May 02, 2009

Why Jesus would never have voted BNP

Despite arguably putting more into the UK’s economy than they take out, immigrants remain a tempting target for those seeking a scapegoat for the country’s financial problems.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, Lord
Archbishop of York, at his inauguration as chancellor of University of Cumbria

Not that the rate of unemployment or inflation is always the motivation for attacks on people from different ethnic backgrounds, however long they and their families might have lived here. Skin colour and religious persuasion remain perennial factors.

When they are attacked, with words or with other weapons, persecution seems an apt way to describe the plight of some immigrants to the UK.

But the British National Party has just given the word “persecution” a novel twist. The far-right party, whose “ultimate aim” is the “lawful, humane and voluntary repatriation of the resident foreigners of the UK” is using next month’s European elections to claim that it is being persecuted by the Church.

A BNP billboard campaign, which has dismayed many Christians, uses a picture of Jesus alongside a BNP logo and a quote from John 15:20 “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” A spokesman said: “We are putting them up in response to the way the Church has attacked us. We believe we are being persecuted and turned into martyrs.” The posters also ask: “What would Jesus do?”

According to religious figures in Cumbria and further afield, the answer is unequivocal: Jesus would not support the BNP, nor would he appreciate his name being used to promote the party.

The Church in Cumbria is extremely unhappy that the BNP should use Jesus in an attempt to legitimise the party’s policies. Seven church leaders in the county have signed a statement condemning the BNP and asking Cumbrians not to vote for the party in the elections on Thursday June 4.

The statement, headed “Use your Cross: Vote for hope not hate”, says: “Cumbrian church leaders are deeply concerned that British National Party election publicity suggests Christians should vote for them. We disagree. In fact, BNP policies would have turned Jesus, Mary and Joseph away from their party and our shores. The Christian vision of society is one where each person is treated with dignity and respect, whatever their race or religion. It is a vision of hope.

“The Christian churches are totally opposed to the BNP’s attempts to stir up racial and religious hatred, use false and distorted claims to exploit people’s fears, and create suspicion between communities. We reject their message of division and conflict. To defeat racist policies and platforms, a high turnout on June 4 is vital. We urge all our congregations and communities to use their vote for one of the other parties in the elections and so ensure that the BNP do not get a seat in the north west.

“In the words of Edmund Burke: ‘It is necessary only for the good to do nothing for evil to triumph’.”

The Archbishop of York, who is chancellor of the University of Cumbria, has also criticised the BNP in recent days. Dr John Sentamu – who was born in Uganda – said it was not up to the BNP to define Englishness and he condemned claims by party chairman Nick Griffin that a “bloodless genocide” was taking place in Britain.

Griffin argued that black and Asian Britons “do not exist”, saying that calling such people British denied indigenous people their own identity. “In a very subtle way, it’s a sort of bloodless genocide,” he said.

Dr Sentamu countered: “You don’t have to be a member of the BNP to be clearly English, and it is quite a mistake to suggest that everybody who wants to affirm Englishness affirms that narrow thinking. This ‘bloodless genocide’? I think that is just language which is beyond belief.”

The outgoing Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Reverend Graham Dow, retired yesterday after more than eight years as Cumbria’s most senior Church of England figure. In his final press interview Bishop Dow told The Cumberland News that the BNP’s attempt to use Jesus to promote its cause is misguided and misleading.

“The BNP’s message is a travesty of the truth,” said Bishop Dow. “Jesus was inclusive. He taught us to love all people and he sent his disciples out to share the good news with every nation. The BNP’s message is in contradiction of all that.

“At a time of severe financial restrictions, it’s very easy to look around for someone to blame. The truth is that our economy is deeply dependent on, and enhanced by, overseas workers. We need to learn from history. All the things now being said about immigrants were once said about the Irish, and we now take it for granted that the Irish are one with us.

“A fundamental Christian principle is that the human race is one. Jesus Christ sought to bring us back together again. When I meet people from overseas, for example working in a restaurant, I always say ‘You’re very welcome.’ I always like mixed marriages. They are a testament to God bringing people together.”

Bishop Dow rejected the suggestion that the Church could be more forceful in refuting the BNP. “I think the Church needs to be careful. We have nothing against members of the BNP as people. They are in the image of Christ as all of us. The Church doesn’t want to come over particularly heavy. But it does want to point out the denial of humanity inherent in BNP policy.”

The signatories of the “Use your Cross” statement include Reverend Rachel Poolman. Rev Poolman is president of the United Reformed Church in Cumbria and president of Churches Together in Cumbria: a coalition of eight Christian denominations in the county.

“I was really quite offended that the BNP would use Christ in its publicity,” she said. “The churches in Cumbria are trying to work together more closely. We spoke out here because this was an area of community concern. We felt we had to stand up and be counted. The BNP work by trying to play on people’s fears. They talk about having a Christian country, which implies that non-Christians are not welcome. It’s not just about churches offering a welcome. It’s also about Christians themselves offering a welcome to the stranger, and loving your neighbour as yourself.”

Reverend John Goddard, Baptist network minister for Cumbria, said of the BNP campaign: “I almost didn’t believe what I was seeing. There is no justification to use His name and image for their propaganda. I genuinely believe Jesus would offer a welcome to all people whatever their ethnicity. But in another sense I perhaps wasn’t surprised. The BNP seems to be targeting people who describe themselves as Christians. They seem to think they can recruit within the Church. I think they are mistaken.

“I believe the greatest danger is people simply not turning out to vote. There has been a growing apathy in terms of the ballot box. My concern is that on June 4 many people who would never wish to vote for this party will not turn out because they are disillusioned with politics in general. I would hope people will vote for absolutely anyone else other than a party with a policy of division.”

Rev Goddard is a member of Furness Multi-Cultural Community Forum. “The group was formed to help support the coming together of different cultures,” he said. “That’s partly a response to that minority of people in our county who do hold racist views. I believe the vast majority of people in the UK have no tolerance for that sort of intolerance at all. Maybe we need to say that more often, and more loudly.”

News and Star


Anonymous said...

Lordy, someone on Stormfront thinks the BNP have acted stupidly by doing this
"I agree with this, the BNP should not have used Jesus in a political campaign, no matter what provocation. It was always going to backfire, and is yet another ill thought out idea by the leadership, a bad decision."

fryar f*ck said...

Most of the BNP sheeple will go along with hijacking Jesus and will continue to support the Gri££o!

Anonymous said...

Errr wasn't Jesus Jewish, and no friend of nonces ?

I think if Jesus was alive today he would not be supporting the British Nonces Party, in fact he would be calling for thier execution as a danger to all children ! Cos thats what the Bible says !

Old Sailor

Anonymous said...

Point of order, Jesus is alive today...and He rocks!