Friday, October 23, 2009

It's all in the name..

Good morning God,

Having listened to Nick Griffin of the British National Party on BBC Question Time last night repeatedly refer to himself as both a Christian and British I find myself wanting either a new identity, or some means of redeeming/defending the name 'Christian'.
Instead, God, perhaps I need to face the question more honestly - Is it True? Do I really share a common identity with this man?

Of course, Nick Griffin is not the first, and will not be the last to bring the name 'Christian' into disrepute. The tag of 'Christian' has long been used to provide a false veneer of respectability to cover a multitude of sins - the link between paedophiles and the Church for example, is well known, as is that between Politicians and the Church. Being considered 'Christian' is still for some people taken as a form of short-hand for being 'respectable', or even trustworthy, - dare one say 'good'?
All positive attributes..

Except that increasingly, largely as a result of fundamentalist parties (both religious and political, here and abroad) the name Christian is also associated with being Islamaphobic, Homophobic, Nationalistic, as well as ignorant, violent, fundamentalist, unreasonable and - well - put bluntly - anachronistic.

Which is why confessing to being a practicing Christian in some circles will earn you a polite embarrassed smile, the sort usually reserved for eccentrics who suddenly announce something highly inappropriate, often very loudly, in the middle of a dinner party.
Being a Christian, believing in You God, is apparently, something people did before they knew better, before they grew up and began to take responsibility for themselves. For some people, an intelligent adult believing in you is as sad and embarrassing as someone still believing in Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny when they are more than six years old.

Nonetheless, the fact is that both Nick Griffin and I are Christians by public confession. He is, just as I am, your child.

To disown him would only make me less Christian, and help to make his particular understanding of the faith and what it stands for - the accepted understanding, rather than the aberration that it really is.
The problem is, of course, that according to the faith I profess, I should WANT Nick Griffin to be a Christian, I should be GLAD that he wants to follow Christ.

Which leads me to thinking that the slur on the name Christian maybe my fault not his, for I at least know better, clearly he does not.

Perhaps if I had been a better Christian, if I had made it more evident by all that I say and do that Christianity is nothing to do with nationalism, but everything to do with inclusivism, that Christianity has nothing to do with racism, but that the Gospels proclaim the equality of every child of God in every time and place.. If I had borne the name Christian more faithfully, then he could not have so publicly claimed the name, without earning either incredulity and ridicule or at very least being expected to change his views.

Christianity's name - now as always, is drawn from the practice and proclamation of its members. At one time, in meant - followers of Christ, now, in some parts of this Island, it simply means a way of life.

The fault is not Nick Griffin's, he is the Christian he thinks he is supposed to be - He is someone who has been raised to sing with pride the hymns 'I vow to thee my country', ' Jerusalem', 'Lift high the Cross' and even 'Onward Christian Soldiers' .. I have no doubt that he will attend Remembrance Sunday Services, and take comfort and delight in the marriage of faith and nationalism being so publicly broadcast. He will nod with approval at the death of brave men and women in defence of the values of British Democracy being likened to the death of Christ..

God, forgive me, for I have played my own part in associating being British with being Christian. I have heard and not always denied the claim that this is a Christian country - even when I know that there are more practicing Muslims in the UK than there are practicing Christians. I have allowed the mistaken association of 'British Values' with 'Christian conduct' - as though Christianity is all about democracy or adherence to a particular form of moral or social code rather than about loving God and loving my neighbour, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, setting the captives free, and trying to grow in grace and holiness.

Like many God, last night's broadcast woke me up to the realisation that only by finding the means within me to publicly proclaim in word and deed the real truth of the faith which Nick Griffin mistakenly claims to confess, can I help to ensure that the name Christian will mean something other than 'White British and ignorant in defence of homophobic, Islamaphobic, racist and xenophobic exclusivism.'


  1. Heavenly father, I am confused about the Methodist Conference ruling that no member of the BNP should be allowed to become a member of your Methodist Church in the UK. As Brett Royal posts "British Methodists and inclusivity" in his blog

    "If we are in the business of banning racism, let's ban everybody since we are all guilty of subtle, if not blatant forms of racism?"

    "Is there a single example where someone in the BNP wants to become a Methodist?"

    "BNP craziness deserves condemnation. But should these churches focus on the BNP, whose appeal is fortunately almost microscopic, while remaining silent about far more potent threats to Britain, such as radical Islam?"

    I have always been so glad that the Methodist Church was so inclusive, welcoming all who would come into Your kingdom. My Saviour, Your Son Jesus, was most concerned for the sinners, the lost, the confused - or have I got things a bit mixed up?

  2. Thanks Olive for sharing this.
    To answer your question - Yes, there are Methodists in the BNP (The Sunday Programme on the week following Conference recieved emails and calls from them). As I mentioned in an earlier post, the resolution adds nothing to what we already have the power to do, except state it more deliberately. But I guess I would want to make the distinction between 'Membership' and attendance. ANYONE can attend and worship at a Methodist Church, but becomming a member is about accepting our discipline, being willing to work for the Kingdom and promote the gospel as we have received it. It is a public declaration about commitment to a particular set of beliefs - which are not compatible with either racism OR Islamaphobia.
    Our gospel of grace does not allow us to demonize any section of the community - including those who demonize others! It does however require us to 'respond' to God's grace if we hope to grow in grace and holiness. We have choices to make as disciples - follow Christ or follow Nick Griffin..

  3. Thanks for answering my difficulty so well. I think my confusion arose because in my church here we have been very lax in recent years about making new members - new disciples - and so the question of accepting the discipline of the Methodist Church hasn't been emphasised. (It feels as though our new minister may change this!)

  4. In reading this post I couldn't shut out hearing Jesus' words found in Mark 2, that I "just happen" to be studying right now:

    "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

    At best, the "best of us" are merely sinners (of all flavors) saved by grace.