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Donald Trump, World’s Best Christian

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If you seriously believe that Donald Trump understands the Christian faith, has read the Bible or would choose the defence of religious values and freedom over some other passing whim while serving as president, then I have a bridge across the River Thames to sell you

Eric Zorn has a great column in the Chicago Tribune in which he systematically takes apart Donald Trump’s pretence that he is a Serious Christian and the default choice for those voting with their Christian faith foremost in their minds.

Zorn writes:

Nothing illustrates what a flim-flam man Donald Trump is better than his frequent and oily allusions to the Bible.

It is his favorite book, he tells the credulous masses at his rallies. Nobody reads it more than he does.

But a review of the record suggests he may not have read it at all.

During a televised interview with John Heilemann and Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics in August 2015, Halperin noted Trump’s frequent professions of fondness for Judeo-Christian scripture and said, “I’m wondering what one or two of your most favorite Bible verses are and why.”

“I wouldn’t want to get into it,” Trump said, “because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal so I don’t want to get into verses. The Bible means a lot to me but I don’t want to get into specifics.”

“Are you an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy?” Heilemann asked.

“Probably equal,” Trump said. “I think it’s just incredible, the whole Bible is incredible.”

How utterly convincing. Zorn continues:

That unfamiliarity showed up again in April when host Bob Lonsberry of WHAM-AM in Rochester, N.Y., broached the subject in a phone interview: “Is there a favorite Bible verse or Bible story that has informed your thinking or your character through life, sir?”

“Well, I think many,” answered the would-be exegete-in-chief. “I mean, you know, when we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. And I tell people, look, ‘An eye for an eye,’ you can almost say that.”

You can, sure.

But not only is “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” an Old Testament verse that condones barbaric vengeance (“… hand for hand, foot for foot,” it goes on, “burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise”) it was also expressly repudiated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39).

I get it. Actually making time to sit down and read the Bible every day while trying to internalise parts of it is tough. Particularly, I imagine, when you are rich and famous and your free time is largely given over to grabbing women “by the pussy”. Personally, I have only read the entire Bible cover-to-cover once, when I was eighteen and preparing for my adult confirmation into the Roman Catholic church after converting from Anglicanism. More than a decade later I am now finally trying to do so again, with the help of a great online Bible app which comes with a manageable “Bible in a year” reading plan.

The point of which being that it is fairly easy to spot someone who has actually attempted the feat and possesses a genuine (if still somewhat patchy, like mine) familiarity with the Bible, and somebody who is just putting on an act, attempting to fake religious observance as a kind of cultural marker. And Trump clearly falls into the latter category.

Eric Zorn concludes:

Is Trump the first politician to exaggerate his piety in order to win favor with the American public, 70 percent of which identifies as Christian and 6 percent of which identifies as belonging to another faith tradition?

No, but he’s the worst at it — the most transparent — that we’ve ever seen on the national stage.

It’s not just that he’s a brazen Bible huckster, it’s that he’s really bad at it.

Those who put their faith in him should prepare to have it shattered.

This is depressing for all those Christians who have been taken in by Donald Trump’s false displays of piety, as well as those resigned Christians who recognise that Trump is a charlatan but feel that Trump represents a better bulwark against attacks on their values and way of life than Hillary Clinton.

But it is also darkly amusing. Because for eight years it has been the habit of more than a few Republican Party politicians to insinuate that President Barack Obama is somehow not a Christian, or even that he is a closet Muslim, despite endless evidence of the Obama family attending church and Obama himself being capable of speaking about his faith without getting completely tongue-tied or reporting to bland banalities. Some Republicans stood up to the “Obama is a Muslim” hysteria – notably John McCain at a town hall meeting during the 2008 presidential campaign. But many others remained cynically silent, allowing prejudice and misinformation to take hold, thinking that it would advantage them politically.

