Thursday, 23 April 2009

sign of the times (4)

Flag of St George flying over Chelmsford Cathedral

It's St George's Day and the blogs, tweets, newspapers, politicians, clergy etc. have all been having their say. Some have been calling for a national holiday, others want flags flying and bells ringing and some want a discussion of what it is to be English. Personally, I'm not too bothered about celebrating St. George's Day but if others want to do it then O.K., though I wouldn't mind another day off.

Here's a brief Twitter conversation I had with Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, earlier today.

pete173 It's not necessary to being English to have any kind of day to celebrate it. St Patrick's is different, cos that's how the Irish do it.

philritchie @pete173 The Q is what is necessary to being English?

pete173 @philritchie Nothing much is necessary to being English - just a certain sense of understated superiority and a joy in being different...

I realise that for others this is a more serious matter: The Bishop of Rochester has called for St George's Day celebrations. The Archbishop of York has championed the potential for St George's Day to be a unifying public holiday and The Ugley Vicar has copied out his old school song, as he argues that citizenship is principally about ownership of a story.

What I do take very seriously is the obnoxious work of the British National Party. Ministering in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham for seven years, I had first hand experience of the corrosive and dangerous work of the BNP as they established a foothold and then expanded their work in the borough. My heart would sink each time I heard someone begin a statement with the words 'I'm not racist but...'. I keep in touch with the area and have colleagues and friends living and working there. I know that the fight against the racists and extremists is challenging and I am full of admiration for their determined stand on this issue. Many of the churches, with the rich diversity of their congregations, are modelling something very important to the wider community. Church leaders are taking a public role in standing against the BNP and taking the flack for doing so.

The BNP has chosen to run a particularly offensive campaign in the run up to the European Elections in June. Their posters carry a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross and quote part of a verse from John's Gospel (John 15:20) in which Jesus says: "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you". So they use a poster featuring the words of someone they would not allow to be a member of their party because he would not meet their ethnic grouping membership criteria. Jesus was not an 'Indigenous Caucasian'. If you want to help oppose the BNP then check out Hope Not Hate.

A final episcopal Tweet on St George's Day from Bishop Alan Wilson :

@alantlwilson Happy St George's Day. Wrap self in flag, drink 8 tins of Carling, pop down station & vomit over ticket collector? Too early in morning...

The only other St. George's Day celebration I saw in Chelmsford today.

1 comment:

Tim Goodbody said...

I guess a nice antidote to the BNP is the fact that George was Turkish and is revered by Muslims too.
Personally I'd prefer Cuthbert as England's patron saint, as he fits better into the timeframe with Patrick and David. Never quite worked out why the Scots didn't choose a locally relevant person either - maybe Columba.