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More Christian Brexit Hysteria From The Anglican Church

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To believe that Brexit is the greatest threat to Britain’s Christian heritage and values is profoundly misguided

The people over at Reimagining Europe are at it again.

The Rt. Revd. Dr. Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph, is concerned that Britain may be about to throw it’s European-given Christian heritage out with the EU bathwater. One might consider it strange that he considers Brexit to be the existential threat to British Christianity rather than, say, increasing secularisation or the aggressive attacks by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics on what were once traditional Christian family values, but such is the way of things these days within the Churches of England and Wales.

Bishop Cameron writes:

In spite of the fact that the Bible has more to say about the distribution of wealth, social justice and the welfare of nations than ever it does about eternal life, Christianity and religion have gently been tidied away by many to the sidelines of political life. To ask therefore about a “Christian Brexit” might provoke the response “Why should there even be talk of such a thing?” While fear of religious extremism may have fuelled the leave vote, Brexit is trumpeted as a clinical economic exercise, perhaps with a little national pride thrown in but free from ideological fancy. So many might wonder why would religion get mixed up in it?

In fact, Christian philosophy is something woven into the very fabric of British society.  It undergirds many of our attitudes and values, even if the rationales have become obscure, and the foundations repudiated by many.  Christianity came to us from the continent, and bound us to the continent, whether it was the mission of Pope Gregory to the Angles on the cusp of the seventh century, or the repudiation of one sort of Europe (the Catholic) in order to embrace another (the Protestant) in the sixteenth.  Even if we’ve chosen to renounce the politics of European integration, this doesn’t imply a rejection of a shared European culture – which is just as well given that most of British culture derives from a classical and Christian European past.  Could there even be a Britain without Christendom, the Angevin Empire, and the struggles for the European soul played out in the Napoleonic and World War conflicts?

It’s great that somebody is now asking these questions. I’m just astonished that the good bishop has identified Brexit as the greatest threat to this cultural heritage, rather than any of the other far more pressing issues. Of course Britain would not exist in anything like it’s current form without Christendom. Why does that mean that Britain should have voted to remain in a supranational political union beset with so many problems and unloved by so many?

And of course renouncing the EU’s explicitly political union and integrationist purpose does not mean that we reject our “shared European culture”. Given that Bishop Cameron understands that these are two different things, one wonders why he is concerned that rejecting one would even endanger the other.

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So which Christian values do I wish to see thrive in a Britain set apart?  One of the worst aspects of the Brexit vote, much commented upon, was the permission unintentionally given for xenophobia.  Too many immigrants (even to the third or fourth generation) are now made to feel unwelcome; too many folk have been given licence to be rude or violent.  I want to see a Britain which affirms our human connectness and the fundamental attitudes of respect and hospitality.  We need a people centred Brexit, which respects the individual choices and irrevocable commitments that immigrants and ex pats have made about their futures in the expectation of a border free Europe which is now slipping away from us.

I’ll have to take the bishop’s word for this. I have many friends and acquaintances in parts of the country condescendingly referred to by elites as “Brexitland“, but I myself live in cosmopolitan London, where Brexiteers and not “immigrants” are the scorned and endangered species. And while I do not question the veracity of media reports of xenophobic and racist incidents in the wake of the EU referendum campaign, from my own experience of strongly pro-Brexit places such as Stoke-on-Trent or my hometown of Harlow, neither have I witnessed anything like the wave of supposed anti-immigrant sentiment which the left-wing, pro-EU media insist is taking place.

Furthermore, if third and fourth generation immigrants are being made to feel unwelcome, clearly this is an issue which extends far beyond Brexit and Britain’s place in the European Union. As with the disastrous start to Donald Trump’s presidency in America, there is a tendency to blame every bad thing that happens in Britain on Brexit rather than seek to intelligently separate those factors which existed prior to the referendum and need addressing separately, and those which are legitimately connected with Britain leaving the EU.

The bishop then waxes lyrical about the “irrevocable commitments that immigrants and ex pats have made about their futures”. I’m sorry, but I have to take issue with this. The ultimate expression of making an irrevocable commitment to a new country that you want to call home is to become a citizen of that country. When my wife and I eventually move back to the United States, I eagerly look forward to the day when I receive my US citizenship as it will be an acknowledgement of the commitment I am making to that great country. Why should it be any different for somebody who intends to permanently settle and build their new life in Britain?