And now it is the GOP’s turn to field a presidential candidate who doesn’t merely “exaggerate his piety” but effectively invents it from thin air to get himself out of a tight spot in a TV interview. Of course, the Democrats are in absolutely no position to take advantage of this fact – Hillary Clinton is a Christian, like Obama, but has chosen to downplay her faith in this election because many of her supporters place more faith in the god of Social Justice and Identity Politics than the God of the Old and New Testaments.

As Ben Wolfgang notes in the Washington Times:

Hillary Clinton’s Christianity, which she wielded as a political weapon in her 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign, largely has been missing in this year’s election.

She hasn’t hidden her Methodist upbringing, but scholars say it’s not front and center. And where in the past she used it as a window into her character, this year she’s deployed it as a debate tactic to push criminal justice reform and other policy goals.

Church attendance also has been all but absent from Mrs. Clinton’s schedule, except when she’s turned up behind a pulpit to stump for votes, particularly in predominantly black churches, where her appearances focus largely on how she intends to work with religious leaders to accomplish shared political objectives.

Since 2008 she’s also abandoned traditional Christian positions on issues such as same-sex marriage, coming in favor of the practice in 2013 after years of opposing it.

The reason for the shift, analysts say, is twofold. Mrs. Clinton is taking on an opponent, Republican Donald Trump, who is seen as one of the most nonreligious presidential candidates in modern history. Pew polling from earlier this year found that just 30 percent of American voters say they consider Mr. Trump religious, while 48 percent said the same about Mrs. Clinton.

Perhaps more importantly, she now leads a party that, among its white base, if not its core black and Hispanic members, has become an increasingly secular institution. Recent polling shows the Democratic Party includes in its ranks nearly four times as many atheists and agnostics as the GOP.

Ultimately, the “Donald Trump is a better Christian than Hillary Clinton” argument comes to the two candidates’ respective positions on abortion. And if abortion is a deal-breaker for you then yes, Trump’s currently stated position on abortion (which has certainly changed since his liberal days of a few years back, as well as during this campaign, both without satisfactory explanation) is more in line with Church teaching about the sanctity of life.

But as with all of Donald Trump’s other stated policy positions, there is absolutely nothing to give confidence that his current position either represents his true beliefs on the subject, or that he would not flip-flop on the issue without a second thought if he saw political value in doing so.

Christians – particularly Evangelicals – should really be used by now to cynical Republican politicians who have trained themselves to speak the language, say the right things and push all the right buttons on social issues in pursuit of the evangelical vote, only to sell out the movement once safely ensconced in power. George W. Bush won a tough 2004 re-election campaign against John Kerry in spite of his disastrous mismanagement of the Iraq invasion and its aftermath largely by switching the focus to social issues, namely gay marriage, in order to motivate his base. And in nearly every election before and since, evangelicals have been flattered, threatened and otherwise called upon to support the Republican candidate only to have their causes betrayed or ignored after election day once their usefulness was over.

Donald Trump is doing exactly the same thing all over again. But he is so inept and transparent in his attempt to feign Christian piety that a fool should be able to see through his cynical machinations. And yet many bright and decent people are taken in by Trump’s amateur act.

Don’t get me wrong – Hillary Clinton, largely beholden to the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, will be no great defender of religious freedom or interests. But Donald Trump will be little better, as Christians should realise from bitter past experience and Trump’s unique untrustworthiness when it comes to holding true to his stated beliefs on fundamental issues.

Neither candidate, in office, would be a great friend of religion, though Donald Trump would likely continue to pay more lip service to Christian priorities thanks to the composition of the Republican Party. But both options are pretty bleak, and Christians seeking to vote based on their faith would actually be well advised to admit defeat and make their choice based on some other criteria.

Whoever wins this election, it looks quite safe to say that Christianity will lose.

