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.