Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Honours - Cranmer’s Celebratory Pulpit No. VIII

Cranmer is delighted to reward his communicants with an open pulpit today - in celebration of his record statistics, and in recognition of his nomination for Personage of the Year. Cranmer can’t be having with all these pseudo-celebrities and civil service incompetents who have been awarded their memberships, officerships or commanderships of the Order of the British Empire, so he would like to bestow his own honour upon the individual who, in his humble opinion, has contributed most to the world this year, and that award goes to Mohammed Bear.

Mohammed was thrust unwillingly into the media spotlight when 20 children named him after a popular boy in the class. He faced 40 lashes, imprisonment and torture for ‘blasphemy’ against ‘The Prophet’, but endured to the end with all his paws intact. Yes, Cranmer knows that he is Sudanese, but Cranmer’s honours are not limited by the shores of this precious jewel set in a silver sea, for he is now read in 172 nations of the world.

His Grace’s ‘traffic’ has set some new records in December, with his busiest week being that before Christmas, with 5,869 unique visitors, contributing to his busiest month, December, which records 18,540 unique visitors. The most popular searchword continues to be 'Cranmer', and 'Muslim' outscores 'Jesus' by 2:1, but 'Jesus' beats 'Mohammed' by 3:1. Due to the admirable efforts of little Mohammed Bear, the word 'bear' is now almost at parity with 'Mohammed' - only 30 searches behind.

Cranmer was delighted that Reuters has used a number of his posts and broadcast them to the world, and even The Guardian has linked to his writings. Cranmer was humbled and honoured to receive an email from the BBC World Service on Christmas Eve asking him to take part in a live broadcast on the plight of Christians in Bethlehem. Of course, owing to the lack of a corporeal state, he regretfully had to decline the invitation.

In celebration of this traffic update and the honours bestowed, and in perpetual commemoration of the spiritual liberation afforded by his own pulpit experience with the Provost of Eton, Dr Henry Cole, His Grace is pleased to host another ‘Cranmer’s Pulpit’ for communicants to nominate their own Personage of the Year, or to raise whatever religio-political or politico-religious concerns they do so wish…

…intelligently and eruditely, of course.

And Cranmer wishes all of his readers and communicants a Blessed and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The light of England shall never be extinguished

Cranmer is delighted that certain influential and widely-read blogs have taken up one of his themes. This piece was posted a few days ago on the blog of John Redwood MP:

Murder in the Cathedral - an old struggle to govern these islands

As dusk fell on 29th December 1170 the four knights came into Canterbury Cathedral from the cloister. The monks had barred the doors against them , but Becket had them unlocked, with the words “I will not have the Church made a castle”. The Knights accused him of treachery to the King. Becket responded “ I am no traitor, but the Archbishop and Priest of God”. His words were provocative to ears wanting reassurance that he accepted the King’s authority.

The knights were convinced of Becket’s guilt and proceeded to attack him. His last words were “ For the name of Jesus and the defence of the Church, I am willing to die”, as he was hacked down in the north west transept of the great church. He had picked a fight with the power of the Crown which he largely lost when alive, but extracted some concessions from the monarch when dead. He gave to Canterbury a Saint and a story which led to large numbers of pilgrims and the business they brought in for 368 years.

This dark event on a dark day late in the year 1170 has left its scars. Its shadow has a long cast. To this day there is a huge empty space behind the high altar of Canterbury, the Trinity Chapel and its marble pavement, where Becket’ shrine shone adorned by gold and jewels until Henry VIII had it removed and plundered in 1538. Even today Becket is clearly too contentious a figure to justify some reconstruction or commemoration of the tomb in the prominent position where it lay for so long.

Henry VIII, like Henry II before him, saw Becket’s allegiance to God, to the Pope and to the Catholic Church as treachery to the King who had sponsored him and nominated him for the archbishopric. He wanted all record of Becket’s allegiance to a higher or non English power expunged, as well as welcoming the redistribution of wealth which the plundering of the monasteries and the shrine permitted.

When Henry VIII completed his reformation of Church-state relations, he ensured that no Archbishop of Canterbury could appeal again to the Pope and his secular allies on the continent in the way Becket had appealed between 1162 and his death in 1170. The struggle between Church and State was also a struggle between English and continental power, with Becket appealing to foreign Kings as well as to the Roman curia.

When I first had the story told to me on a dark winter evening in the cloisters of the Cathedral the conflict seemed to be one of the past. I was born into what appeared to be a settled country where power came from an elected Parliament, which could decide the laws and run the administration without foreign interference. Whilst I hated the butchery and barbarity of the knights, I had some sympathy with the King’s wish to be master in his own kingdom. The murder of Becket meant the most powerful monarch London had seen had to put on sackcloth and wend his way in sorrow as a penitent in Canterbury. The man who was King of England, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Anjou and Maine, and lord of much of Ireland was damaged by the violent acts of his supporters. It deflected him for a bit from getting more control over clerical matters, but did not stop the wish in England to establish authority here at home. It is only in more recent years the secular authority has been casual with our right to self government through its signature of several centralising EU treaties.

And this was posted on the EU Referendum blog:

Be of good comfort, Master Ridley

The last words of Bishop Hugh Latimer to Bishop Nicholas Ridley as they were both being burned at the stake in Oxford (the Memorial is one of that city’s tourist attractions) for refusing to recant their Protestant views were supposed to be:

Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.
It is always useful to look at historical antecedents, both in this country and elsewhere and it grieves me, as a supposedly trained historian (stop giggling at the back), that so few of the eurosceptic movement at its widest know or care about history. In fact, too many are proud of their ignorance.

I am not suggesting that anybody is about to be burned at the stake or even arrested for inconvenient opinions. I have, in the past, drawn certain parallels and pointed to certain differences between our fight now against an enemy that is inside and outside the country and a similar fight during the sixteenth century.

Now I wish to refer to something else that is happening. In my opinion there is much to be of good comfort about (not excellent comfort, just good). After all, Bishop Latimer was uttering those words when matters must have looked quite bleak to him and his fellow martyrs, not just for themselves but for their country and her people.

I have tried to steer clear of the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty on this blog (though, as ever, I have recorded an interview for the BBC Russian Service on the subject) because I do not hold with hysteria. All that weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Please. A little self-control is required, not to mention a little straight thinking.

In the first place, this treaty does not destroy the country any more than the previous three did. As I recall (and my memories go back to the Maastricht Treaty when I became actively involved in the eurosceptic movement) similar weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth took place then as well.

The only people who can destroy Britain are the people of Britain. Admittedly, they are going the right way about it, what with not knowing any history and refusing to learn how to use the greatest language in the world, English, but there is a deal of spoiling in a country and a nation.

This brings us back to the question of British national identity, a topic I have written about a great deal in the past (being half-Hungarian I am the right person to pontificate) and on which I shall write again in the very near future. Can’t leave it all to my colleague, excellent though his pronouncements are.

As it happens, I think the latest treaty is appalling and many of its provisions will be very destructive. I also think that coming out of the EU and rebuilding a country afterwards will be very difficult, especially as we neither can nor should go back to the unsatisfactory status quo ante bellum and many reforms will be needed.

Nevertheless, I take great comfort from recent developments. The shenanigans around the treaty and the blank refusal to ask the people about it have raised many millions of hackles across the European Union. Even supporters of European integration are annoyed and many of them are beginning to wonder whether their support makes as much sense as all that.

Above all, however, the promoters of the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty have solved a nagging political problem for us. They have destroyed the strongest argument the europhiliacs have ever had and that is the one of inevitability.

For decades we have all had to struggle against the inevitability argument, which was supplemented by the “people would like it if they understood it” argument. Well, what price either of them now?

If it is so inevitable and so obviously attractive, why is the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty being smuggled through in such a convoluted manner? If it is so inevitable and so obviously attractive why are you so scared of asking what people think of it, ladies and gentlemen of the euophiliac tendency?

So be of good comfort. That candle has been lit. It may gutter and be windblown but it shall never be put out.

There, my ration of optimism is all used up.

It is encouraging indeed, for Dr Richard North's blog eschews just about everything to do with 'religion', preferring instead the secular myths, and Mr Redwood's blog carries no reciprocal link to Cranmer, despite his decision to include all the other 'top Conservative blogs' named in Iain Dale's 2007 Guide.