 

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Not All Muslims

Muslim call to go to Sunday Mass

After the appalling terrorist murder of a Catholic priest committed in the name of Islamic State, a moving gesture of interfaith solidarity by French Muslims should be acknowledged and applauded

It is important, I think, when criticising the fundamentalist element of Islam and the degree to which it is often tolerated or tacitly encouraged by parts of the mainstream, to give credit where it is due and acknowledge work done and gestures made against extremism by the Muslim community.

One way that we have been doing that this week is by celebrating again the life of slain US army capt. Humayun Khan and his gold star parents, who appeared on stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week to repudiate the anti-Muslim rhetoric spewed forth by the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

And another way should be to acknowledge the moving gesture of so many French Muslims attending Catholic Mass at their nearest church or cathedral, showing solidarity with a Catholic community still reeling from the murder of a beloved parish priest at the hands of Islamist terrorists.

From the Daily Mail, displaying unusual magnanimity:

Muslims in France and Italy flocked to Mass on Sunday, a gesture of interfaith solidarity following a drumbeat of jihadi attacks that threatens to deepen religious divisions across Europe.

From the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, only a few miles from where 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was killed Tuesday by two Muslim fanatics, to Paris’ iconic Notre Dame, where the rector of the Mosque of Paris invoked a papal benediction in Latin, many churchgoers were cheered by the Muslims in their midst.

[..] French television broadcast scenes of interfaith solidarity from all around France, with Muslim women in headscarves and Jewish men in kippot crowding the front rows of Catholic cathedrals in Lille, Calais or the Basilica of St. Denis, the traditional resting place of French royalty.

There were similar scenes in Italy, where the head of Italy’s Union of Islamic communities — Izzedin Elzir — called on his colleagues to “take this historic moment to transform tragedy into a moment of dialogue.” The secretary general of the country’s Islamic Confederation, Abdullah Cozzolino spoke at the Treasure of St. Gennaro chapel; three imams also attended Mass at the St. Maria Church in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, donning their traditional dress as they entered the sanctuary and sat down in the front row.

Ahmed El Balazi, the imam of the Vobarno mosque in Italy’s Lombard province of Brescia, said he did not fear repercussions for speaking out.

“These people are tainting our religion and it is terrible to know that many people consider all Muslim terrorists. That is not the case,” El Balazi said. “Religion is one thing. Another is the behavior of Muslims who don’t represent us.”

This blog and others often focus, reasonably, on the failings within the Muslim community – failure of integration and assimilation, failure to stand up for British values (though we are often just as much at fault for failing to transmit those values), failure to confront and root out the extremism in the midst of families and communities. These things are important.

But it is also sometimes the case that we fail to acknowledge those times when the Muslim community does come out strongly in condemnation of fundamentalist, Islamist terror. Anti-extremist counter-protests by Muslim groups often do not receive the media coverage extended to telegenic extremists and their “behead those who insult Islam” placards. Hard and difficult work accomplished in communities goes unrecognised.

And so, as an outspoken opponent of fundamentalist Islam and as a practising Catholic, it is important that I choose to be magnanimous and welcome this touching gesture made by so many Muslims in France and Italy.

Archbishop Cranmer is also moved:

Praying before a blasphemous icon of another Jesus, standing in the shadow of a sacrificial cross which they deny, beneath the dome of a cathedral church steeped in idolatry, myths and deception, Muslims throughout France and Italy attended Mass yesterday. From Rouen, Nice and Paris to Milan, Naples and Rome, hundreds flocked to express solidarity and compassion with Europe’s Roman Catholics, many still reeling, weeping and mourning the loss of a much-loved elderly priest, Abbé Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit by Islamists as he celebrated Mass last week.