While EU citizens have been bribed for several decades with promises of a “borderless world” – while politicians have simultaneously kept silent about the damage done by undermining the nation state through the EU project – there is in fact nothing abnormal about expecting people to take that final oath of loyalty and allegiance before fully accepting them as a fellow countryman. You don’t prove your commitment to small-L liberal, British values simply by turning up, getting a job and starting a life here. An immigrant’s commitment to their new country should be more than the sum of the taxes that they pay and the personal enjoyment that they and their families receive as a result of making the move. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, citizenship is about asking what you can do for your (new) country, not just what your (new) country can do for you.

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I want to see a Britain which reasserts its care for the weakest in its own society and in the citizenry of the world; which is committed to international development and international exchange.  We need a culture which is open to and accepting of heterogeneity.  In such a future, “British” should not stand in contradiction to “European”, but incorporate an international spirit: a continuing commitment to lowering barriers and not raising them.

Now this is just generic leftist pablum. Do we not already have an extensive welfare state? Do we not already lead the world by (wrongly, in my opinion) devoting an extraordinary fixed percentage of our GDP to inefficient, government-administered international aid? “British” does not stand in contradiction to “European”. But rather than becoming interchangeable, as EU integration ultimately demands, in future

Of course we should remain an open and tolerant society, but a culture which is “open to and accepting of heterogeneity” to an unlimited degree is a culture which refuses to assert its own values, fails to properly assimilate new immigrants and which fosters breeding grounds for unimaginable, unforgivable horrors like the sexual abuse epidemic in Rotherham, or the infant mortality rate as a result of consanguineous relationships in the London Borough of Redbridge. One might expect a Church of Wales bishop to be at least as equally concerned with these social problems as with the feelings of immigrants who felt perfectly happy in Britain until the Brexit vote but who now apparently feel besieged and despised, but apparently this is too much to ask.

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Brexit may not be a spiritual or religious enterprise, but we do have to defend the best aspects of our national life to build a future of which to be proud.  All the churches, including the Church in Wales, have to engage vigorously in the public debate about Brexit and our society as advocates of a Christian vision of social inclusion and people centred politics.

No. The trouble is that the Church has been lustily involved in the Brexit debate all through the referendum campaign and now it’s aftermath, but in an incredibly one-sided manner. Almost to the last person (with a few honourable exceptions) the bishops and clergy have come down hard on the side of remaining in the EU, often argued by clerics with a tissue paper-thin understanding of the issues at hand but a burning desire to signal their progressive virtue.

Has Bishop Cameron ever stopped to consider how an ordinary, decent, Brexit-supporting person might feel when confronted with the Anglican church’s institutional metro-leftism and scornful opinion of Brexiteers? Has he stopped to think what effect the Archbishops of Canterbury and York might have on the Brexit-supporting faithful when they so transparently agitate in favour of remaining in the European Union, and cast aspersions on the morals of those who dared to take a different position?

The bishop’s article concludes:

In challenging times of change it falls to us to demonstrate what loving our neighbours really means.

Yes, it does. Bishop Cameron might like to reflect on how he lives out those values in his own ministry, with particular regard to how he engages with the sincere beliefs of those within his own Welsh diocese who voted in good conscience for Brexit, are now looking forward in a spirit of optimism to its enactment, and are perhaps hoping for some pastoral encouragement (rather than despairing forgiveness) as they do so.

Because if this article is any guide, he has a long journey ahead of him.

 

 

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Brexit Catastrophisation Watch, Part 7 – Don’t Speak German In Public, Or You Will Be Lynched

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Hand-wringing, self-pitying Remainers see racism and xenophobia on every corner of post-Brexit Britain, and publicly fret that the country has suddenly become an “unsafe space” for European immigrants

We knew things were bad, but not this bad.

Apparently Britain is such a seething hotbed of overt, suddenly-legitimised racism since the EU referendum took place that it is no longer safe for Germans living in London to openly speak their native language, lest they meet a violent end.

Peddling an extraordinarily irresponsible piece of hysterical speculation originally published in Die Welt, the Evening Standard reports:

Germans have been advised not to speak their native language in London following the Brexit vote.

Lawyer Carmen Prem, who has lived in the capital for 13 years, offered the advice for an article in German newspaper Die Welt.

The piece claimed foreigners were feeling “stronger xenophobia” since the referendum.

According to the article, there is now “a new bitterness, an anger which hardly any of the countless non-British on the island expected”.

And Carmen Prem, a mother-of-two, told the paper: “If you are out with the children, maybe don’t speak German too loudly at the moment.”

