The Church-BNP at prayer?
It becomes increasingly evident that the British Nationalist Party is endeavouring to identify its cause with that of the Church’s: on the one hand a recent advertisement for the Party had the audacity to compare their ‘persecution’ with that of Christ and, now, the Church of England Newspaper reports that the morning worship of a Norfolk Village Church was ‘descended’ upon by a BNP delegation ‘including a Church of England Vicar’ citing ‘The Rev Robert West, who ministers at a church in Holbeach, Lincolnshire’. For the avoidance of doubt, can I emphasise that Mr West is not an Anglican and has no connection with any Church of England church in Lincolnshire. Indeed, the leadership of all the major denominations within the County has recently issued a statement denouncing extremist political policies and those which encourage racism and social division. What’s their game then?
Recently, Nick Griffin the Chairman of the BNP was asked to define the ‘Britishness’ that he seeks to defend and believes is under attack. Broadly-and it was ‘broadly’ -he suggested that it was Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and North European. In addition, it has been repeatedly claimed that people of black ethnic origin can have no claim to ‘Britishness’. Well I believe there is plenty of evidence now to suggest, through our ability to do genetic mapping, that each of us is a complicated mixture of material from all over the world: on a recent television programme, an outwardly entirely white person was found to have black African ancestry and a cursory look at the programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ will serve to convince us that origin and ethnicity are very complicated things indeed. So, where do we stop? Is someone ‘British’ if their grandparents were born here? Or what about great grandparents or great, great grandparents? How many of us would find ourselves subject to ‘voluntary repatriation’ if we were rigorous about our own racial mix?
But, of course, it’s not about trying to preserve Britishness, but about instilling fear and anxiety into people-and playing on their natural anxieties-so that the BNP appear to be the instant answer to all our problems. The spokespeople of the BNP suggest that they are not a racist party at all but that they are simply defending ‘Britishness’ in the same way that the ethnic groups in our society seek to continue and maintain their ancient ways of life and culture. The difference is that Britain is the context in which these different cultures exist and try to maintain identity. ‘Britishness’ is not one definable way of life, struggling to survive amongst many other ways of life, it is the background to a multi-faceted, multifarious society: if there is such a thing as ‘Britishness’ then, it is in our national ability, throughout many hundreds of years, to welcome, encompass and protect the newcomer and the foreigner, who then become proud to be British. Put another way: the South Yorkshire steelworker has as little or as much in common culturally with a Surrey stockbroker as does a Seikh with a Muslim, and as little agreement on what it means to be British: what they do have in common is our culture of living together with difference. This is ‘Britishness’.
It is good that the present Pope has visited Israel and the Holocaust memorial. His position on far right politics has been, to say the least, painted as unclear, but he was able to say at Yad Vashem: ‘The Church is committed to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men(sic) again’. Hatred begins when we are unprepared to live together with those from whom we differ but, instead, try to banish those who are not like us. And hatred leads to the Holocaust.
The BNP saw fit to quote Our Lord in their advertisement, so I see fit to quote one of his greatest followers, St Paul: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’. Let’s bear that in mind when we vote.