All Muslims are exhorted to the greater jihad, to strive against the flesh and persevere in the purposes of Allah, but not all jihad is holy war. All Muslims are not Islamists, but Muslims are becoming terrorists. It is futile, patronising and dangerous to deny it. Islamists are extremists who kill the innocent; Muslims who are moderate and enlightened seek to worship in peace. Islam is not all about oppressing, torturing, murdering and slaughtering. It just seems like it. And no wonder, when the news dishes up a daily diet of Islamic State videos exhorting the faithful to attack the enemies of Allah; Western Muslims who fight for their country are condemned as apostates; hotels are bombed; ancient shrines blown up; ‘spies’ are beheaded; oil fields blaze; and British imams preach to young boys that it’s okay to have sex slaves. That’s just today’s coverage of degradation and destruction.

Amidst all this global trauma, suffering and strife, it is a cause of great hope that so many Muslims can put aside their theological scruples and multifaith ecumenical aversion to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is profoundly offensive to their beliefs, and utterly repugnant to their teachings: Jesus is not the Son of God; he is not divine; he did not die on a cross; he does not become a wafer; praying with wine is haram.

[..]

There were tears during the sign of the peace. ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself‘ (2Cor 5:19). In their shared humanity, Muslims and Christians bore witness to the humanity of Jesus, his sacrifice and death, his reconciling love, his resurrection and glorification. ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them‘ (Mt 18:20). The Living God is present in the world, if not in bread and wine. We can meet Him, pray to Him and listen to Him. That is our privilege through Christ. And in that communion we stand with all believers in the world and throughout all history. And we stand with all participant peace-loving Muslims, too. ‘This is my blood…

Wordless interfaith dialogue is the best remembrance.

In a sign of just how bad things have gotten in Europe, this blog was actually surprised when there was no major, high-profile terror attack last Friday, perfectly timed to dominate television coverage leading into the weekend, when previous weekends had seen such attacks.

No matter how routine this destruction and insecurity may become in the short and medium term, we should not allow this “new normal” in Europe to become in any way acceptable or excusable, and we should hold European leaders firmly to account for the whole range of bad decisions they have made – from social policy and a lack of focus on protecting national culture and encouraging assimilation right through to the migration crisis – which have increased the risk of Islamist terror attacks on our soil.

But as we witnessed at Catholic Masses across France this Sunday, it is not all bad news – a fact which those of us who report or comment on human events should be careful to acknowledge.

 

Fr Jacques Hamel - Catholic Priest

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The Church Of England’s Tantrum Over The EU Referendum Result Is Insulting To Brexit-Supporting Christians

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Nearly a month after Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union, swathes of the Church’s leadership are stuck in furious denial

This blog had very little time for the Revd. Dr. Robert Innes, the Church of England’s Bishop of Europe, before the EU referendum and Britain’s shocking, wonderful decision to leave the EU. But it has even less time for his incessant, self-pitying (and democracy-loathing) moaning in the weeks since that historic vote.

The Archbishop Cranmer blog reports:

“Let me be clear,” said the Rt Rev’d Dr Robert Innes, Bishop of Europe, as he addressed the General Synod of the Church of England. “From my European perspective, this Referendum and its result represent a sad loss of national vocation; an abject failure of political leadership; and a squandering of the birthright of our young people.” And Synod applauded their Euro-prophet for a full 10 seconds, seemingly oblivious to the fact that lay Anglicans voted for Brexit in their droves (and by a majority). “Britain seems to be a country anxious to build fences,” he added, before reminding the people of God that his task as a bishop is to build bridges. Not to the wider world, it seems. Or even to the 22 nations of Europe which aren’t in the European Union, which includes the supremest bridge Pontifex himself, all neatly fenced off in Vatican City State. But Dr Innes’ task as a bishop is to build bridges to the other nations of the European Union, and without political union he is seemingly bereft and hindered from doing so.

Cranmer goes on to highlight Bishop Innes’ complete and utter disregard and disdain for the pro-Brexit opinions of many lay Christians:

The Bishop of Europe acknowledges that some in his Diocese were pleased with the Referendum result, but he doesn’t tell their stories. They are sidelined, disdained and ignored: they don’t quite fit the Bishop’s narrative of shame, anger and deep sadness. “One older man in Paris said to me: ‘I have never been so ashamed of my country.’ A lady in Geneva said to me: ‘I have found it hard to stop being angry.’” There’s no apprehension of joy, liberty, hope or optimism: no awareness of the abundance of bridges we can now build into the whole world. For the Bishop of Europe, British identity and national vocation were wrapped up in ever closer political union: there is no refuge or strength to be found in Brexit.

