The Church of England and the BNP
Not to any particular brand of Christianity, or to Islam(-ism), or to any multi-faith ecumenical politically-correct pap, or even (God forbid) to Socialism.
Cranmer, it was alleged, had surrendered to the BNP.
All because he was pondering (and taking his time over it) whether or not he ought to comment upon their campaign of ‘What would Jesus do?’. He was also asked whether or not the feeble response of virtually the entire episcopate of the Church of England to the suggestion of national bell-ringing on St George’s Day was a politically-correct sell-out.
Well... ‘surrenderist’ seems a little unfair. God knows that Cranmer labours day and night for no earthly reward in order to bring some common sense (as ConservativeHome once put it) to some of the touchiest subjects in British politics.
When it comes to the BNP, His Grace has a dilemma. Does he cover their outrageous advertising campaign and provide them with ‘the oxygen of publicity’, or does he ignore them altogether, thereby leaving unchallenged their assertion that they are a Christian party; indeed, more Christian than the Church of England?
If the BNP were a Christian party, they would drive Jesus to atheism.
The far-Left party has launched its campaign for the European Elections with a poster which features a picture of Jesus with a quotation from the Gospel of John (15:20): ‘If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you’.
It is noteworthy that Jesus consorted with the outcast of his day – Samaritans, tax-collectors, prostitutes –– because he loved them. The BNP are noted for rejecting those who might consider themselves the persecuted of today (Muslims and homosexuals, for example), which rather presents the BNP with something of ‘Christian’ credibility problem. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and welcome them into our homes: the BNP offends, excludes and seeks to deport them.
But the advertisement asks: ‘What would Jesus do?’
One would think the Church of England might have made a swift response to this. After all, it was they who banned their clergy from membership of this democratic and legally-constituted group during a recent General Synod. The Methodists, Baptists and the United Reformed Church have all condemned the advertisement, but the Church of England is as confused by English national identity as it is about sexuality.
A spokesman for the Archbishop of York said: ‘Jesus wouldn’t say anything’.
It is such an abdication of spiritual leadership and theological responsibility which gives credence to the BNP’s assertion that the Church of England is failing its adherents and letting the country down. And so the party adopts the church’s rhetoric of persecution and the need to sustain Christian values in this Christian country. It hijacks the Cross of St George, and promises to defend our Christian heritage and culture because the Church of England has failed to do so: indeed, the national church is mute.
It is interesting to note that the most senior Church of England clerics who have dared to talk about Englishness and the importance of defending and asserting its Christian heritage are not white Anglo-Saxons, but black and brown-skinned foreign-born. Archbishop John Sentamu and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali have made pronouncements against the tide of secularism and the threats of Islamism and shari’a law, but they are lone voices. The perceived de-Christianisation of England continues apace, with secularising calls from Parliament and pronouncements about an ‘unavoidable’ Islamification from Lambeth Palace.
Cranmer does not believe that the Jesus who has been revealed in Scripture would remain silent, and neither should the national church.
And so the BNP fills the void, with one of its spokesmen referring to ‘a witch-hunt’ of those who politics the church does not approve. He said: “You can’t have an organisation passing itself off as Christian while embarking on thoroughly vindictive and un-Christian behaviour.”
A spokesman for the BNP said: "We are putting (the posters) up there in response to the way the Church has attacked us. We believe we are being persecuted and turned into martyrs."
But it is a wonderful irony that the criticism of the church for its discrimination against members of the BNP comes from a political organisation which is founded upon the most un-Christian of discriminations – that of race. They have not grasped the essence of the gospel that Jesus abolished the distinction between Jew and Greek.
The Church of England could help if it were not perceived to have sold out to both secularism and political correctness. While the Mayor of London has a week of events planned for St George’s Day, and has vowed to hoist the flag of St George above his offices, the bishops of the Church of England have largely rejected the proposal to ring out the bells on April 23rd in celebration of England’s patron saint.
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds the Rt Rev John Packer said: ‘I’m not sure assertiveness is a Christian value.’
Does he not believe the glorious gospel of Christ? Does he not wish to see the conversation of others? Does he think this comes about passively? Did Jesus never assert his views on others? Which Bible is Bishop John reading? Should we apologise for Easter? Should we not proclaim the gospel in season and out?
The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Dr Kenneth Stevenson refused to back the plan, claiming: “Some secularists would say the Church was imposing its beliefs on the whole population.”
He has obviously omitted to notice that the secularists have no fear of imposing their atheistic views on the whole population.
The Bishop of Chester the Rt Rev Dr Peter Foster said there was a danger in ‘public displays of confidence’.
No, Bishop, the danger is in public displays of no confidence. For where the bells fall silent, the Adhan will fill the vacuum.
In fact, just 5 out of 44 bishops think the church bells should ring out on St George’s Day. And only one, the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, gave a ringing endorsement to the plan.
Fools may rush in where angels fear to tread. But where angels never tread, the demons revel in an uninterrupted orgy.
Our church bells are one of the glories of the Church of England and of English social life, so ringing them loud on our national day would be entirely appropriate. It would be a celebration of England’s national identity, which other nations manage to celebrate without apology. It is time for the English to express pride in who they are and give thanks for the Christian faith which forged a distinct identity. Ringing out the church bells would not be an expression of triumphalist nationalism or an assertion of superiority, but a celebration of all that is good about England, and an expression of thanks to God for the blessings and mercies he has bestowed.
Is it too much to ask that the Church of England should facilitate this?
Is it too much to ask that the Conservative Party might encourage them to do so?