK is home to 24% of all asylum-seekers- 8 times the actual figure of 3%.
- Applications for asylum have fallen from 84,130 to 25,670 last year.
- 95% of people are ignorant about the true facts concerning the level of refugees coming to the UK.
- A third of refugees have university degrees or professional qualifications yet the population assumes this figure is only 10% and 7% think they are mostly jobless.
- 48% said refugees were either uneducated, hostile, lazy or cowardly.
Hopefully Refugee Week later this month will help set the record straight. I wonder if Mr Griffin and the BNP will be doing their bit to get the actual facts out there as opposed to whipping up a climate of fear and negativity. To respect Jesus is to respect the second commandment he gave- to love your neighbour as yourself
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.
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.
In Holy Week, I had intended that this blog would simply carry reflective observations of the stations of the cross, and, on Friday, the last words of Jesus from the cross. Alas, when I saw a report that the British National Party (BNP) has used an image of Jesus and a scripture from John 15:20 “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”on its latest poster for the June European elections , I just had to share something with you. The poster goes on to say What would Jesus do? Vote BNP. Now, by any standards it is quite a leap to suggest that because Jesus warned his supporters about persecution, then he would put his cross against the BNP candidate in the forthcoming Euro elections. The poster makes for an interesting talking point about just how far people will go to legitimise their views by associating themselves with Jesus. If we believe everything we read Jesus is both anti- and pro homosexuals ; anti and pro-women priests; anti- and pro-social welfare; anti and pro-bankers; added to this list is now the suggestion that as Jesus was committed to freedom and against persecution he must be for a right-wing extremist party just because it finds itself condemned by mainstream political opinion. Perhaps the real truth of this incident is a warning against those of us wearing wristbands and T-shirts bearing the slogan WWJD? and claiming sincere exclusivity about what that slogan means. The truth us that as we all have our own agendas we want to shoehorn them into Christological legitimacy by claiming Jesus’ support for our world view. Jesus is the saviour of all humankind, whatever their world view and a saviour of surprises, but the claim of the BNP that Jesus would support them because they are concerned with protecting, as they see it, Britain’s Christian heritage and Christian values may surpise even Christ. The poster has been condemned by various church groups and in West Yorkshire the Ecumenical Council has mounted a counter campaign with the slogan- “Use your cross- Vote for hope in Yorkshire” to mobilise voters to keep out the BNP saying; ” The Christian vision of society is one where each person is treated with dignity and respect, whatever their face or religion. It is a vision of hope.” Christ’s message was indeed one of hope, love, inclusion and justice. Jesus suggested that loving God and our neighbours as ourselves was central to his outlook on how we should live our lives if we were serious about bringing in his kingdom, so let’s check these things out in the BNP manifesto for the Euro elections. Let’s see if rather than touting for more crosses on a ballot paper, BNP candidates are prepared to truly take on board what it means to take up the cross of Christ and follow him.
Please note that I have included an image of the poster to illustrate this blog post only. I am not encouraging blog readers to suport or vote for the BNP. I do not believe that the BNP is persecuted for saying what I think as their poster suggests.
See also https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/community-tithing-from-the-strangest-source/