Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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Persecution or privilege: the Church Defensive

Not PersecutedDuring Holy Week, I had a couple of episcopal moments. On Palm Sunday, six bishops signed a letter in the Sunday Torygraph that didn’t use the word ‘persecution’, but the resulting headlines did, and one sermon I’ve heard since has. Archbishop Rowan felt it necessary to say publically that they should get things in perspective in his Easter Letter: hear, hear!

The next day, on Maundy Thursday, the Bishop of London felt it necessary refute ‘persecution’ claims in his chrism sermon, but then he went on to talk about how Christians have to fight against the discrimination aimed at us and battle the tide of secularism (this clunkily segued into the twice-repeated materialist motto ‘love is not an emotion’).

On Easter Sunday evening, Nicky Campbell brought out a TV documentary asking whether Christians are persecuted. The show gave fairly free reign to those who wanted to ramp up the persecution fears, but also got the sane voices of the Bishop of Oxford and Theos think-tank in there. I quite liked the clear outline of why the persecution fear exists: that it is based on

  1. the complex secularising of hegemony,
  2. increased non-Christian immigration
  3. and human-rights legislation.

Whereas the fearmongers, like Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, would point to the secularisation of society as the cause, and crusade for the re-Christianisation of our public spaces, the documentary’s outline gives us more substantial handles for what is happening.

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Right, it’s me next!

I spent some time at the British Library today, and popped into The Sound and the Fury exhibition (free entrance; turn right after coming through the main doors). The exhibition is a show case of the British Library’s sound archives, mostly speeches and debates. You can sit yourself at a computer screen, put on the headphones and listen away to whatever takes your fancy.

I was most moved by the retelling of the memories of a not-so-well known speaker, 101 year old Lou Kenton. Born in Stepney to Jewish parents who had fled Ukraine during the tsarist pogroms, Kenton joined the Communist Party of Great Britain after noticing the widespread antisemitism in London. In 1937, when right-wing general Franco staged a coup against the democratically elected government of Spain, Lou Kenton joined the International Brigades and headed to Spain to fight fascism. Continue reading


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Is Britain Christian?

All HallowsYes, no, maybe? If you think Britain is Christian, perhaps you’re a patriotic Christian, but you have an uncomfortable bed fellow in racist Nick Griffin. In Thursday night’s Question Time, the BNP leader mentioned ‘Christian Britain’ three times, most prominently in the midst of a homophobic rant. If you think Britain is not Christian, perhaps you’re missing the many subtle and not-so-subtle influences of Christendom in this country’s past. Perhaps it’s maybe: Britain was Christian, but we’re not sure now.

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. Continue reading


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Nick Griffin on Question Time

Nick Griffin, odious leader of the BNP, was a guest on BBC’s Question Time tonight. It’s a panel-based political discussion programme, but tonight it could not avoid becoming the Nick Griffin show. Not that the ugly racist had it all his own way, he was asked a few searching questions.

I believe the BBC were right to invite Griffin on the programme. I supported the principle of not giving the BNP a platform up until they won two seats in the European Parliament. We cannot deny that the party has a limited mandate. I feel great sympathy for the Unite Against Fascism supporters and others who protested outside Television Centre. I think we need both the protest and the debate; we should not make it easy for them. Continue reading