Christians who voted to leave the EU did so for a variety of reasons, and none of them is worthy of less consideration than the shame of the old man in Paris or the anger of the lady in Geneva. Do we not also seek to cooperate and fellowship with other churches in Europe? Do we not pray to avoid harm and relieve suffering? Are we any less concerned with human rights, the common good or injustice? Are we incapable of loyalty to brotherhood and respect for authority? Is our ethic simply one of nationalistic purity, individualism and xenophobia?

[..] Is there not an echo in our historic national vocation of looking out to the seas and saving Europe from herself? Rather than being an abject failure of political leadership, might Brexit not represent a noble and commendable success? Instead of squandering the birthright of our young people, might we not just have preserved their ancient rights and liberties as freeborn Britons?

One wonders exactly how long the British political and cultural establishment – of which the Church of England is a firm member – can go on being openly, seethingly contemptuous and angry at the British people without finding themselves on the receiving end of an eventual backlash which will make Donald Trump seem the epitome of polite restraint.

The way which those people of privilege and wealth (such as bishops, newspaper columnists and politicians) have conducted themselves since the EU referendum, staggering around the political landscape rending their garments and gnashing their teeth in despair at the prospect of being separated even an inch from their beloved European Union, is enough to induce nausea. It is particularly offensive when such arrogant and self-pitying emotions burst forth from people who fatuously claim to care about the whole of society while reserving a particular duty of care to exactly the type of disenfranchised, economically suffering people who voted for Brexit in their droves.

It is almost enough to make one pine for the days when the establishment merely ignored the concerns, priorities, hopes and dreams of ordinary people as the elite ravenously pursued their own interests. To a poor Christian, it was likely enough of an insult and stretching of Christ’s teaching to be ministered to by a disinterested bishop who lives in a mansion and sits in the House of Lords while they have to trudge five miles to the food bank. Now, as punishment for daring to vote for Brexit, now they must endure the same gulf in circumstances while also being harangued and accused of small-minded racism by some pampered upper middle class oik who uses the collection plate offerings of thousands of other economically struggling Christians to ride the Eurostar first class to “build bridges” with Europe while the social fabric of his own country continues to crumble.

How, one wonders, does the Church of England expect to survive when too few of its bishops follow the example set by Mark Rylands, Bishop of Shrewsbury, who approached the EU question fairly and with the interests of the world’s poorest at heart rather than the interests of Britain’s ruling elites, and determined that Brexit was best for British democracy and for the world’s poor?

How does the Church of England expect to survive when the face it presents to the nation (and its own congregations) too often resembles the contemptuous face of Bishop Robert Innes, horrified by the great unwashed in all their uneducated xenophobia, and the democratic decision they made to leave the European Union?

Quo usque tandem abutere, episcopus, fides nostra?

 

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Brexit: One Good Bishop Admits Voting To Leave The European Union

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A bishop the Church of England should be proud of (but won’t be)

Mark Rylands, Bishop of Shrewsbury, is one of the very few Christian leaders to come down on the right side of the EU referendum debate, having admitted in a letter to the Church Times that he voted Leave on 23 June.

From Bishop Rylands’ letter:

At my bishops’ cell group in May, I came out as a Brexit bishop. My episcopal friends, at first, did not believe me. The following 24 hours brought some lively conversation, mixed with a certain amount of gentle mocking.

Yes, I voted to leave the European Union. I did so for all the usual reasons that were cited over the past months: democratic deficit, huge central staff salaries, waste of resources in Brussels and Strasbourg, loss of both sovereignty and oversight of UK laws.