Parliament’s inquisition on Roman Catholic education

As Gordon Brown issues his New Year message warning of global turbulence and ‘measurable changes in public services’ (i.e., higher taxes), Cranmer is disturbed to note that Roman Catholic bishops are being summoned to appear in front of a powerful committee of MPs for ‘pushing a fundamentalist brand of their religion in schools’.

They stand accused of ‘promoting a hard line on “immoral” teaching in schools’, after the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue, issued an edict instructing Catholic schools across much of north-west England to stop 'safe-sex' education and place crucifixes in all classrooms. He also wrote: 'Schools and colleges must not support charities or groups that promote or fund anti-life policies, such as Red Nose Day and Amnesty International, which now advocates abortion.'

Confronting the Government head-on, he exhorted Catholic schools to use science to teach about the 'truths of the faith'; that sex should only be mentioned in the context of the 'sacrament of marriage'; and to insist that ‘contraception was wrong’, preferring ‘natural family planning’.

In a parallel development, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds, Arthur Roche, also sent a letter to parishes warning them that ‘Catholic education was under threat following attempts by the local council to set up an inter-faith academy’.

Well, Cranmer agrees with this man, for the establishment of an ‘inter-faith’ anything quite obviously imperils the orthodoxy of any one faith. Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, has written to Secretary of State Ed Balls MP accusing the schools of trying to 'indoctrinate' pupils. Yes, Mr Porteous Wood, to induct children into a moral framework is indeed the role of education, and the assertion that your ‘secular’ one is neutral is a manifest falsehood. And Cranmer notes once again that it is church schools which are being persecuted for their ‘fundamentalism’: how many Muslim, Sikh or Jewish schools take similar lines on ‘immoral’ teaching, yet are left completely alone for fear of the inevitable accusations of ‘racism’?

The Inquisitor General is one Barry Sheerman MP, who chairs the parliamentary cross-party committee on children, schools and families. He detects 'intense turmoil' about the future of Catholic education, and revealingly asserts: 'It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops. This is taxpayers' money after all.'

Well, Mr Sheerman, Cranmer has news for you. People who are 'not serious about their faith' do not possess a faith. And faith schools which are 'not serious about their faith' are not faith schools. Does Parliament 'work all right' if politicians are not that serious about politics? This is taxpayers’ money being used to confront the secular view on sex outside of marriage, sexually transmitted disease including HIV and Aids, and abortion, and the inference that the state presents neutrality on these matters is false. The perpetual intoning of ‘safe sex’ at taxpayers’ expense is clearly not working, with the UK now producing more than 50,000 pregnant teenagers each year, who will either abort or raise their children, once again, at taxpayers’ expense. And the National Union of Teachers has waded in, asserting that ‘the bishop's instructions could damage the health of teenagers who chose to become sexually active despite the church's teaching’. Can these people not see that the present policy is failing miserably?

It seems to Cranmer that these bishops should boldly proclaim to Torquemada Sheerman in the High Court of Parliament that their heresy does not make them enemies of society, and that no torture, mental or legislative, will force them to recant. It is the right of parents under United Nations charter to educate their children in accordance with the principles of their faith and morals, and there are far more pressing questions to be asked of other faith schools in regard to their ‘citizenship’ provision.

What is a very great pity is that the Roman Catholic bishops also called for ‘any books containing polemics against the Catholic faith to be removed from school libraries’.

A faith, any faith, and especially one which is built on a rock, should have no fear of polemics against it. To demand censorship and effectively reinstitute book-burning in educational establishments is indeed unwelcome. They are taxpayers’ books after all.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Time for a British-led Anglosphere?

Cranmer rather likes this Telegraph article, and reproduces it in full because it ties in nicely with the suggestion of Senator John McCain that the world needs a ‘League of Democracies’ to challenge the hegemony of the UN. The importance of the article will probably be underestimated, or the article will be ignored altogether, but for all those who assert that the UK has ‘no alternative’ but the inexorable ‘ever closer union’ of the EU, this is doubtless it:

This week Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of the Australian, used his column to give a slightly embarrassed account of a successful coup.

He was embarrassed because the coup was his own work, political activism rather than reporting, and possibly involved more than one breach of confidence.

It began with his research for a book, The Partnership, on the US-Australian military and intelligence relationship, which is close and growing closer.

The more Sheridan examined this relationship, the more he was struck by something else: namely, "the astonishing, continuing, political, military, and intelligence closeness between Australia and Britain".

Even though Australia has little at stake in Europe and Britain only limited interests in the Pacific, everywhere Sheridan went in the US-Australia alliance, he found the Brits there, too: "Our special forces train with theirs, as we do with the Americans. Our troops on exchange with the Brits can deploy into military operations with them, an extremely rare practice, but something we also do with the Yanks.

"Australian liaison officers attend the most sensitive British intelligence meetings and vice versa, in arrangements of such intimacy that they are equalled only in our relationship with the US."

Sheridan was uneasy, however, because there was no formal alliance structure to give top-level political guidance to this effective but relaxed co-operation.

Events came to his aid: he was invited to a UK-Australia Dialogue in Canberra, attended by Tony Blair on a flying visit. At the reception, Sheridan buttonholed Blair, Australia's PM John Howard, foreign minister Alexander Downer, and almost anyone else who would listen to preach the necessity of a new UK-Australia security structure. He sensed they were unimpressed.

As he later discovered, however, at a cabinet meeting attended by Blair the next day, Downer proposed a new annual meeting of Australian and British foreign and defence ministers on the lines of their AUSMIN meetings with Washington. Blair responded enthusiastically - and AUKMIN now meets annually.

Well, an interesting little story, you may think, but hardly earthshaking. And if AUKMIN were an isolated incident, that would be a sensible response.

As Sheridan's account makes plain, however, AUKMIN merely brass-hatted an existing system of military and intelligence co-operation between Britain, Australia, and the US that was unusually intimate and extensive.

But the story rang several bells. I had recently been reading a Heritage Foundation study by the American writer James C. Bennett, in which he argued that such forms of developing co-operation were especially characteristic of English-speaking, common law countries such as, well, Britain, Australia and America.

There is a definite pattern to them. Citizens, voluntary bodies, companies, lower levels of government form their own networks of useful co-operation for practical purposes across national boundaries.

Over time, these networks become denser, more complementary, more useful, and more self-conscious, creating what Bennett calls a "network civilisation". In time, governments see the value of these networks and underpin them with new links - trade deals, military pacts, immigration agreements - creating what he calls a "network commonwealth".

Such network commonwealths may end up being more integrated - psychologically and socially, as well as economically - than consciously designed entities such as the EU.
If you want to know which countries the British feel really close to, check which ones they telephone on Christmas Day (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, America... but you knew that). Network commonwealths don't demand surrender of sovereignty, either.

Bennett calls the English-speaking network civilisation "the Anglosphere". This term, unknown in political circles a few years ago, now yields 39,700 entries on Google. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out in a recent article in the American City Journal, the idea is certainly in the air - and in respectable circles, too.

Its academic foundations are rooted in work demonstrating that England always had a more individualist culture than continental Europe, that the "civil society" tools of this culture were transmitted to the colonies settled from England, and that those countries have since not only prospered unusually, but also established a world civilisation rooted in liberalism.

Bennett in The Anglosphere Challenge makes unmistakably clear that it is English cultural traits - individualism, rule of law, honouring contracts, and the elevation of freedom - rather than English genes that explain this success.

These traits enable a society to pull off the difficult trick of combining trust with openness. Nations with different genetic backgrounds that adopt such traits seem to prosper more than their similar neighbours. Hence the Anglosphere includes India and the West Indies, as well as the "old Commonwealth".

The idea, lagging well behind the reality, is now seeping into politics. Last year Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, delivered an eloquent speech to the Australian parliament that praised the common British heritage linking both nations.

Even more significantly India's PM, Manmohan Singh, gave a speech at Oxford in 2005 that neatly stole the entire concept for New Delhi: "If there is one phenomenon on which the sun cannot set, it is the world of the English-speaking peoples, in which the people of Indian origin are the largest single component."