Yes. Britain is now so unsafe and hostile to foreigners that it is dangerous for parents to speak German to their children while out in public. In London, that great bastion of euroscepticism, nativism and xenophobia.

This is ridiculous. The absurdly, unthinkingly high level of support for the European Union within the nation’s capital was the only thing that made this referendum outcome a remotely close result for the Remain campaign. Take London away and Britain might actually be living in some kind of Nigel Farage funland right now. And yet we are supposed to believe that the capital city of the early 21st century world, which staunchly voted to remain in the EU during the referendum, is somehow hostile to European foreigners who live and work here?

Well, somebody needs to tell the half of France who seem to be living in my own corner of London, West Hampstead. None of them seem particularly perturbed by the oppressive air of racist doom which apparently now hangs over them; nor have they been reduced to only speaking their language from within the safety of secret societies or covert meeting places in cellars and basements – French is easily the second most spoken language on the high street and in the cafes.

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In the same article, German professor Mischa Dohler, who works at King’s College London, said he was seriously considering moving abroad.

The academic said he had received countless job offers but had turned down a role in Cambridge because of uncertainty following the Brexit vote.

He said: “Many non-British academics simply see no future here.”

No future. Okay. Sure, because there is simply no way that immigrants can live in another country unless those two countries are bound together as part of an ever-tightening supranational government, right? It simply couldn’t happen. The EU is the only thing which makes friendly cooperation and immigration between countries possible. I myself would never have been able to work in Chicago for a year were Britain and the United States not part of the same continental political unio — oh wait. Yes I was.

And the fact that so many weepy British europhiles and EU residents of Britain see their lives and futures as being dependent solely on the EU, of all things, only shows how effective forty years of relentless pro-EU propaganda, toothless media coverage and incoherent political opposition have been in making their creepy supranational project seem central to European peace and prosperity when in fact it has been marginal at best and an active drag at worst.

The idea that there is some kind of imminent pogrom against foreigners living in Britain is ludicrous – and all the more so when the people making the charge live in London, the most cosmopolitan corner of the UK (and probably the whole of Europe). But that’s not to say that there have not been isolated and deplorable acts of referendum-related bigotry and even violence.

Tragically, my hometown of Harlow, Essex managed to distinguish itself by playing host to what some people rather hysterically termed the first Brexit-related murder in the country, a young Polish factory worker set upon by a group of teenage hooligans and beaten to death. However, from my recollection and personal experience of being set upon by feral youths in that town, the kind of mindless young thugs who wander around Harlow late at night looking for a brawl are so completely brain-dead that I would be surprised if any of them even realised that a referendum had taken place. Current affairs tends not to be their forte.

And so we find ourselves in an absurd situation. We have been continually told – quite rightly – that we must refrain from forming any negative opinions about immigrants based on the bad actions or non-assimilation of a few. Yet apparently immigrants from the EU are being encouraged to form negative opinions about the whole of Britain based on one or two rather dubious-sounding anecdotes offered by by German professionals?

If anything is harming Britain right now, it is the ongoing attempts to catastrophise Brexit being fomented by bitter Remainers – people who would seemingly rather Britain descend into some dark, dystopian future and be vindicated in their doomsaying than help their own country to present a positive, open and internationalist face to the world.

We should not be surprised. In an age where looking good (and signalling virtue) is more important than actually doing good, there is every incentive for Remainers to continue seizing on every morsel of bad news, overlooking every positive development and generally acting hysterically, so long as their precious internal narrative – that They Virtuous Few stood alone against the “dark forces” of racist Brexit – is not disrupted.

Personally, I find it despicable, but good luck to them.

 

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John Major’s Immigration Comments, And The Tory Dilemma

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In a blast from the past, former prime minister John Major, continuing his recent trend of interventions in the British political debate, has made headlines for supposedly contradicting David Cameron’s stance on immigration.

The Huffington Post reports:

In an apparent snub to David Cameron, the former Conservative Prime Minister said it was admirable that people coming to the UK had the “guts and the drive” to travel thousands of miles to Britain in order to improve their lives, not just to “benefit from our social system”.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 programme Reflections with Peter Hennessy, he continued: “I saw immigrants at very close quarters in the 1950s and I didn’t see people who had come here just to benefit from our social system.

“I saw people with the guts and the drive to travel halfway across the world in many cases to better themselves and their families. And I think that’s a very Conservative instinct.”

