Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Chief Rabbi on the importance of Christian faith

Dr Jonathan Sacks delivered a most welcome 'Thought for the Day' for the BBC, which Cranmer considers worthy of wider dissemination:

Right now the Jewish community is in the midst of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. Each night for eight days we light a candelabrum, a menorah, in memory of the one that stood in the temple in Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago.

The festival commemorates one of the world's first and most fateful clashes of civilisations, between the two cultures that shaped the entire heritage of the west: ancient Greece and ancient Israel.

Israel had been conquered by Greece in the days of the Alexander the Great. For more than a century there was peace. Then one Hellenistic ruler, Antiochus 4th, decided to ban the practice of Judaism and placed a pagan statue in the temple. Jews fought back, won their freedom, and rededicated the temple. Hanukkah means rededication.

What I find fascinating, though, is how this victory was understood. At first it was seen as a military victory. But it didn't last for long. Within a century Israel was again under foreign rule, this time the Romans. And it was then that people began to realise that the real meaning of Hanukkah wasn't military, it was spiritual. Though they lost their land, Jews didn't lose their faith. Had they done so, not only would there be no Judaism today; but also no Christianity or Islam.

Which brings us to today. Two days ago there was a debate in Parliament about the future of Christianity in Britain. The community cohesion minister argued that Britain should celebrate its Christian heritage and all it has meant to British identity and culture. The odd thing was that the minister, Parmjit Dhanda, is a Sikh. And I as a Jew want to echo his words.

What Hanukkah tells us is that the real victories, the ones that last, are spiritual. They rarely make the news; they happen quietly, almost imperceptibly. But what sustains a nation is its culture and its faith and the way it hands them on across the generations.

Lose that and neither politics nor economics will do as a substitute. Empires have come and gone. In their day they seemed impregnable but each exists now only in history books and museums. Faith survives; and the only societies that have endured for long have been held together by a sense of the sacred.

Today Britain is home to many faiths, but I hope it doesn't lose its own, the Christian faith that inspired its greatest poetry, its finest architecture, and its bravest battles in defence of freedom. Happy Hanukkah.

12 Comments:

Anonymous asian colonial subject said...

Amen.

8 December 2007 at 07:42  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace! I never get the chance to hear Thought for the Day these days, but exceptionally, I heard this one, and I thought of you. What is key though is the phrase 'sense of the sacred'. I think one does not need religion to have this sense.

I also thought of you when we had our Christmas concert this week Your Grace. I think you would have enjoyed it. In our inner-city state school, children of all colours and faiths, playing instruments and singing. A Christmas tree stood proudly on the stage. We sang of angels, of Christ, of Mary. Christmas carols dominated, and they weren't the more secular ones, but ones which spoke of Christianity in its true sense. 'Merry Christmas' was said by all over and over. We did have a few other songs, like 'Let it Be' - but again, they were entirely English, and while not Christian, had what I think is a 'sense of the sacred'.

And so I thought of you, Your Grace. And I wished you were with me to see it.

8 December 2007 at 09:24  
Anonymous John Hayward, The Difference said...

"the real victories, the ones that last, are spiritual."

Indeed, which is why I have been pondering this week the curious omission each Christmas from our collection of readings (let alone sermons) of St John's account of Jesus' birth in Revelation 12. As I ask over at The Difference, why is it we only ever hear Matthew and Luke's accounts? Shouldn't at least a few nativity scenes include John's seven-headed red dragon lurking ominously, ready to devour the infant Saviour King?

8 December 2007 at 10:09  
Anonymous Sir HM said...

Sorry to go off topic Your Grace, but:

...could all those hundreds of thousands of people who wrote 'Jedai' into the religious affiliation box at the last census have been on to something?

http://tinyurl.com/2ses94

8 December 2007 at 11:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one who has a few hundred years experience, what are your thoughts on this matter of Britain losing its Christian heritage your Grace? How have we arrived at a point where it is membersof other Faiths that are now telling us to keep ours?? is this not a strange thing?

8 December 2007 at 13:03  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

So the Chief Rabbi gives little Christianity a pat on the head, then wishes us all a happy Hanukkah. The ironicfulness is terrific: if His Grace hadn't come back from the dead, he'd be spinning in his grave. The fact that the spiritual leader of such a tiny minority is taken seriously by His Grace and other sadly misguided Christians is an implicit acknowledgment of Jewish power in Britain. That power has not been good for Christianity. Hanukkah isn't a particularly important Jewish festival, for example, but it's the one closest to Christmas and so the one they've been using to undermine the significance of Christmas in the US. As usual, we follow where the US leads. If the chief rabbi were fully sincere in wishing Christianity well, he'd call for a number of things, including the abolition of the Jewish supremacist festival known as Holocaust Memorial Day. He's already explained why it's wrong:

Sacks said Britain's politics had been poisoned by the rise of identity politics, as minorities and aggrieved groups jockeyed first for rights, then for special treatment. The process, he said, began with Jews, before being taken up by blacks, women and gays. He said the effect had been inexorably divisive. "A culture of victimhood sets group against group, each claiming that its pain, injury, oppression, humiliation is greater than that of others," he said.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/914939.html

8 December 2007 at 16:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nedsherry is so funny, I nearly died laughing. Thanks, Nedsherry for making my day.

