Since Henry Tudor jr, England has dealt in caesaropapism: the ruler’s religion is the nation’s religion. So, the answer used to be easier, as we could point to a Christian monarch as a sign of out Christian nation. Gradually, though, we have secularised state power, so where is our sceptred signpost of national faith, and does it matter? Perhaps modern democracies can no longer be assigned a religion, especially one based on a ruler’s personal belief or constitutional obligation to have one.
Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia has written an insightful article about what Nick Griffin’s expression of ‘Christian Britain’ means for those of us who regularly practise both Christianity and Britishness, occasionally simultaneously. That Griffin wraps himself in the rhetoric of ‘Christian Britain’ to support his and his party’s homophobia should send a warning message to the churches of Britain that maintain outright or systemic homophobia, including the Church of England. For their words and actions prove Griffin’s hateful point, that ‘Christian values’ applied to politics means state-sanctioned homophobia. As Bartley’s article points out, the churches have been particularly promiscuous at abusing the concept of ‘Christian Britain’ whichever way suits their argument. The churches have furnished the BNP with this platform, and we need to do some good old-fashioned public penitence for this one.
Of course, what Griffin means by ‘Christianity’ emphatically bears no relationship to the teaching of Jesus Christ. What it is is a rattlebag of historical authoritarianism and moralising mixed with the myth of the English idyll, all neatly packaged in the English Perpendicular. In the run up to the European elections, the BNP put up a poster featuring Jesus on the cross and quoted him saying, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15.20). They have founded a ‘Christian Council of Britain’ (mainly a vehicle for attacking Islam), called for the archbishops to repent for going astray from ‘true Christianity’ and called for a ‘National Day of Prayer’. On Wikileaks you can peruse the leaked BNP membership, detailing a number who are clearly involved in Christian organisations and churches.
We in the churches of Britain can counter this deluded hate on two fronts:
- Eliminate all ground for hate in our speech and actions; root out the homophobia, racism and jingoistic nationalism
- Emphasize Christianity’s moral imperative for justice and equality; defend multiculturalism within secular democracy and the freedoms it brings for all
There must be no half measures, no half clinging to old fancies of Christendom and Crusaders.
I apologize if the poster below outlining the disgusting comparison between Jesus and Adolf Hitler put about by a past BNP member offends.