I have long hoped for the reformation of the EU. In February, I felt pity for David Cameron as he hailed a renegotiation barely worthy of the name. It showed that the EU leaders did not see the need for any reformation. It smacked of arrogance.

While in agreement with the EU’s outlook on tackling climate change, and its policies on GM seeds, I had other reasons for voting Leave:

  • The EU’s commitment to its member states means it can be a bad neighbour to outsiders. Its actions have an adverse impact on poorer countries through various trade policies, most notably the Common Agricultural Policy. The EU’s export subsidies for EU agricultural products have disastrous consequences for food security, and undercut agricultural sectors in the poorest nations. Jesus teaches us that our neighbour is not just our next-door neighbour, but everyone. Leaving the EU does not mean shunning Europe. We are Europeans, and we will still have strong relationships with EU nations. Being able to make our own trade agreements, however, gives us an opportunity to be more globally linked.
  • The EU does not seem to be good news for the poorest nations in the eurozone. Countries in the single currency, struggling economically, appear stuck with low growth. Unable to devalue their currency, they are trapped in a rut of depression. Youth unemployment in Spain, Greece, and Italy has soared, and extremist political groups are gaining a strong foothold.

The letter goes on to list other compelling reasons, and ends with this exhortation:

Listening to the marginalised: our hope is in Christ who unites all of us. The referendum has highlighted faultlines and divisions in our society. Churches are called, like Christ, to stand with the voiceless and the marginalised. Some of those voices have been racist and xenophobic. We are not aligning with these, of course. We must, however, align ourselves with those who feel unheard, not allowing them to be dismissed as “uneducated” and “stupid”. Why are so many people so angry? The new work around mission on urban estates may have something to teach us here. But let’s not forget that the rural poor have also spoken loud and clear in this referendum.

[..]

Being in Europe does not mean you have to be in the EU. All across the UK, there are towns and villages twinned with towns and villages in France and Germany. And there are many dioceses that have formal links with other dioceses across Europe. Sharing meals and hospitality; exploring faith and ideas, enjoying laughter and conversation with our neighbours across the Channel: Let’s do more of it! Such hospitality can strengthen our bonds of friendship more than any policy or agreement. After all, loving football does not mean you have to love FIFA.

The FIFA/EU comparison is brilliant. The endemically corrupt world governing body of football represents the love that millions of people have for the game of soccer no more than the creaking, anachronistic and profoundly antidemocratic European Union represents Europe, or the sole vision of European cooperation and solidarity. This is a point always worth emphasising, and a welcome antidote to the usual “puppies and rainbows” bilge spewed by apologists about the EU’s supposedly benign intentions.

Archbishop Cranmer is impressed:

If you pray, please do so for the witness and courage of Mark Rylands, Bishop of Shrewsbury. He understands the unification of ethics and politics; of moral duties and the exercise of virtue. He views Brexit in the context of God’s comprehensive governance and divine jurisprudence. He reshapes the geo-political ethic to comply with the doctrine of Christian compassion and salvation. He is prepared to speculate on a different truth from that set forth by the Established Episcopacy. In short, Mark Rylands interprets distinctively the nature of European goodness, and preaches a higher practical judgment; a greater pleasure and happiness. The Church needs a few more like him.

While noting:

It is worth noting that his coming out as a Brexit Bishop was initially a cause of disbelief among his fellow clergy, followed by “lively conversation” and then some “gentle mocking”. Please don’t read over those apparently affable reactions without considering that incredulity may be infused with contempt; “lively conversation” may be interspersed with derision and disparagement; and “gentle mocking” may tease and taunt, but beneath the chaff is the condescending sneer of those who know better, which easily becomes an expression of ‘hate’.