That raises a painful question. If Australians, Indians, Canadians, and even Americans can recognise the Anglosphere as a new factor in world politics, why is it something from which the Brits themselves shy?

To the best of my knowledge, the only politician to have embraced the idea is Lord Crickhowell, formerly David Howell, who held several ministries under Margaret Thatcher and who, from his City experience, knows that Britain's prosperity lies with the growing markets of Asia and North America.

Our fading Anglosphere ties give us an advantage over Europeans and other competitors there. If we were to pursue a deliberate strategy of strengthening such ties, we would discover a better "grand strategy" than the present muddled shuttling back and forth between Washington and Brussels, feeling a "poodle" to both.

Is our reluctance because we fear to touch anything that smacks of the empire? No such timidity restrained Singh.

Are we nervous that anything "English-speaking" might be thought incompatible with multiculturalism? Well, the first multicultural identity was the British one; today the Anglosphere spans every continent.

Is it politically dangerous as an alternative to Europe? That would only be true insofar as "Europe" failed to meet our needs - in which case we would need an alternative.

Or is it, as I suspect, that the Anglosphere offers us the prospect of national adventure that in our cultural funk we find too exciting - preferring to go back to the sleep of the subsidised?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Eight for 2008

Just before Christmas, Cranmer was ‘tagged’ by Mr Iain Dale, and this requires that he respond with his eight wishes for 2008. He would like to stress that these are not eight prophecies, or even eight likely occurrences, but merely eight wishes to make his 2008 somewhat more fulfilling than 2007 has been. He does not want to waste his wishes on the impossible – like world peace – so he shall restrict them to the highly improbable:

They are:

1 There shall be some cataclysm in British politics whereby a general election shall be called and David Cameron shall be victor.

2 He shall rule with a rod of iron and lead a truly reforming government in accordance with all the principles and in the best tradition of Conservative political philosophy. This includes inter alia the de-politicisation of the NHS, all schools to be made independent, the privatisation of the BBC, and the UK shall renegotiate its relationship with the EU and revert to the status which carries the assent of the British people which is that of a trading partner.

3 The Church of England shall reassert itself as the spiritual heart and the moral voice of the nation once again, and its pews shall be filled to overflowing (Cranmer realises that this may demand a change in leadership, and so his desire is for the Most Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, to become Archbishop of Canterbury).

4 Boris Johnson shall become Mayor of London and show himself to be a politician of gravitas and considerable intellectual ability.

5 The summer shall be long and hot, with plenty of cricket and warm beer.

6 There shall be a white Christmas, just like the ones Cranmer used to know, where the tree tops glisten, and children listen…

7 Cranmer shall receive news in the New Year’s honours list of his long-overdue peerage, if only so he can show those bishops in the House of Lords how to do it properly.

8 Jesus shall return, destroying all of his enemies, and the government shall be upon his shoulder (ably assisted by Cranmer in the Lords). He shall fulfil all of his manifsto pledges, and pursue policies roughly in accordance with (2). Numbers (5) and (6) shall become the norm (in the northern hemisphere), and the divine affirmation of (7) shall constitute Cranmer's long-awaited vindication.

It is customary to pass this ‘meme’ on to five others, and so: Ms Snuffleupagus, Dr Irene Lancaster, Crucification, Rev Peter Ould, The Croydonian.

Other communicants are welcome to share their eight for 2008.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto assassinated

Just moments after this picture was taken, a gunman shot Benazir Bhutto in the head and neck, and then detonated a bomb filled with lead shrapnel, killing a further 20. She was a woman of immense personal courage and bravery, who returned to Pakistan just weeks ago Knowing full well that there were Islamist elements there who wanted her dead. Yet still she made speeches, wrote articles, campaigned, and talked daily with the ordinary people, risking everything to restore democracy to Pakistan.

Cranmer isn’t going to wax lyrical about how wonderful she was, because in reality she was as corrupt as any Pakistani politician who plundered millions from some of her nation’s poorest. She had a villa in Dubai, a house in London, and many millions in the bank.

But it is what she represented that is important, for the world has lost a crusader for democracy; a staunch proponent of moderate Islamic values against the ‘Islamo-fascism’ which is on the ascendancy all over the world. She was concerned to build a Pakistan of secular liberal values - equal rights and religious freedom - not just for Muslims, but for Christians, Hindus and Sikhs as well. Her vision for Pakistan was akin to that of Ghandi’s India.

Yet the Islamists finally got her. Her gender offended, her liberal values offended, her closeness to ‘the West’ offended, her support for democracy offended. In short, she represented and consorted with everything they despise. Now she has been despatched to meet her maker, the Islamist cause to frustrate democracy in Pakistan is very much furthered.

But why was she not better protected? She had discussed her security with (then) General Musharraf, and he knew there had been previous attempts on her life, but still she was in a car without protective screens and no armed guard. It was, in truth, only a matter of time before a suicide bomber managed to get close enough.

While the British Government and the Opposition were united in the concern for the situation in Pakistan, cautiously making measured and moderate demands for the restoration of democracy and stability, the Conservative candidate for Gillingham went a few steps further, even calling for revolution. Cranmer warned at the time what it would lead to, but the sadness for Atta-Ur-Rehman Chisti is that ultimately it was his friend and leader who was the tragic victim, not Mr Musharraf.

Pakistan is fraught with political, religious and sociological difficulties. It is plagued by a terrorism which is steeped in Islamism, and acquiring control of the nuclear arsenal has long been an Al-Q’aeda objective. And now Pakistan stands on the brink of the revolution demanded by Mr Chisti, with a situation that is deteriorating rapidly towards greater chaos and an inexorable instability.

It is important now for the world to support Mr Musharraf as he attempts to steer his country from the brink of civil war. He has been a staunch ally in the ‘war on terror’ and is fully versed in the implications of an ascendant global religio-political Islam. If Islamism is defeated in Pakistan, there is hope for defeating it in the world. It is therefore in the interests of Britain and the world to support him at this time. Benazir Bhutto may have been killed by terrorists, but the terrorists must not be allowed to kill democracy - in Pakistan or anywhere else.

Gordon Brown doesn’t do Christmas

It is now clear that Tony Blair had to wait until he left office before admitting he did God, but Gordon Brown appears to do Allah, Waheguru, Krishna – in fact, the whole pantheon of gods - except Jesus.

The perceptive author of the Tameside Eye blog brought this to Cranmer’s attention, and from the ‘son of a manse’ it is really quite astonishing.

Here is Prime Minister Brown’s message to British Muslims for Eid al-Fitr:

And here is Prime Minister Brown’s message to British Hindus and Sikhs for Diwali:

And here is Prime Minister Brown’s message to British Christians for Christmas:

Yes, that’s right, nothing. Absolutely nothing. To a nation with a professed Christian adherence of 70% of the population, and a state church which provides both monarchy and Parliament with their historic foundations, the Prime Minister says nothing. So Cranmer has written him a piece for next year, using the precise phrases he deploys to sing the praises of Eid and Diwali:

“I’m delighted to send my warmest greetings to the British Christian communities on the auspicious occasion of Christmas. It is an important and wonderful celebration for families, and holds special meaning for people of all backgrounds, races and religions. It reminds us all of the birth of Christ, the importance of following the light - the star of Bethlehem - which brings with it the hope of peace to the world. Christmas reaches across communities because it is inclusive and gives time to reflect on the importance of faith, and on the contribution of Christianity to the history and culture of the United Kingdom, including art, philosophy, thought, and also to the nation’s prosperity and culture. Its involvement in every sphere of our national life is something we can all be proud of (sic). Once again, my very best wishes for a Happy Christmas.”

Cranmer hopes the Prime Minister will find time to make this little speech next year, and he makes no charge for its use. Yet with so much legislation passed over the last decade which is decidedly antithetical to the nation's Christian foundations and the propagation of the faith, such a speech would be little more than a crude and cynical attempt at electioneering - the religious equivalent of kissing babies in the street - which certainly would not fool those who have eyes and ears, or a modicum of spiritual discernment and integrity.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Glory to God in the highest…

The birth of the Son of God was heralded by the angel of the Lord, accompanied by the shekinah, the glory of God, and was followed by a multitude of the heavenly host singing praises. And for whose benefit was this magnificent display? Kings? Presidents? Politicians? Religious leaders?

