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Is the BNP racist? Are dodos extinct? Thoughts on things that ought not to be June 14, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs, Life Issues.
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Many things in life simply ought not to be. Some we can change, some we can’t.

DodoConsider the dodo: wiped out by human greed, hunted to extinction. Gone for ever because we, as what has become the world’s dominant species, placed our own interests above everything else, because the island upon which these birds once lived simply wasn’t big enough for them and us. All we can do today is look back in shame; and if we dare to dream, hope somehow for a Jurassic Park style breakthrough in science to bring them back from a preserved fragment of their DNA.

Consider the BNP: driven not so much by human greed, I suspect, as by fear. Fear that somehow we, the British, are like the dodo, too tame or perhaps too stupid to resist the foreigners who have landed upon our shores. Fear that this island simply isn’t big enough for them and us. Fear of change, fear of difference, fear fed by folly and ignorance. Fear.

Let’s not beat about the bush here: is the BNP racist? Yes. But let’s not travel down that road of fear and hate with them: let’s not dehumanise or demonise. The BNP, for all their folly, are human beings; and the answer to fear is love: as the writer of John’s letters in the New Testament tells us, “perfect love drives out all fear.”

I do not claim that this is an easy way: who amongst us lives in perfect love? Who has never been afraid?

We Get to Carry Each Other

We Get to Carry Each Other

I have in front of me an advance proof of Greg Garrett’s new book, We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2 (WJK, 9780664232177, £11.99, due for UK release August 2009). No U2 fan should miss it. In it, Greg describes a scene from a USA tour in the 1980s: U2 were involved in the campaign for a national holiday in honour of Martin Luther King Jr — MLK Day — and were warned off from playing Arizona. If they did, they were told, don’t play Pride (In the Name of Love) — because if they did, the threat came, “I will blow Bono’s head off.”

The band went to Arizona anyway. Bono faced the fear, closed his eyes, and sang; and when he looked up, Adam had moved from his usual stage left position to stand in front of Bono as a human shield.

Thankfully the shot never came: both Bono and Adam lived to tell the tale and continue playing and singing. But here was love conquering fear. Here was love driving out fear, exemplified, ironically, by the one band member who would not identify himself with Christianity.

This, I think, is where we who are followers of Jesus in the UK are called to stand in relation to the BNP and our immigrant population. The BNP seek to destroy and drive out. Our immigrant population seek to live amongst us. We must be their shield: we must show the way of love by standing between them and the BNP’s message of bigotry and hate.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York were right to issue last month’s call for voters to boycott the BNP. The danger to British society lies not in increasing multiculturalism but in isolationism. Hospitality and welcome to strangers, surely, lie at the heart of British identity — but more importantly for those who would claim to be following Jesus, these things lie at the heart of our Christian identity.

The dodo was driven to extinction by human stupidity. The BNP are not stupid. But elevated to power, they would reduce Britain to an island of dodos: an isolated race — not a separate species, just a race within a much bigger species — that would be unable to compete in, let alone co-operate with, the rest of the world; and that would be both a tragedy and a travesty for a nation that built an empire that, rightly or wrongly, once “ruled the waves.”

The way forward for Britain lies not in a renewed expansionism — the days of Britain’s dominant position in the world are over and done; but nor does it lie in a new reductionism, shrinking in upon ourselves, raising the drawbridge to hide in our castles, rejecting the rainbow mix of colours and influences that have made us what we are.

No: the way forward for Britain — if Britain wants to rescue the word ‘Great’ now so meaninglessly tacked onto the front of its name — is the way of love. We must learn to serve — and what could be a better way for a country known as a nation of shopkeepers?

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