Does the Dean of Exeter think the Bishop of Shrewsbury is “stupid”? Does the Dean of Manchester believe the Brexit Bishop is “racist”? Does the Dean Emeritus of Durham berate him for acquiring a few new fascist and anti-Semitic “friends”? Is this the new division: Remain sheep and Brexit goats? Is this what Mark Rylands meant by “lively conversation” and “gentle mocking”?

(The Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Smith, likewise expressed eurosceptic opinions and outrage at the campaign of fear and intimidation waged by the Remain side, but did not openly declare his support for Brexit.)

I shall certainly say a prayer of thanksgiving for the leadership, witness and remarkable moral courage of Mark Rylands in openly defying the leaders of his own church when he realised that they had strayed into temporal matters on entirely the wrong side of the EU referendum debate.

When so many Christian leaders let their flocks down by thoughtlessly and uncritically singing hymns of praise to the European Union throughout the referendum campaign, either ignoring EU’s manifest failings or insisting contrary to all evidence that the beast could somehow be reformed, Bishop Rylands made the right call.

If only there were more bishops like him. Standing up against an antidemocratic, relentlessly tightening and public opinion-resistant political union in favour of democracy and self-determination should not be a niche interest within the Church.

 

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The EU Referendum, From The Perspective Of A Eurosceptic Christian

Christians for Britain

This EU referendum campaign has been both depressing and insulting for many eurosceptic Christians

Adrian Hilton of the Archbishop Cranmer blog aptly sums up weariness of participating in this EU referendum debate as a eurosceptic Christian:

“I believe in Europe..” is the beginning of every question and the end of every answer when issues relating the European Union are discussed – as if an artificial political construct of 28 states were derivative of or synonymous with ancient notions of Christendom or the contemporary family of European nations of around 50 states. Are the 22 independent European states which are not in the EU any less European for not being so? Are they really all xenophobic, insular and self-regarding?

I have participated in a total of 21 EU Referendum church debates. Some have been a delight, and some quite dire. I’ve spent six hours travelling to speak to an audience of 14 (no expenses offered), and 15 minutes travelling to speak to an audience of several hundred (generous expenses freely given). I drove 200 miles to find myself lauded as a prophet (always dangerous), and 50 miles to be told by the minister that they weren’t expecting me and didn’t need me (I shook the dust off my feet). I saw all the email correspondence relating to that booking, but really couldn’t be bothered to address the incompetence and discourtesy. I wouldn’t expect to be offered expenses in such circumstances, but a glass of water would have been nice. I have formed opinions on the most and least hospitable denominations. The Baptists win hands down. It wouldn’t be very Christian to shame the worst.

Over the past few months, Remain Christians have told me that I’m “peddling myths”; indulging in “crass populism”; “lying” which (I was graciously reminded) “isn’t Christian”; and that my desire for controlled immigration is “really about blacks and Muslims”. In each case, these slurs have come from Christian academics – professors and doctors – one of whom (with his knighthood) was very fond of reminding the audience: “I’m an academic, so I look at the facts” (the inference being… oh, never mind). Most Remain Christians have been kind and attentive to a robust exchange of views, but rather too many talk about Leavers as though we are one step removed from pederasty.

I was fortunate – the priest at my local church exhorted us only to think prayerfully about the question and vote according to our consciences. Eurosceptic Anglicans have had to suffer their first and second in command (Justin Welby and John Sentamu) declaring eagerly for Remain as a “personal decision” while somehow making it crystal clear that you are a Bad, Insular Person of you disagree.

Hilton continues:

The world is changing, and quoting Dicey doesn’t quite cut it. Each incremental piece of legislation or regulation from Brussels does not remotely challenge the sovereignty of the UK parliament because i) that parliament is not sovereign; and ii) those who constitute that parliament have consented to every piece of EU legislation and regulation. What is challenged in some shape or form is the sovereignty of the people. When we cannot vote to change agriculture policy, fishing policy, financial regulation, remove VAT, change welfare (etc., etc.), it doesn’t quite cut it to shout ‘Club rules’. When a British citizen can be arrested here and extradited to languish in a Greek prison for months – no corpus juris; no trial by jury; not even a hearing conducted in his own language – it is the ancient rights and liberties of the freeborn Englishman that are denied. What does that have to do with an economic community?

