Friday, September 11, 2009

Michael Howard joins the Council of Christians and Jews

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) has appointed Frank Field and Michael Howard to its board, as part of a ‘reinvigoration’ of its trustees.

Frank Field one can understand – a Christian of devout spirituality and great conviction, a Synod member, a politician with principles, a noted author of religio-political books and a life-long commitment to helping the poor, the oppressed and the underprivileged. There isn't an MP in the Commons closer to sainthood, and even the Blessed Margaret touches the hem of his garment.

But Michael Howard?

He is a member of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood, and quite detached from its institutional functioning. He is not known for his diplomacy and dialogue. He has never written about his faith and has never talked of its influence on his politics.

The CCJ says it is in search of ‘influential characters’ capable of increase its impact and reach.

But, as politically influential and experienced as Michael Howard is, he is not noted for his work in the promotion of religious and cultural understanding between Judaism and Christianity.

David Gifford, chief executive of the CCJ, said that Mr Howard would provide insight into the Jewish community. He said: “Michael also brings an understanding of government and the issues of society. He has a lot of ideas and is very vocal.” He said that the board’s new focus will be tackling anti-Semitism, and so he wishes to bring in people ‘with special insight and skills and tackle this, big time’.

This is indeed a most pressing issue, wholly worthy of being tackled ‘big time’. And the CCJ has been at the forefront of the necessary dialogue since its foundation in 1942: it is the oldest of Britain's inter-faith organisations. But it is not clear at all what Michael Howard can bring to the table, save a high-profile name which might attract other high-profile parties and assist with fund-raising. Frank Field has a long track record of speaking out about important ethical issues. Michael Howard has dodged every one of them. Yet, according to Mr Gifford, he brings ‘a real perspective and insight into interfaith communities as well as what’s happening in government’.

Cranmer has a better idea for raising awareness of anti-Semitism and of helping people to understand the plight of their Jewish neighbour.

Sundown on September 27th marks the beginning of Yom Kippur, the most solemn and important of the Jewish festivals, being concerned with atonement and repentance. Observant Jews mark this holy day with fasting and prayer.

The Mayor of London should visit a synagogue and exhort Gentiles to fast on this day – to gain a greater understanding of Judaism and help contain the resurgence of anti-Semitism. If one should do it for Islam, how much more important in the present context would it be for Judaism?

The CCJ ought to invite Boris Johnson onto its board. He would help to raise its profile and increase fund-raising considerably more than Michael Howard ever could, and would certainly reinvigorate it. And he has a track record of writing on religious issues, even manifesting signs of conversion.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mr Howard will be taking instructions from his son Nick, whose theological understanding and love for the glorious truth of the gospel is beyond doubt?

11 September 2009 at 09:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous beat me to it.

His son, Nick, is absolutely brilliant - a friend of mine and a completely brilliant christian role model to me (beyond Christ, naturally.) One can only hope that he has been talking to his father, and perhaps this is where this stems from. Prayers for this then!

11 September 2009 at 10:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

His son, Nick, is a homophobic bigot who was rejected for ministry by the Church of England. His father would be appalled that a liberal Jewish upbringing has resulted in a conversion to fundamentalist Christianity, which he also views as bigotry.

11 September 2009 at 10:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quite surprising attack on Michael Howard, I feel. A genuinely compassionate man, in whom there is much to admire.

11 September 2009 at 10:56  
Anonymous Milo said...

Although it could be said that Michael Howard lacks religio-political understanding, he is a decentand upright politician, and much like Hague, has benefitted from a failed period of leadership. That aside, I know his son, Nick, and can affirm (some of) the previous comments. He is a great and compassionate man of God, humble and gentle, who inspires others to walk by faith. I pray that he might yet influence his father's thinking.

11 September 2009 at 11:26  
Anonymous Disco Biscuit said...

What a bitter blogpost, Cranmer. Anyone would think he'd, oh I don't know, sacked you as a candidate some time in the past.

You seem to miss the point that Mr Howard has been appointed on the basis of his Jewish, not Christian, credentials.

If you question his commitment to work between faiths, perhaps you should enquire into his unpublicised trips to Auschwitz with school parties.

In the meantime, declare your interest!

11 September 2009 at 15:03  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Quite surprising Your Grace, for a politician of no great consequence, you sure do tear into Michael Howard, it would suggest there’s more to it than meets the eye. I don’t know either him or his son but from his public persona and to misquote Winston Churchill "Mr Howard is a very modest man. Indeed he has a lot to be modest about."

11 September 2009 at 15:46  
Anonymous just curious said...

What anti-Semitism?

11 September 2009 at 16:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z6o5Ccwb0A

What about Christianiaphobia?

11 September 2009 at 21:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly mean spirited.

I know for a fact that since the death of his mother MichaeL Howard, who was raised as an Orthodox Jew, has attended an Orthodox Synagogue for morning prayers as required by Orthodox Jewish practice during the 12 month period of mourning for a parent. He has done so without publicity or fanfare. Whether it is out of respect for the memory of his late mother or represents a return to faith on his part I do not know but either way he deserves commendation.

11 September 2009 at 23:18  
Anonymous Montgomery said...

I have heard that Michael Howard of fairly limited ability was easily intimidated by younger talented and vibrant politicians and effectively stymied their progress and promotional possibilities when he was leader.

12 September 2009 at 06:49  

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