Of course, John Major is absolutely right. People who make the long journey to Britain in order to build a better life for themselves and their families are highly likely to have drive, ambition and work ethic in greater degrees than the average sedentary Brit. But in seeking to create a story in the middle of political slow news season, many media outlets (including the BBC) have been somewhat disingenuous in the way that they presented Major’s remarks.

The former prime minister was quite specific that he was talking about the kind of immigration that he saw first-hand, growing up and living with his family in Brixton, London. The immigration profile at that time was light years away from the current breakdown of immigration in the 21st century, and crucially did not include large numbers of European immigrants coming to Britain availing themselves of their rights under the EU’s common market. In John Major’s youth, the EU and the dream of ever-closer union was but a twinkle in the eye of the era’s political leaders.

The 1950s did see a period of mass immigration, but it was not of the same scale in absolute numbers and was mostly immigration from the Commonwealth as British passport holders born overseas took advantage of their right to settle in the mother country. To speak in praise of immigration from this era is not necessarily to contradict the government’s efforts to reduce net immigration in the year 2014. Thus it is disingenuous for the British media to take John Major’s praise of a 1950s phenomenon and translate it into criticism of 21st century policy.

The one area where John Major is absolutely right, and was not misrepresented by the media, is his claim that many immigrants do indeed have quite conservative instincts at heart. This instinct can be broken down into two types – social conservatism (particularly the case for immigrants from heavily Catholic countries) and fiscal conservatism. The worry for the Tories is that they are completely failing to tap into either of these sentiments or to build meaningful levels of support among recent immigrants.

But how can the government go about doing this while honouring its pledge to reduce overall net immigration? There is a narrow tightrope to walk between responding to public concern about the current immigration rate and making it clear to existing immigrants that they are welcome, encouraging them to assimilate as quickly as possible and then reaching out to them to turn them into Conservative voters. The margin for error is small, but it should still be possible.

Many recent immigrants come from countries that only a few decades ago struggled to escape from under the heavy yoke of Soviet communism – think Poland or Slovakia as prime examples. There is a love and appreciation for capitalism and the free market among many Poles and Slovaks that is often absent from indigenous British people, who tend to take our system for granted or focus only on its faults. And at a time when Ed Miliband’s Labour party seem to offer heavy regulation and re-nationalisation as their only policy prescriptions, the Conservatives have a ripe opportunity to show that their vision of lower taxes and greater freedom will deliver for everyone in the UK, immigrants firmly included.

There is also political capital to be made in toughening up the rules around access to benefits for newly arrived immigrants. The notion that newly arrived immigrants should be allowed to claim support from a system which they have never contributed towards is just as galling to a Polish family settled in Britain for five years and paying taxes as it would be to any UK citizen. But successfully arguing this point would require deft and precise use of language so that the media has no opportunity to run with the false trope that the evil Tories believe that all immigrants are benefit-scrounging parasites.

In short, the areas where the Conservative party (and indeed UKIP) currently alienate immigrants tend to be around the semantics and tone of the debate, whereas their actual policy prescriptions (maximum freedom, low taxes) make an ideal fit for many prospective immigrant voters.

But the Conservatives should have absolutely no expectations that the media, or the Labour Party, will lift a finger to guide immigrants toward this truth. In fact, if the twisting of John Major’s words today is anything to go by, the opposite will take place – the Conservatives will be painted as heartless and cruel in wanting to enforce stricter entrance criteria, while the many negative ways that Labour policies have the potential to hurt economic migrants will be glossed over and excused.

The irony is that British immigration policy tends to only affect new immigrants once – at the point they enter the UK to settle and work. From that point onward, once they are safely settled and working in Britain, the issue becomes largely irrelevant. Ed Miliband and the Labour Party have thus far managed to coast along on the assumption that they will win the lion’s share of the recent immigrant vote because they tend to advocate for a more laissez-faire border policy. But there is absolutely no reason why this should be the case.

The Conservatives have a compelling message to offer those recent immigrants who will go to the ballot box for the first time in 2015. It is a message of liberty and personal responsibility which should resonate strongly with just the type of people who took a huge risk in packing up their lives and moving to Britain. But for all his well-intentioned words, John Major failed to deliver that message in a way that cut through the skewed agenda of the news editors.

David Cameron and the Conservative Party urgently needs charismatic MPs and councillors to step up, refine and then start sharing this new message, this Conservative pact with recent immigrants. If they do not rise to the challenge, Labour will win the immigrant vote by default once again.