No, it was all for a few lowly shepherds – humble, poor, obscure and unnamed rustics of whom nothing more is heard in Scripture thereafter. While today’s puffed-up prelates court the wealthy, famous and influential, so today’s wealthy, famous and influential seek out the private chapels and grand palaces of these prelates as the perfect stage for their displays of religiosity. But not these shepherds. No, the Lord deemed them worthy because they were lowly. They were not body-beautiful celebrities, gifted communicators, powerful decision makers or authoritative opinion formers; they were simply ordinary men, and the Lord chose them to be among the first to know that the Christ was born; that the Messiah had entered history; that the Son of God had come to redeem mankind - Immanuel.

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

And as we spend the coming months wishing the Government would get off our backs, it is apposite to reflect that one day the Government shall be upon his shoulder. The real deliverer and the real fulfillment of the needs of humanity is human, one of us, flesh of our flesh. He is born to rule, born to be a king, conceived of the house and lineage of David. His name is Wonderful – a mystery of divinity in humanity; Counsellor – the oracle of wisdom; the mighty God – the Word was not just with God, but was God; the Everlasting Father – not the same person as the Father, but of one substance with the Father; the Prince of Peace – bringing a peace that passes understanding.

Cranmer wishes all of his regular communicants, all of his intermittent guests, and all of his occasional readers, a joyful and peaceful Christmas, and a blessed New Year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Joy in the Vatican over one sinner who repents

Chief Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi hails a day of jubilation and celebration:

‘The choice of joining the Catholic Church made by such an authoritative personality can only arouse joy and respect.’

Well, Scripture is quite clear that he ought to be shouting from the dome of St Peter’s and similarly rejoicing over the conversion of every penniless peasant who has no authority whatsoever, and even those who have zero personality.

The announcement reads like some sort of spiritual coup; a concern with the status, pride, privilege and influence rather than with humility. And doubtless there will be a goodly feast some time to celebrate, and it is likely to be an exclusively Roman Catholic affair. Cranmer would like to know how many of the poor, lame, maimed or blind will be invited (Lk 14:7-14). For ‘if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same…’

And the BBC can’t help but mention that this conversion comes as research indicates that ‘Catholic churchgoers now outnumber Anglicans for the first time since the Reformation in the UK’. And rightly, it puts this down to EU immigration from Eastern European countries: ‘The numbers have swelled due to the large number of EU nationals from Eastern Europe who have immigrated to the UK in recent years… Estimates for church attendances in 2006, based on previous years' figures, reveal 861,800 Catholics attended services every Sunday compared with 852,500 Anglican worshippers’.

So the EU is indeed eroding the primacy of the national Church (though Cranmer freely admits that its leadership is destabilising the foundations of its own accord).

The Roman Catholic Church divides its sins into venial, carnal and mortal, and it is not exactly clear of how many of each Mr Blair is guilty. Of course, the heavens rejoice over one sinner who repents, but Cranmer would like to know if he has repented of all the anti-Christian legislation for which he was responsible while in office. As Ann Widdecombe MP observes: ‘If you look at Tony Blair's voting record in the House of Commons, he's gone against Church teaching on more than one occasion. On things, for example, like abortion. My question would be, “has he changed his mind on that?”’


Cranmer looks forward to being invited to the Blairs’ celebratory dinner, for true Christian hospitality is found in inviting someone who cannot repay you, someone who is unfamiliar to you, someone who is in some sense opposed to you. Then the concept of invitation receives a Christ-related meaning. Christ is the hospitality of God toward us. He invites all of us, from all languages and cultures, from all statuses of society, to the great feast, the Lord’s Supper, the feast which none of us can repay.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tony Blair converts to Roman Catholicism

At last, the speculation is over. Tony Blair has finally converted to Roman Catholicism, and embraced the faith of his wife and children after receiving months of instruction for his penitent soul from two priests - RAF chaplain John Walsh and Father Mark O'Toole, secretary to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

In a free country, Mr Blair is of course at liberty to convert to whatever faith he wishes, but he will hardly find the grass greener on the other side of the Tiber. As His Holiness (that is Pope Benedict XVI, not Mr Blair) abandons the reforms of Vatican II, reinstitutes the Tridentine (Latin) Mass, reintroduces the sale of indulgences, and reaffirms the existence of Purgatory, many of the Roman Catholic bishops of England are in a state of rebellion. Indeed, some are even calling for reformation…

While it is for God to judge the heart of Mr Blair, it is not unreasonable to ask why now? Had he converted whilst he was prime minister, it would have assisted his church in the eradication of centuries of prejudice. Was he afraid to do so? If so, why? Was he advised not to do so? If so, by whom? Is this simply another example of Blair opportunism? It is, at the very least, more than a little impolite that the Middle East Messiah Envoy has chosen the eve of Christmas to turn the spotlight on himself, thus eclipsing the Star of Bethlehem and upstaging the Prince of Peace.

But before the profession of faith and reception, candidates for conversion have to make a confession of sins. They are asked to inform the confessor that they are to be received into full communion. There has been much speculation about whether Mr Blair's confession would include any reference to the war in Iraq, or to Parliamentary policy on 'life' issues during his time as Prime Minister. What about his views on abortion, homosexual ‘marriage’, embryo research, the enforced closure of Roman Catholic adoption agencies, or his plans to force faith schools to take students who do not adhere to that faith? How can he reconcile these with the orthodox teachings of Rome?

While it would have been easy for him to profess the Nicene Creed, when it came to his formal reception he would have been required to swear: ‘I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God’. Only with a conversion on par with that of Saul could he have uttered these words in good conscience. To have done otherwise would make him a manifest hypocrite. But then ‘hypocrite’ is from the Greek word ὑποκρίτης (hypokrites), associated with hypokrisis, that is ‘actor’. Perhaps Mr Blair is simply pursuing his vocation, and (let's face it) there is far more theatre and spectacle in the Church of Rome than there is in the Church of England.

It is ironic that 'the most devoutly Christian prime minister since Gladstone' has done more to undermine Christian liberties than any challenge to the faith on these islands in more than three centuries. He is a spiritual fraud, and Rome is where his heart has always been: his professed Anglicanism was indeed simply a piece of theatre - a facade maintained for constitutional reasons.

As far as Cranmer is concerned, he can go, and good riddance - politically, spiritually, ecclesiastically, and theologically. But it is curious indeed that the Vatican would even want such a vain and corrupt dissembler in their ranks. He has failed consistently to adhere to the unequivocal teachings of the church he aspires to join, indeed, his record is one of consistently contending against the faith.

Yet Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said: 'I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church. For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion. My prayers are with him, his wife and family at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together.'

Rome is welcome to him. The Church of England is best purged of such hypocrites.

Suffer the little children

At a time of the year when one’s focus is upon children and the importance of family, it is concerning to discover that, for the first time in our history, there were more children born to native Britons last year out of wedlock than within it. That is to say, only by including migrants in the calculation is the link between marriage and the begetting of children sustained. ‘Cultural Christianity’ has set aside the traditional family unit, and governments have conspired perversely to make it more financially lucrative for couples with children to live apart than to share in their upbringing.

Jesus, of course, was conceived out of wedlock, but when one considers the sacrifices made by Mary and Joseph to ensure that he was properly nurtured, one is struck by the undeniable reality that the rearing of children in this day and age is largely devoid of the notion of sacrifice.

There is a culture of the ‘self’ which derives from the obsession with ‘rights’, and thus the interests of the child may no longer adversely affect the careers or ambitions of parents. Of course, in many families both parents work out of economic necessity, but this is by no means a universal truth. Cranmer can’t hear Joseph talking about his ‘work-life balance’, of see Mary trying to find ‘quality time’ with Jesus, and the fact that such jargon has arisen when talking of the most crucial building block of society shows how far we have drifted.

As sure as night follows day, what is being sown today will be reaped tomorrow. When the emotional and educational input of parents is supplanted by the internet, television and computer games, it is the child’s spirit that suffers. Children who are neglected by their parents today will be the deprived, addicted, destitute and criminal of tomorrow. And it is no more their fault than it is the fault of the thousands of babies who are born with HIV to drug-addicted mothers. They are the innocent, corrupted by the sins of their parents.

