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/