The fact is that Chanukah is an incredibly important festival, so important that Dumbledoresarmy has written to my own blog, suggesting that everyone, not just the Jewish community, should be lighting Chanukah candles at the moment, in solidarity with the Jewish people and Israel at this terrible time for them.

I think it's very courteous of the Chief Rabbi to restate what many of us think: that Christianity is the religion of Britain and should remain so.

I think that all Christians and Jews should be most concerned at the twin rise of Muslim extremeism and atheism of the Dawkins variety, both of which are based on infantile attitudes to religion.

Here is what Dumbledore had to say on my own blog on Jewish symbolism:

http://irenelancaster.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/12/jewish-symbolis.html

8 December 2007 at 20:21  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

Agree with most but not the conclusion.

In my lifetime this country has never been more religious, or spiritual as it is today.

As all faiths are basically of the same origins and so not surprisingly in their practice. Formal and alternative religions are still incredibly strong.

They are so, even in the year 2007, for one very important unchanging reason.

There is and therefore always has been creator.

Which is why all the disinformation from the western media the educational establishments controlled by big money collectivists cant change that basic fact of life.

These vile collectivists are often Jewish but far more often not Jewish at all.

However all of them are of a very high faith indeed. Their sin is that they refuse to share their TRUE faith with the rest of humanity. Lest it destroy their own wealth power and control.

The ordinary people just get divisive confusing mind controlling disinformation. Which is very sad indeed, and possibly the biggest sin to the human spirit, it is possible to commit.

BTW

Should we worship this creator at all never mind in a formal religious context?

Personally as a protestant Jew, I believe not. But if it helps make people happy and give structure to their lives to do so, then thats just fine.

Because it will change little, as far as our culture or our country are concerned. Because both were damned to destruction many years ago.

All we can do is possibly delay that period of human inspired destruction by a few decades at best.

By starting to use the individual god given intelligence we were nearly all born with. Instead of following false collectivist prophets and their bullshit man made ideologies.

We can all start today by turning off our TVs and radios. Then only ever turning them on again for test matches.

9 December 2007 at 02:52  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Nedsherry is so funny, I nearly died laughing. Thanks, Nedsherry for making my day.

Any time. Is it Dr Lancaster?

The fact is that Chanukah is an incredibly important festival,

No, it isn't:

We are in the middle of Hanukah, the Jewish "festival of lights". For eight days we light a menorah (candelabra) and exchange presents. Some have spoken of Hanukah as the "Jewish Christmas", though this is wide of the mark (for a start it is a relatively minor festival). With Christmas being such a focal point in the British calendar, what then is the attitude of other faiths towards it?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2224351,00.html

The Jewish promotion of hanukkah is an attempt to blur and weaken the significance of Christmas, a major festival in a religion that, according to you (if you are Dr L), has spent 2000 years trying to exterminate the poor Jews.

so important that Dumbledoresarmy has written to my own blog, suggesting that everyone, not just the Jewish community, should be lighting Chanukah candles at the moment, in solidarity with the Jewish people and Israel at this terrible time for them.


Why should Christians show solidarity with their enemies? Even now you won't condemn Muslim immigration into the UK, because you still feel it has at least harmed Christianity.

9 December 2007 at 15:38  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

often Jewish but far more often not Jewish

Er, that's some awesome weed you're smoking, Dude. Kinda detracts from the pointiness of your point, though. But hey, it's the weekend, and Ned Sherry can't even tell where he's posting. Hold one hand over one eye, Ned, and type with the other hand, it's no different than driving.

My substantive point is that appearances suggest that Dr Sacks, whom I respect more than any other religious leader on the planet, seems to want to distance himself ever so slightly from the Zionist project. Is this the case and then, if so, why?

Perhaps it's the bizarre detente with the Zionist, but anti-semitic Christian Fundamentalist Left-Behinders? And that's an Anti-Defamation League link, BTW.

Perhaps it's the appalling arrogance of the Israeli leadership.

Perhaps its the strong odour, redolent of "Lebensraum", on the West Bank? Could it be that Israelis are seeming, just seeming, to be a bit like the new Nazi's?

Many of us have had these thoughts cross our minds, however misguidedly, and I think Dr Sacks knows this and that it is a concern to him.

9 December 2007 at 19:31  
Blogger Manfarang said...

atlas shrugged
"as a protestant(?) Jew"
Sounds as Jewish as the Pope.
Oi Vey!

10 December 2007 at 05:03  
Anonymous Patriot said...

The Great Carve up of Britain and the British.

I think it's clear, Britain and the British are being attacked from all sides (and Traitorously from within ) as foreign and domestic influences vie to take control.
I would urge these forces to make their move asap or pack and leave just as quickly because The British are stirring.

13 December 2007 at 00:00  

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