I have listened to and considered carefully what every Remain Christian has told me over the past few months: principally that we must remain to reform the EU; we must somehow make it better, more responsive and more democratic. But I have not heard any Remain Christian set out how we may achieve that.

You will not hear concrete proposals for reforming the European Union from anybody, Christian or otherwise. “Of course the EU needs reform!” is perhaps the most overused phrase of this entire referendum campaign, impatiently spat out by many a Remainer finding themselves on the ropes while defending the indefensible EU. But there is never a follow-up sentence explaining how the fundamental, deliberate anti-democratic nature and structure of the EU might be feasibly changed, against the wishes of those who like it just as it is.

And as for post-referendum reconciliation:

I have been exasperated by bishops and other clergy who have suggested that my personal motives and political objectives are xenophobic, racist, self-regarding and, in the final analysis, un-Christian. Such judgments wound, but they are not so deep – as they may be in the Conservative Party – that it becomes impossible to conceive of unity being restored. ‘So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another…’ But there are undoubtedly some churches I wouldn’t want to visit again, and doubtless others which would never want to see me again. My, how these Christians love one another…

But love we must, and be reconciled before the sovereignty of the Cross, where partisan posturing pales into utter inconsequence.

Hilton is a better man than I. Personally, I really don’t take kindly to being called uneducated and borderline xenophobic, or labelled as some kind of economically left-behind loser who is afraid of the modern world – all of which the bishops have done. I particularly don’t like it because of all the bishops who have declared for Remain, I can comfortably say that I know more about the European Union than any of them.

And that’s not a boast – if anything, I am aware of how much I have yet to learn, particularly about the global regulatory environment and the emerging global single market which is making the EU obsolete. But at least I have the curiosity and humility to learn more. The pro-Remain bishops, marinating in their smugness and certainty, think that their tired old tropes about “cooperation” and “working together” are the Alpha and the Omega of the debate.

So when we talk about post-referendum reconciliation, I think we need to make clear a distinction between social reconciliation and political reconciliation. Unlike a number of my pro-EU acquaintances, I have never been moved to end a friendship or block/mute people on social media because they hold differing political opinions to me. I have had this done to me, and it is quite wounding when it happens. But at all times I have been happy to courteously debate (or not) with the people I know. It is the duty of those who think otherwise to extend the olive branch, in the unlikely event that they wish to do so.

And as for political reconciliation – no. We have passed a point of no return. The prime minister of this country – a man who calls himself a conservative – as lied, threatened, deceived and bullied the British people in order to coerce a Remain vote. There is no forgiving that, politically. David Cameron must go, and his name should be mud, politically speaking. This blog will not rest until that happens. Likewise with many other conservative politicians who built their careers and reputations on what turned out to be the most superficial and cosmetic forms of euroscepticism. Even now, Michael Fallon is going around telling people that he is a eurosceptic, even as he campaigns for a Remain vote. There can be no tolerating such people in our politics either.

Some new friends and allies have been made along the journey too, particularly those few principled left-wingers who advocate Brexit on democratic grounds rather than fearing “Tory Brexit” because it might lead to a democratically elected British government implementing policies with which they disagree. Others on the Left – particularly Jeremy Corbyn and commentators like Owen Jones – have clearly betrayed their most deeply held principles in order to support Remain, and are deserving only of contempt.

On June 24th, regardless of the referendum outcome, most of us will continue to display common human decency toward one another. It would be a terrible shame if that changed. But there should and will be political consequences for what has transpired over the course of this EU referendum. If, as seems likely, Remain’s project fear wins the day, then they will have committed us to remain in the European Union based on a castle of lies, ignorance and naivety. And there will be a price to pay for that behaviour.

 

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