Sunday, 7 June 2009

Responding to the British National Party: What Would Jesus Do? pt 1.

Looking at what I found on the BBC website, last Thursday was an all round bad day for british politics, or just equality and basic human rights generally. (I exaggerate not.) I know very, very little about politics, but I've some semi-restrained ranting and reflecting to do in response to the current political state of affairs, locally and generally.

Despite being young enough for last week's to be my first official vote, I'm going to pretend a little bit and comment on the disgusting fact that in my home town, the British National Party beat the Labour Party in all but one local council seat. How grim is that? These are figures that really should cause concern for even the most agressive of Gordon Brown bashers.

Before even mentioning the disgrace that is Coalville, I'll first illustrate with the facts and figures from my home village, Groby.





I'm highly disturbed by these results. What I don't want to do here is rant on and on about expenses, travellers, or convey anything of my own party political viewpoint aside from a strong disagreement with the ideology of the British National Party, and a concern over the apparently increasing support this party recieves, both in Leicester, and on a wider level as we now seeing BNP representatives making their way into the European Parliment.

Regardless of economics, expenses, Mr Brown's current unpopularity and anything else, how on earth did the BNP win 18% of the votes in my village? This, tragicly, is enough to make me love Groby a little bit less. Without making points to prove this, I'll state outright that the BNP are definately a racist party, and a party which go directly against the values that I hold true as a christian, who believes that
  • All human beings are made equal in the image of God. (Genesis 1.26)
    and should therefore treat one other as equals
  • We are commanded to Love one another as Jesus has loved us (John 13.34)

I know people hate the labour party at the moment, but a vote for the BNP in no way consititutes a valid protest vote option for those who are concerned for equality and basic human rights. Perhaps those in Groby who show their support for the British National Party would detatch themselves from the word 'racism' because the focus of the party's efforts to gain support in our area is not based upon racial discrimination as we traditionally think of it.

Dare I guess, that the BNP in Groby and the surrounding area have benefited massively from being able to use local attitutes to travellers as a spring board to attract those who see no fault with powerful prejudices and active discrimination towards the travelling community.

This thought is based mostly upon those BNP leaflets I remember coming in so handy when I did some pretty low level but telling research discussing the social acceptability of racism and prejudice towards the travelling community compared with other forms of racial discrimination. I found indisputedly,and still believe that racism and prejudice towards gypsies and travellers is the most widespread and socially acceptable form of racism in the UK.

I'm not just saying this because those who know me well will know that I love travellers..these (actually true!) more recent words of our still standing Tory councillor Rob Fraser demonstrate that this type of racism more often than not goes unchallenged

'The Romanians, they'll stick a knife in you as soon as look at you.

There might be some good ones. Forgive me if there are any Romanians here (the audience laughs) and hopefully that's a 'no' because I wouldn't get out of here (he points at a walking stick). I'm a bit slow.

...By gosh, some of these European ones, they make the Irish look like complete amateurs and I would dread, I would dread to see them in Groby''

Accused in the local paper quite rightly of inciting racial hatred, the councillor said that he didn't know the public meeting was being filmed for susequent postage on youtube (lol), did not think it an incident worthy of resignation and accepted that his judgement may have been 'momentarily clouded'. I think, that Dad and I were present at this particular meeting, but as I know I would have remembered these words and immeadiately engraved them somewhere controversial had I heard them first hand, I think they were said after we decided to bail. (I was going out with the girls that evening!)

These words, whether intended to be or not, are racist. I think we can all agree on this much. As an aside, without letting my personal opinions cloud my judgement too much, I think these words are definately worthy of a resignation. For if they were truly meant, opinions that promote racial discrimination in this way are very bad for leadership, and if they were not really meant- then this sort of stupidity is equally bad for leadership.

Sidetracked? Ooops. So yeah, all I was saying is that the current issue of travellers in my local area, (even from my effective outsiders viewpoint at the moment) has been very useful to the BNP in terms of gaining support. Generally, without pointing any fingers, people must be ignorant, full of prejudice, or simply both.

