One of the risks in blogging about a whole range of things (and not censoring comments) is that from time to time some correspondents will get fixated on single issues. The purpose of this blog is to share with you my continued journey as an unfinished Christian and invite you to play your part in helping me along the way. I guess I’d hoped that my musings would appeal to others who consider themselves unfinished Christians or work-in-progress followers of Jesus. Well, I know of few of you reading this fit this description, but since I blogged about the BNP I have had a handful of persistent correspondents who make it their business to justify particular theological positions and excercise their freedom of speech -that well-known catch all for the right to say anything however offensive or unlated to the purpose of this blog. So, should I continue to keep comments on this blog unedited and put up with anything and everything that comes my way or do I block the people running obvious agendas? I honestly don’t know, but in the meantime I want to pray that we all need to look beyond, colour, culture and creed to the person underneath- the person that Christ died for. In Acts we read that, “God has shown me I should not call anyone impure or unclean. I recognise how true it is that God does not show partiality, but accpets people from every nation who fear him and do his will.” As ever, Nick Fawcett gets it right in Daily Prayer-
Living God, teach me that you did not just make some but all people in your likeness, and so teach me to value and respect everyone in the family of humankind. Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
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 the job I do, I have to contend with a number of folks with big egos- sometimes this is challenging. Sometimes these people will ask me “what do you think?” in response to a talk or piece of work they have produced, but they don’t really want to hear any criticism, however constructive. They just a good old ego massage and the truth is I am not really good at it.. The truth can hurt and few of us find it easy to be honest in an awkward situation, and fewer still relish having the truth spoken to them. In his Daily Prayer, for today Nick Fawcett reminds us the importance of having the courage to see ourselves as we really are and to find the spur to rectify our faults, or to listen to others who have the courage to speak the painful truth to us. Nick proposes this prayer:
God of truth, you know me better than I know myself. You search my heart and mind, seeing me as I really am and confronting me with my true self. Forgive me that all too often I shy away from what is hard to accept, refusing to countenance anything that contradicts my self image. I find it so difficult to be honest, closing my ears to truths I would rather not hear. I avoid those who challenge and disturb me, preferring instead those who sooth and flatter my ego.
Thank you for all those with the rare gift of speaking the truth in love, not spitefully, vindictively, or harshly, not from any ulterior motives, but because they genuinely care. Thank you for those willing to risk my resentment, retaliation or rejection, in order to help me grow us an individual. God of all, give me humility and meekness of spirit, so that i may be ready to listen and examine myself, ready to ask searching questions about who I am and to change where necessary, ready to face the truth.
Gracious God, help me to open my life to your searching gaze and so open my heart to your redeeming love.Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Filed under bible, Christian values, Christianity, ego, ethics, faith, faith Christianity, honesty, Jesus, Prayer, religion
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.
I saw a guy on the tube today sporting a tattoo down the inside of this left arm. The tattoo read, ‘I am immortal and I want you to feel the same’-bold stuff! The trouble is that the guy looked really miserable and anything but immortal. As the advertising adage goes- ‘it didn’t do what it said on the tin’. This made me think about how well I was showing in my approach to life the confidence that Christ has placed within me. I don’t expect it’s possible to look permanently joyful (if fact that would probably appear slightly creepy) but are we a convincing advertisement for the life transforming power of the message of Jesus? I know a few miserable Christians who seem to lack confidence or the reflection of Christ.
I continue to be an unfinished Christian, a work in progress. I won’t be getting a tattoojust yet but I hope I will be able to show something more of the heart of Christ on my sleeve and hat it will be noticed. I hope I can honour God and show that the immortality I have is not just a statement of personal pride or achievement, bt a God given gift that anyone can obtain just through belief and trust. Pray for me and for those I meet who are looking to walk the streets of heaven but don’t even know it yet!
Let’s face it, we all like to be blessed. It makes us feel affirmed, valued, loved and included. It’s not often that we’re challenged as we’re blessed so in the spirit of Jackie Pullinger who would encourage us all the look for every opportunity to reach out to the broken, the unloved and the excluded, I offer you this Franciscan benediction and the thought of what would happen if this was said at the end of your Church service this week.
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.