Attacking Britain First is not as brave as one might think

It would seem somewhat churlish not to welcome the news that the UK's most prominent Christian denominations have denounced the organisation known as Britain First. It has to be a good thing when those who follow the Prince of Peace speak out against groups whose currency is fear and hate.

Perhaps the problem, however, is that Britain First are too easy a target. Their tribalism is so very obvious that it is easy to identify as racism. Church members are hardly going to feel offended if their leaders say 'The actions of Britain First .... are not those of peacemakers.' It is hardly controversial. It would Have all the controversey of saying that Westboro Baptists were 'being a bit rude'.

It's one thing to direct your criticism to the most overt examples of xenophobia but one has to ask where the voices are when it comes to objecting to groups that might appeal to some members of our congregations.

When the BNP's Nick Griffin shared a platform with one time Ku Klux Klan member, David Duke, one wonders how many church leaders made public comments.

Even more pertinent, is perhaps the silence from some senior church leaders when UKIP's Nigel Farage agreed that “In Ukip-land there would be no law against discrimination on the grounds of nationality”

Britain First are the obvious extremists in society who are easy to speak out against. UKIP, on the other hand, speak a kind of racism that resonates with some in our congregations. Speak out against them and we might lose church members. I have been unfriended on Facebook on more than one occasion for suggesting that UKIP's ideology was not compatible with Christianity.

This intersectionality, between speaking out for peace on the one hand, and placating the inbuilt prejudices of our congregations in the other, is not exclusive to UK Christianity. It does seem to be a recurring problem.

So whilst I tentatively welcome church leaders confronting Britain First's misuse of the Christian message, I am also comfortable with pointing out that they have done little more than attack an easy target; one that will cost them very little in real terms. Not the best example of being a prophetic people.

1 comment:

Kathy Bramley said...

I think people follow the action. UKIP is more interesting and loudly condemned during an election. In Bradford though a lot of the UKIP candidates were Muslims of Pakistani heritage. Calling out the church, and particular examples like Westboro are an easy target. Whereas, defending the gospel and challenging assertions from scripture whilst spending time on Britain First pages is both topical, hard work and personally risky. The other important almost impossible thing is reminding each other of our duty to love the enemy and stop call each other fools looking down our noses with or without breaking any swear laws; class based and ableist intersectional issues, perhaps not very helpful, leading to further disgust and entrenchment which is the most important thing, but it's not very biblical or consistent either. Defend the fatherless, lift up the oppressed, love your neighbour and your enemy, whoever they may be.

It can be all too distracting, but itvcan also a job of work and a service to the gospel. Adressing racism against refugees groups have become a vital loving community, but theres diagreements there and respectfully weaving a clear message between atheists, various types of muslim and christian and others, when adressing inflammatory memes and refugee issues gets quite intricate and sensitive at times. Were all human as well. Denouncing Britain First and sifting the wider rashly anti Muslim anti refugee talk from a Christian theological perspective, at the coal face as it were, is not an easy task. And you'd be surprised by the range of people who do support Britain First. The big announcements reflect the grassroots work. Hard work.
Perhaps all too addictive and easy to get out of healthy balance, but even that feels like a service at times.
Maybe we do need to condemn UKIP more, not forget that angle. But dont knock a denouncement of Britain First. As a more secularly concieved political organisation UKIP are not directly actively and voluminously twisting the gospel on social media, Britain First are. And denouncing has still got to be a gentle hope provoking thing.

Blessed are we if they revile and persecute us for Christ's sake. You can have strong feelings about the identity of Christ in relation to other religions and be proudly loyal as a Christian. If we go around persecuting others we're doing something else. Pouring bile onto a name, instead of taking people as we find them caring daring and preaching the gospel of the lamb.

It's not a name we need to denounce, so much as Satan, in the manner of christ rejecting his temptation. Earthly kingdom, power and glory and safety and luxury are not reflective of the real strength of the generous almighty creator, who is love, who made all things and in whom we live and move and have our being. We talk about Great Britain and the empire and christendom, we've had several hundred years of supposedly holy war. Charles Dickens and Spurgeon (sermon 180) were moved to call for genocidal judgment of God after Lucknow, and I see this both as shockingly mistaken and evidence for human vulnerability to nationalist or tribal stirrings and threats and aggression when sufficiently piqued. We have to keep asking as church whether Jesus came to bring condemnation and sanctify earthly kingdoms and aggressive border defence, whether he asked us to judge. This is our God; the servant King.