The only remedy is to instil them with hope, and there is no better time of the year to find this anew, or discover it afresh, as we consider the greatest gift to mankind . As we move towards celebrating the birth of the Saviour, let us reflect on the wonder of God becoming man; omnipotence and omniscience condescending to a crib in Bethlehem, in order that man might be redeemed, and all the vulnerable and needy children of the world might know that they are loved, watched over, cared for by the one who was himself born in a lowly shed, the son of a humble tradesman, and whisked from pillar to post himself fleeing persecution and death.

Donne encapsulated the Christmas mystery when he wrote: ‘Twas much that we were made like God, long before, but that God should be made like us - much more.’ And the question we must ask is do we still have the capacity to be surprised, enthralled, awed by this wonderful story? Do we still have the capacity to see it through the eyes of a child?

Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born,
If he's not born in you, your heart is still forlorn.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Choir excises ‘Christmas’ from carol

When communicants inform Cranmer of such stories as this, they need to be more mindful of His Grace’s blood pressure. Incredible as it may seem, a school choir has replaced the word Christmas in ‘Silver Bells’ with the more generic ‘festive’, so that instead of singing the line ‘soon it will be Christmas day’ they will say ‘soon it will be a festive day’. And the reason? Unsurprisingly, in this absurd age in which we live, it is ‘so as not to offend any students’; so that ‘everybody feels welcome and has a sense of comfort with the celebrations’.

Christians excepted, of course.

On a scale of 1 – 10, this sort of politically-correct revisionist nonsense offends Cranmer 147. It is a Christmas carol, for goodness’ sake, and intended for a Christian celebration; not for performance at a meaningless multi-faith mish-mash of politically-correct pointless pap.

Yes, it may be Canada, but the reporting of such an occurrence in the publicly-funded arena in any nation where Her Majesty the Queen plays a constitutional role is concerning indeed. Her Coronation Oath to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion ought to ensure that Christianity be maintained in the public square; not relegated to the private realm for fear of causing offence. And if that means ‘Silver Bells’ continue to be rung across the realm and sung about joyously, then those who take offence will just have to lump it.

Just where will all this lead? Festival trees? Merry Winterval? Seasonal diversity parties? One thing is certain: Allah will not be excised from Eid in the spirit of comfort to all, and neither will Mohammed be excised from Ramadan as an expression of goodwill.

But Cranmer is yet to find one personage of minority ethnic persuasion who has actually complained about Christmas. It appears to be a crusade of the post-Christian liberal grinches who are so obsessed with ‘human rights’ they invoke the spirit of the Inquisition to enforce their godless dogma. And so blinded are they in their quest to eradicate Christianity that they cannot see the uncompromising religio-political force that is moving in to fill the vacuum.

It seems we are moving towards an era when the church’s silver bells will no longer be rung under dhimmi laws. And what will that leave us with?

Silver Call to Prayer?

It doesn’t quite scan.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy and Glorious

Cranmer is always delighted to share good news, and today Her Majesty the Queen reaches a new milestone as she overtakes Queen Victoria to become the oldest monarch in British history. Her great-great grandmother, who was born on 24 May 1819, lived for 81 years, seven months and 29 days. The Queen will beat that record today at about 5.00pm when one takes into account the times of their births and Queen Victoria's death.

Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee was a marvellous occasion celebrated by the whole country, and her Diamond Wedding Anniversary (a royal first) was also publicly acknowledged. Today, however, will be a day of business as usual for the Queen. If Roy Castle and Norris & Ross McWhirter were still hosting Record Breakers, there might just have been a greater awareness of Her Majesty's dedication, wo ho, dedica-aa-tion...

As the nation prepares to host the Olympics in 2012, it is little known that The Queen will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in the same year, once again moving towards breaking the record presently held by Queen Victoria as the longest-reigning British monarch. Her Majesty will surpass that on 9 September 2015. And 2012 is likely to deliver a few gold medals as well as street celebrations, fireworks and concerts. After a year of such 'feel-good', whichever political party is then in power is likely to win the following general election as they ride the wave of fervent patriotism, and people choose to content themselves with the status quo.

Her Majesty remains at the centre of nation's affections, and although the foundations of Church over which she presides as Supreme Governor are suffering a little subsidence, she has steered the Monarchy itself through turbulent and revolutionary times and shown herself to be the epitome of diplomacy and majesty.

God Save The Queen!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It’s Calamity Atheist Clegg for Christmas

Not quite as useless as soap-on-a-rope or a Christmas-tree-jumper, but Liberal Democrats struggle to persuade the nation they are worth much more. And now they have 'Calamity Clegg' to lead them... well, there are some prefixes and adjuncts which just stick in the mind, and 'Calamity' is one, not least because it was coined by another Liberal Democrat (or his leadership campaign team), and it will be a hard tag to eradicate. Rather like the audible groans which always greeted Paddy Ashdown when he arose to speak, and the groans of pity that greeted Sir Menzies Campbell, whenever something isn’t going quite right for the LibDems, there will be a chorus of ‘Calamity Clegg’ reverberating around the chamber.

And it may also be a perpetual haunt for Chris Huhne, as interview after interview he will be asked to deny that he thinks his own leader is a ‘calamity’, and even harder may that be knowing that he lost to Mr Clegg by a mere 511 votes – just 1% of the vote.

For Mr Clegg to score 20,988 votes and Mr Huhne to score 20,477 leaves the Liberal Democrats divided right down the middle. It is to David Cameron’s credit - and what continues to sustain him – that he won convincingly with two-thirds of the popular vote.

And speaking of Mr Cameron, Cranmer warns of troubled times to come. As he previously stated:

“If the Lord wishes to be kind to the Liberal Democrats, and mean to the Conservatives, the succession will pass to Nick Clegg.

Mr Clegg looks, sounds, walks and quacks like a Cameroon. He is eloquent, young and charming; he appears warm and charismatic on camera, and is of an eminently approachable disposition. He is reportedly fluent in five languages, a Euro-realist, and is at ease in diverse companies and kindly-mannered toward both the high and mighty and to the poor and lowly. He is a man for all seasons, and no small gesture is too much trouble for him.”

One hopes the Conservative Party will neither misjudge the man nor underestimate his political skills and considerable potential appeal to voters in the ‘centre ground’. He is of the Cameron generation, and both will make Prime Minister Brown look very grey indeed. And together they may even precipitate a Labour succession to Mr Miliband.

But the true hope for the Conservative Party is that if Mr Cameron fails to win an overall majority, it is not inconceivable that there may be a hung Parliament. While Mr Huhne may have propped up Labour, Mr Clegg is more likely to prop up the Conservatives.

But at what price?


Mr Clegg has come out as an Atheist, and (as Cranmer has stated in the comment thread), it is preferable to engage with an honest, self-confessed atheist than a duplicitious, hypocritical egomaniac who professes to be Christian.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

‘Mega-mosque’ opposition turns up the heat

The plans for the Tablighi Jamaatmega-mosque’ on the Olympic site are due to be submitted in the New Year, so the opposition is making a concerted effort to present a cogent case to have it thrown out. A few weeks ago they launched a website called (rather clumsily) ‘Megamosque No Thanks’, and Cranmer can’t help feeling they should have employed a media company who knows rather more about presentation. It’s got nice brown and black faces on its banner juxtaposed with a double-decker bus, but one can’t help feeling it’s bending over backwards to disassociate itself from accusations and slanders it has yet to receive.

Members of ‘Newham Concern’ insist that they are ‘committed to stopping the mega-mosque by legitimate and democratic means’, and to that end they state:

This website will be both respectful and reasoned, reflecting our commitment to diversity and to the democratic society we live in. We deplore both the grandstanding politics of mega-mosque supporter Mayor Ken Livingstone at one extreme, and the hate-mongering of the political far-right at the other.