So why is the far right doing so well, not just in Groby, Coalville etc but in Europe also? My guess is that blatant racism is being in part disguised by 'hard line' attitutes to issues surrounding immigration, asylum seekers and travellers, which somehow seem appealing to those worrying about the economic downturn,loosing faith in the current government and harbouring insecurities and prejudices towards those of a different ethnicity/cultural background.

When the explosive sharpening of pitchforks and the 'Groby Say's no' poster campaign (containing appalling grammar which i found quite embarrassing for the village in general) began, born in ignorance and plain prejudice, over a potential travellers transit site on sacheverall way, I imagine it wasn't long before the local BNP candidates began more than ever to tap into pre-existing prejudices to their advantage.

I know, that these percentages only represent the views belonging to the (not even) 40% of people who could be bothered to vote last week. I can't decide whether this makes it better or worse! On the plus, it's perfectly possible that the number of BNP supporters as a percentage of the population in these elections just past is far over-representative, when considering those who failed to vote. However, this is also a reflection of discouraging, political apathy.

I personally can't imagine not wanting to make my opinion known- and think it's a sad fact that the people who feel most strongly about making their opinions known are those who fail to recognise the vital importance of racial equality. Vote people, vote! We can't complain about who's in leadership without getting involved!

And now, as I conclude (maybe), here comes the big, most important question, which is definately going to require another blog/a few more blogs/the rest of my life to answer.

It's the question that the kids from youth group have printed on their wrists, reminded to them by the letters WWJD, and the question that christians for centuries have been asking, regardless of their social status, those in leadership and those not.

What attitute does God want us to have to all of this?
How do we think about politics from his point of view?
Effectively, what would Jesus do?

As Christians, we're called to live more like Jesus.
So If Jesus met up with Nick Griffin tomorrow for a cup of tea, what would be said?


Sleep for me now. To be continued...please someone help me answer the above questions for future blogging escapades! :-)


Mike Allen said...

Certainly not a habit to comment on blogs by people I hardly know, but the subject is something that I have been struggling with over the last couple of days.

It is very easy (I find) to be angry with both the BNP and those that voted for them. I find their policies objectionable to say the least and voting for them can only be driven by fear or hatred. What is worse is when I hear that some Christians vote for them. To be honest, I guess I have been incredibly unchristian in my feelings towards the BNP and their supporters, which is never acceptable.

I think that is where a Christian should start: by examining their attitudes towards the people (which they still are) and making sure that we remember that even the most extreme racists are as worthy of God's love as we are. I know that is something all Christians say is true, but it is another thing to really believe it.

Secondly, we should act on that. We should make sure we are meeting their message of hate with love, and try and engage with them. I am not a fan of the WWJD thing, should just be asking him directly what to do, not second guessing, and I reckon he wants us to be at the forefront of both reaching out to the disenfranchised who vote for the BNP, and making them a focus of love and prayer.

Jesus and politics is always an interesting issue. I have a very good friend who refuses to vote because he doesn't believe Christians should, and another who is pretty high up figure in the Liberal Democrats. I personally loathe the American religious right and their politicisation of Christianity, but I do believe we have a responsibility to vote and to voice our opinions; but it should be not about how to protect our jobs, or give us the best benefits, but other focussed. Immigration brings people who would normally not have a chance of hearing the good news, yet so many Christians vote to 'keep them out' as if God cares more about national borders than salvation.

So that kind of turned into a rant. It wasn't supposed to offer an answer because head knowledge and personal realisation are a mile apart. I guess it is the responsiblity of every Christian to not act out of negative emotions but with something positive and kingdom (not patriotic) in mind.


Connie said...

I'm in many ways much in agreement with you- the wwjd thing was just an illustration of the way we should be seeking to respond in the way that God wants us to.

At the end of the day, the only answer has to be that we're to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God, seeking his kingdom above all else. The practical ways we can do this may be harder to pinpoint, but that's for another day!