They are going to have to do far better than this if their campaign is to succeed. Accusations of ‘racism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ will come pouring from the sky, and there appears to be very little to pre-empt the onslaught. And ‘respect’ is a little like loyalty: it is a bilateral contract demanding a symmetrical engagement. If it is lacking on one side, the other is not bound to be confined by its inherent niceties. Of course, one can and must be polite, but one no more has to respect than one has to submit: indeed, the former is increasingly being interpreted as the latter with alarming frequency. And as for ‘reason’, well, as His Holiness has discovered, any attempt to reason with the irrational is fraught with dangers that may imperil the peace and safety of the Realm.

Monday, December 17, 2007

“Make me a Muslim”

Here we are in the season of Advent, looking forward to celebrating once again the birth of Jesus: to hail the Messiah, to adore Christ the Lord, to worship the Prince of Peace. And Advent is not only about the coming into history of Jesus as a baby born in Bethlehem; it is also about his coming in the present – being born in our hearts today; and about his Second Coming at the end of time to reign forever. It is, needless to say, a very special time for Christians all over the world.

And what does Channel 4 bring us during this blessed season?

Make me a Muslim.”

It is about a subtle as screening Jesus of Nazareth in Indonesia during Ramadan, or proclaiming the need for conversion over a full English breakfast in Regents Park mosque at Eid. And if Trevor Phillips is to be believed, Cranmer doubts there are many British Muslims who will be happy with the gross insensitivity displayed by the timing of this documentary.

The three-part series asks: ‘Can Islam help repair the moral fabric of British society?’ The only sensitivity to the season of peace and goodwill is that this is phrased as a question. Cranmer can hardly wait to hear the answer. And one can only guess at what the 70% of the nation who identify themselves as Christian will make of the alleged presumption of the 3% who profess Islam.

Six volunteers in Harrogate have agreed to live according to aspects of Shari’a law under the guidance of Imam Ajmal Masroor. They include a young male gay hairdresser, a female soft-porn star, and an overweight, loud-mouthed lout rather too fond of his beer and bacon sandwiches. They could not be more unsuited, yet the objective is to bring them into submission to Allah by forced adherence to the Five Pillars of Islam.

But what the participating Muslims have failed to understand is that this makes their religion look absurd: it is about what you wear, how you speak, how you pray and what you eat. Either they were unaware of this emphasis, or this truly is what they believe Islam to consist of, and their egocentric desire to propagate their belief system on prime-time television proved a temptation too great.

This may, of course, have been a purposeful decision by the programme makers to convey Islam as a superficial system of outward obedience, intentionally showing the volunteers as being completely incapable of fulfilling the rigorous and burdensome demands of the Islamic law. And this is all about Sunni Islam, by the way: there is no mention of the different strands of the faith, and the volunteers are left ignorant of the more subtle, meditative and heartfelt Sufi interpretation which those who are genuinely searching may find rather more appealing.

If this programme establishes anything, it is that religion, true religion, is of the heart. The Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and man is thereby liberated from slavish obedience to it because ultimately he is incapable of attaining salvation through works. It is the cry of God that hearts be circumcised, not the flesh, for it is the heart that must be in submission before the flesh can even begin to follow.

In this final week of Advent, it is more appropriate to meditate upon the wonder of the immanence of God who became incarnate in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, to reflect on the divine indwelling of man through the blessed work of the Holy Spirit, to be grateful that through this redemption man may live for evermore; rather than fruitlessly whistling in the wind in pursuit of a transformed heart by attempting to slavishly follow a media facade of a faith which veritably has all the spiritual worth of a stuffed bear called Mohammed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mr Bean signs EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty

Cranmer blesses ConservativeHome for this ingenious bit of photoshopping, which he could not resist reproducing for the festive merriment of his readers and communicants. And if The Independent on Sunday is anything to go by (which is moot), it is a persona he ought to retain, for he is advised that being himself is propagating the seeds of New Labour's impending demise.

Pope: Global warming assessment must be based on ‘science not dogma’

It is something of a topsy-turvy world when a pope tells us to base our thinking on ‘science, not dogma’, and doubtless an aggrieved Galileo may feel somewhat vindicated, but here is a man on the world stage who is prepared express doubts about the ‘Green’ movement which is just as dogmatic in its assumptions as any religion. This declaration from the Pope is consistent with the man’s propensity to favour the virtues of rationalism, which he has already applied to interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

The Roman Catholic Church is not anti-scientific. While its treatment of Galileo may have been acknowledged to have been ‘an error’, Copernicus dedicated his famous heliocentric work, ‘On the Revolution of the Celestial Orbs’, to Pope Paul III. Copernicus then bequeathed this work to Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran clergyman who knew that Protestant reaction to it would be negative, since Luther himself was not favourable to the new theory. And Kepler also found opposition among his fellow Protestants for his heliocentric views, yet found a welcome reception among a group of Jesuits who were noted for their astronomical interests.

And it is the Pope of Rome who is now challenging the orthodoxy of the political aspects of the global warming movement around the world. That, of course, is true acknowledgement of the scientific method: a world apart from the hysteria surrounding the half-baked theories of pseudo-scientists and ignoramuses like Al Gore. Here we have a pope who is defending the protestants of postmodernity, confronting head-on the climate change ‘prophets of doom’ with the warning that any solutions to global warming ‘must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology’.

He dismisses talk of man-made emissions melting the ice caps as ‘scare-mongering’, and demands that assessment ‘be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances’.

And now there has been a 'breakthrough' in Bali, with the administration of President Bush apparently conceding on the matter and now joined by Australia’s new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, there is an inexorable spiritual drive to inculcate the population of the world with the worship of Mother Earth, to indoctrinate with the dogma of Gaia, against which the Pope alone declares: 'Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.'

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bethlehem and bigotry

It is heartening to read in The Times this brief account by Michael Gove; and even more heartening is it that there are still some politicians of integrity, insight, discernment and courage:

There’s one invariable sign that Christmas is almost upon us – a story about how Bethlehem is suffering at the hands of wicked Israel.

It has become almost as much a feature of seasonal journalism as stories about how Nativity plays are being subverted and commentaries on how commercialism is snuffing out the true meaning of the festival.

This year we’ve already had our first exercise in demonising Israel for its treatment of Bethlehem with the graffiti artist Banksy enjoying extensive coverage for his trip to decorate the security barrier near the town with his work. The message of Banksy’s work and the coverage it has generated is the same: oppressive Israel has snuffed the life out of the town where the Prince of Peace was born. Herod’s spirit lives on, even as the spirit of Christmas is struggling to survive.

The truth is very different. The parlous position of Palestinian Christians, indeed the difficult position of most Christians across the Arab world, is a consequence not of Israeli aggression but of growing Islamist influence. Israel goes out of its way to honour sites and traditions sacred to other faiths while the radicals who are driving Palestinian politics seek to create an Islamist state in which other faiths, if they survive at all, do so with the explicit subject status of dhimmis.

But when it comes to Israel’s position in these matters it’s still a case of O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see them lie.

It is wholly consistent with this latest report received from Scottish Friends of Israel:

With the Christmas holiday fast approaching, the town of Bethlehem, the historic birthplace of Jesus, is facing a continuing exodus of its Christian residents as a result of growing persecution by radical Muslims.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), led by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, strongly condemns the oppression of Christians in Bethlehem by Islamic extremists, which has risen sharply since Israel turned over control of the town to the Palestinian Authority in 1995. At the time of Israel's withdrawal, Christians made up 62% of Bethlehem's population.

Today, that figure stands at approximately 15%, a historic all-time low.

The persecution of Christians by hard-line Islamists is common in Palestinian-controlled areas and indeed throughout the entire Middle East.

In Gaza, where 3,000 Christians live among 1.5 million Muslims, it is particularly violent and sometimes deadly. Just recently, Rami Khader Ayyad, owner of a Christian bookstore, was murdered by extremists. Following Hamas' violent take-over of Gaza in June 2007, numerous attacks against Christians were also reported, including the ransacking of a convent.

IFCJ has decided to highlight these human rights violations and call attention to the persecution of Christians occurring in these areas. In addition, the organization is providing funds for a special holiday program to feed underprivileged Christian Arabs in Bethlehem. The assistance is being extended through the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem, headed by Pastor Naim Khoury, and will help provide food aid to hundreds of Christians, many of whom have been harassed and threatened by Muslim radicals because of their faith. Pastor Khoury has survived three separate assassination attempts in recent years, while his church has reportedly been bombed by Islamic extremists fourteen times.

"The oppression of Christian Arabs by their Muslim brethren has caused thousands to flee Palestinian-controlled areas over the past decade. The US and the international community need to pressure the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to reverse this deplorable trend and ensure the safety and prosperity of its Christian population," said Rabbi Eckstein, IFCJ President and Founder. "Through this gift, IFCJ is providing material support to the needy and saying to Bethlehem's Christians that they are not forgotten - that both Jews and Christians stand with them in their time of need."

Founded in 1983, IFCJ has a dual mission to foster better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and to build broad support for Israel and the Jewish people around the world. The Fellowship works to help Jews immigrate to Israel from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Iran, Argentina, India and other troubled countries; fight poverty and aid victims of war and terrorism in Israel; and extend aid to poor elderly Jews and orphans in the former Soviet Union. For general information about the IFCJ, please visit

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dreaming of a white Winterval…

A faithful communicant has drawn Cranmer’s attention to this Reuters story, which recounts that Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims have joined with the UK’s ‘equality watchdog’ to urge Britons to enjoy Christmas without worrying about offending non-Christians:

“It's time to stop being daft about Christmas. It's fine to celebrate and it's fine for Christ to be star of the show," said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. “Let's stop being silly about a Christian Christmas," he said, referring to a tendency to play down the traditional celebrations of the birth of Christ for fear of offending minorities in multicultural Britain.

Suicide bombings by British Islamists in July 2005 which killed 52 people in London have prompted much soul-searching about religion and integration in Britain, a debate that has been echoed across Europe. The threat of radical Islam, highlighted by the London attacks, prompted reflection about Britain's attitude to ethnic minorities and debate about whether closer integration was more important than promoting multiculturalism.

Phillips, reflecting on media reports of schools scrapping nativity plays and local councils celebrating ‘Winterval’ instead of Christmas, feared there might an underlying agenda - using ‘this great holiday to fuel community tension’. So he joined forces with leaders of minority faiths to put out a blunt message to the politically correct - leave Christmas alone. "Hindus celebrate Christmas too. It's a great holiday for everyone living in Britain," said Anil Bhanot, general secretary of the UK Hindu Council.

So that’s that then - Hindus celebrate Christmas too. Actually, if you walk into any of their mandirs, it looks as though they celebrate Christmas every day. But let us hope to hear from Mr Phillips more manifest common sense, such as mecca-facing toilets or demands for the reinstatement of bacon sandwiches in prisons, banning compulsory Ramadan observance in the NHS, and the free practice of euthanasia upon sick cows.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Treason with the stroke of a pen

Here is the photograph which Cranmer did not think the world would see. Here we see the unelected Scottish Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at Lisbon's Jeronimos monastery signing away 1000 years of English history. And the venue was perhaps appropriate, given Mr Brown's apparent monkish preference for cloistered solitude. By this act the duplicitous son of the manse has humiliated himself and betrayed the British people.

If this ‘treaty’ is ratified by Parliament and given Royal Assent (and Cranmer takes neither for granted), it will be for the Conservative Party to pledge themselves unequivocally to a retrospective referendum.

The prayers of a righteous man availeth much…

The EU Constitution is signed today

...aptly, in the Dos Jeronimos monastery, where Portugal's treaty of accession to the European Community was also signed. And Prime Minister Brown is to sell Britain down the river as he adds his own signature later than the 26 other EU leaders, awkwardly symbolic of the UK ‘lagging behind’ or being ‘in the slow lane’ playing ‘catch-up’, or ‘on the margins’ of Europe. But the leaders of the other 26 EU nations are eager to sign the ‘Treaty of Lisbon’ which will effectively abolish their own positions of authority and negate their own political power. The treaty creates an EU president and an EU foreign minister, and simultaneously scraps veto powers in many new policy areas.

Gordon Brown will not appear in the official photographs because of a convenient ‘diary clash’. Whilst Downing Street has denied that Mr Brown wants to avoid the ceremony, it is bizarre indeed that something as functional as the ‘Commons liaison committee’ has the authority to prevent the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from attending a meeting of world leaders.

So Mr Brown is sending the tea boy Foreign Secretary David Miliband to feature in the photographs, providing the Conservative Party with powerful ammunition to scupper his leadership bid whenever it might come.

Of course, this signing ceremony is not quite the end, though it may feel so. The Lisbon Treaty, which is manifestly identical to the rejected EU Constitution, still has to be ratified by both the Commons and the Lords, and with opposition among Labour MPs growing, the battle could be both gruelling and entertaining. Ireland is also the only country planning to hold a referendum, and there is little doubt that many in the UK will be assisting the ‘no’ campaign.

And so another turn of the ratchet abolishes national vetoes in some 50 policy areas, including sensitive ones such as police and judicial co-operation. And we not only acquire an emperor/president and a foreign minister, but also thousands of diplomats placed in every nation of the world constituting an army of EU ambassadors to represent ‘the united voice of Europe’.

One has sense in this conquest of the judgement of God: nations tend to get the leaders of which they are worthy, and there is little doubt that the people of the United Kingdom deserve this - for their apathy, ignorance, and indifference. The reality is that so few care because so few understand, and so few understand because they are more absorbed by Big Brother, X Factor, Come Dancing and the National Lottery, than they are by matters spiritual and political.

Cranmer prays for a leader to call the nation to repentance and prayer, but the population has probably ceased to know the meaning of the words…

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

FIFA rules may lead to loss of Roman Catholic players in NI team

Neil Lennon is Roman Catholic and plays for the predominantly-Catholic Celtic. He was due to captain his Northern Ireland team for the first time as they met Cyprus, but was forced to withdraw after a reported death threat from a paramilitary group. Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy said: "A handful of sectarian bigots have disgraced Northern Ireland in the eyes of the world by ensuring that the captain of the Northern Ireland football team cannot play in an international game."

Yet the irony is that FIFA’s new eligibility guidelines may lead to precisely the sort of sectarian abuse which Mr Lennon has suffered, with Roman Catholics opting to play for the Republic of Ireland football team and Protestants opting for Northern Ireland.

Speaking at Stormont, Sports Minister Edwin Poots MLA said that ‘throughout the darkest days of the troubles, the Northern Ireland team had been made up of players from across the political and religious divides’. But under FIFA plans, any player born in Northern Ireland may play for the Republic, and vice versa. There is a united-Ireland approach over which Sinn Fein will doubtless rejoice, but the right for anyone born on the island to play for either jurisdiction will dismantle the very mechanism which has served the Northern Ireland team so well.

It is the contention of the Irish Football Association that players born in Northern Ireland should play international football for Northern Ireland. And Cranmer favours this proposal, eschewing this ‘free movement of people’ nonsense which was only ever designed as a mechanism for the destruction of national identity and to further political integration with the elimination of the nation state. But Cranmer would go further, and prohibit the national team from being managed by foreigners, for it would be an undoubted irony and ultimate shame the day we see England managed by a German. Where would his heart be? To whom would his superior allegiance be? And even if one could be sure of a transplanted patriotism (which is doubtful), the notion that England could only win when managed by a German irks somewhat.

But doubtless all this conjecture is ‘racist’. So let us stick with Mr Poots and talk of Protestant and Catholic bigotry, for it is much safer ground…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is ‘robust Christianity’ the antidote to Islamic extremism?

Dominic Lawson poses this very question in The Independent, recounting the story of the daughter of an imam who refused to enter into a forced marriage, converted to Christianity, and is presently living under police protection being pursued by her own brothers who seek to restore their family ‘honour’.

She is not simply a rebellious daughter, but an apostate who, under the principles of Shari’a, is unworthy of anything but execution. And she is fortunate in having such dedicated and devout brothers who are themselves prepared to carry out the sentence - in the name of Allah.

Yet the questions posed by Mr Lawson are not so much aimed at the Government’s response to such threats, or even that of the police, but at the total inadequacy of the non-response of the Church of England.

As ever, one might expect the Most Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, to articulate something of the nexus. His father was a Muslim who converted to Roman Catholicism, and thence Dr Nazir-Ali converted to the Church of England. Over the past 30 years, he has witnessed the dominant form of Islam in the UK mutate from the ‘pietistic, Sufi-orientated’ branch to the ‘militant and political’ - the same form of the religion that forced him out of Pakistan.

And he is in no doubt as to its source: ‘the British mosques had recruited people from fundamentalist backgrounds (who manifest) the chauvinist manifestations of Islam, a kind of ideology which affirms the will to power.’

Yet it is not Saudi Arabia which is to blame, and neither is it the British Government’s immigration policy, but the ‘the British people themselves’, because ‘there has been a catastrophic collapse in Christian-based morality and spirituality in this country over the past 40 or so years and that this has created a "moral vacuum" in society as a whole, which has been increasingly filled – at least in the minds of impressionable youth – by fundamentalist Islam’.

The Bishop highlights one salient fact: ‘…while Muslims make up no more than 3 per cent of the British population, there are now more Muslims who attend a mosque regularly than there are regular attenders in the pews of the Established Church. Fundamentalist Islam can hardly take all the blame for that extraordinary reversal’.

And it is to Islam that thoughts now turn when there is talk of ‘devout adherence’, ‘commitment’, or ‘submission to God’. And the theme is taken up by the pathologically porous media, eager to imbibe the latest spiritual fad in order to boost its viewing/reading figures, and gives rise to such myopic endeavours as that to be screened on Channel 4 this weekend – ‘Why I want to be a Muslim’ – or some such title. As if they would ever waste their cash on a documentary of the virtues of Christianity.

Dominic Lawson takes issue with Dr Nazir-Ali on one point, and he is right to do so:

Here, as a leading figure in the Church of England, Dr Nazir-Ali is swimming in dangerous waters. Is it the British people who should be blamed for deserting, in their millions, the once-dominant Church of England? Or should not the Church of England look at its own performance and try to understand why it has lost such a vast proportion of its audience – at least as defined by regular churchgoing, rather than notional affiliation?

But it is simplistic to conclude that the Christians necessarily take their faith less seriously. There is an increasing incongruity between the professed religious belief of Christians, and statistics which indicate a persistent decline in church attendance. In his book ‘Religion in Britain’, Davie notes the rise of ‘believing without belonging’, and rightly talks of the ‘unchurched’ rather than the secular. While the distinction is difficult for many to perceive (and certainly the manner in which some ‘devout’ Muslims perceive the ‘irreligious’ Christians), it would be more accurate to see this as a development in the expression of the Christian faith, rather than constituting its disappearance or diminution.

So all that is left is to decide what one means by ‘robust’ and what one understands by ‘Christianity’. While the Archbishop of Canterbury may interpret the demand as a call to be a more determined doormat, there are certain self-appointed prophets who would turn up their megaphones and offend the world with their sounding brass or their tinkling cymbals. The robust Christianity must be based on love, which, as any parent knows, sometimes merits a firm slap.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Labour’s Jewish conspiracy?

David Miliband made history last week when he became the first Foreign Secretary to host a menorah-lighting ceremony at his official London residence, 1 Carlton Gardens, in the presence of leading members of the British Jewry. The entourage included the president of the Board of Deputies, Henry Grunwald; the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks; His Excellency the Israeli ambassador, Ron Prosor; and sundry other senior figures from synagogue bodies, politics, community groups and the media.

David Abrahams was not invited, and neither was Lord Levy nor Jon Mendelsohn.

Mr Abrahams claims that he had made his generous donations to Labour in secret in order to avoid accusations of his being part of a ‘Jewish conspiracy’. The Daily Telegraph has suggested the money was not Mr Abraham’s at all, but came from Israel. Speaking to The Jewish Chronicle, Mr Abrahams said: “Some of the things written about me have been terrible. Now they are saying there was a Jewish conspiracy, with Lord Levy, Jon Mendelsohn and me, and that is ridiculous. The real reason I wanted to remain anonymous was that I didn’t want Jewish money and the Labour Party being put together because this is what I feared would happen. People would say there’s a Jewish conspiracy. I didn’t come into Labour just to give them money. I give money to many good causes, to Jewish charities, not just to Labour.”

Abrahams, Levy, Mendelsohn… does one detect a certain theme?

There is enough here to persuade the Islamists of the righteousness of their cause, or at least to inspire another play for the Riding Lights Theatre Company. But before all the Muslims rejoice in their self-righteousness and get holier-than-thou about the sinister and manipulative conduct of a few Jews, let them consider that a Muslim lobby group has also been guilty of concealing the identity of donor to the Labour Party.

One of Labour’s biggest donors has secretly channeled more than £300,000 into the party’s election funds through an Islamic lobby group that hid his identity. Imran Khand, a 43-year-old computer entrepreneur, has been behind three large donations to the party, but his name was never disclosed to the Electoral Commission because the money was given in the name of Muslim Friends of Labour. Donors to Muslim Friends were not declared because the group exploits rules that allow groups with large numbers of small donors (such as trade unions) to give under the umbrella of a single association. However, Muslim Friends does not have a large number of donors; on the contrary, it appears to be mostly a front for just one man, Mr Khand. He provided at least 96% of the money given to the party through the group this year.

Interestingly, Harriet Harman’s deputy leadership campaign registered a £5,000 donation from Muslim Friends, when the cash was almost entirely from Mohammad Sarwar, the Labour MP who runs the group.

So, not so much a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ as a common attribute of the descendents of Shem through Abraham via certain heirs and successors of both Isaac and Ishmael.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christians flee Bethlehem

It may soon be time to amend the lyric to the comparative: ‘O littler town of Bethlehem’, for the Christian population is diminishing with each year that passes. Ever since Chairman Arafat attempted to cancel all Christmas celebrations in the West Bank, there has been a consistent policy of persecuting Christian Arabs, particularly in the cities of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Many private homes of Christian Arabs have been taken over by terrorists belonging to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah to attack Israel's civilian population. The continuing insecurity surrounding the celebration of Christmas in the birthplace of the Saviour has a direct impact on the economy of the West Bank, where Christian shop keepers are being driven to bankruptcy. The situation receives next to no coverage in the MSM, even though it has considerably worsened since Cranmer reported on it last year.

A report has been received of the on-going situation in Bethlehem, where the Christian population continues to endure appalling persecution:

Over the past century, a combination of Arab secular nationalism (Nazi and Communist leaning), re-invigorated Muslim rule and, more recently, violent Islamism has seen the Christian population of the Middle East decline. Latterly, the last refuge of Christians in the Middle East has been the Jewish State.

Now, with the misguided efforts to seek peace and Palestinian statehood on the back of Islamic violence, even that last redoubt of Christianity is under threat. The statistics from Bethlehem are indeed shocking, but they are the conclusion of a trend across the whole of the Middle East which began in the aftermath of the First World War.

It is only by viewing the plight of the Arab Christians of Bethlehem in isolation that the Western Church is able to point the finger at recent innovations in Israeli security as the cause of Christian grievance and flight.

The disappearance of Christians from ancient centres of Christianity in Syria and Lebanon and from the scattered Christian communities of Iraq, Kurdistan and Jordan, together with the plight of the Coptic Church in Egypt - these provide the proper and decades-long context for what is now happening in Bethlehem.

Arab nations cynically exploited the successful establishment of Israel and expelled their centuries-old Jewish communities, so that the Arab Middle East became Judenrein. The ancient Christian communities of the Arab world were subjected to a less dramatic attrition which is culminating in the flight from Bethlehem.

While the Christian churches in the West wring their collective hands over Israeli checkpoints, it is well to remember the high point of the Palestinian assault on the Christians of Bethlehem: on April 2nd 2002, between 150-180 Palestinian gunmen, among them members of the PA Fatah Tanzim militia, invaded the Church of the Holy Nativity and held the priests and nuns to ransom. The New York Times reported: "Palestinian gunmen have frequently used the area around the church as a refuge, with the expectation that Israel would try to avoid fighting near the shrine." The IDF employed exemplary and patient tactics to lift the siege, to the relief and gratitude of the clergy of the several Christian denominations domiciled there.

During this 39 day stand-off, the footsoldiers of Islam invaded and desecrated and despoiled a Christian Holy Site, using it as a fortress, not a place of sanctuary.

That siege stands as abiding testimony to militant and official Palestinian regard for Christians in the Holy Land.
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