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Easter advertising campaigns are upon us once again.  They range from the banal to the beautiful and in amongst them are the disturbing/dangerous.  One of the latter category this year is discussed to here and if you are in the UK and want to do something quick in response go here.  More importantly if you have up coming local elections (and we will all soon have European elections) get out and vote for a reasonable party (some of my colleagues would try to tell you which but as floating voter myself I'm hardly placed to!).

Baptists stand for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech - and I would defend the right of those who are blatantly wrong to be permitted a voice - but freedom carries responsibility and therefore we must also speak out for truth and justice whilst praying for - not about/against - those who are 'enemies' of those things.


  • I've signed the petition, but I wonder what other steps we can take as churches to get the message across that the BNP's planned advertising campaign is an absolute perversion of the Gospel.

    If the leaders of that party were genuinely interested in following Jesus rather than just co-opting him for their own political ends, they would be welcoming the stranger in their midst, turning the other cheek, doing good to those that persecute them and recognising that in the new community established by Christ all people are of one race.

    Instead they cultivate a sense of paranoia, hatred and jealousy. Nothing could be further from the spirit of Christ.

    Of course in conducting their arguments, they won't be bothered by minor issues like truth or accuracy. That party's PR machine is evidently already poised to rubbish Christian responses and to distort the issues. They will claim that these responses come from hypocritical church authorities who have sold out to religious pluralism and abandoned the British people. That's part of their propaganda game, which we need to get ahead of somehow.

  • Some thoughts:

    - I agree that Baptists stand for freedom of conscience, but I think there are limits on freedom of speech. Every BNP action is designed to curtail the freedoms of some people, either by taking power outright or by creating an atmosphere in which more violence is done to them.

    - The promotion (even by some Baptists) over the last few years of a persecution complex amongst Christians in secular countries has really played into the BNP's hands, and we have to own up to that and take responsibility for combatting it.

    - We have to be careful not to play further into the BNP's hands, giving them more publicity by stirring up a controversy. Although I made a complaint to the ASA I haven't been promoting this issue more widely for that reason. I don't know how much money they have to put billboards up across the country. If there will be a handful and it's primarily a stunt I think the smart thing to do is to condemn it when asked (as people have done) but not to organise a response and to keep quiet. If when they actually go up there are billboards in every city, then we need to be thinking about resistance & direct action.

  • The oxygen of publicity question is a hard one to judge.

    My own view, like Tim's, is that if churches respond noisily before the campaign, we are simply saving the extremists the job of canvassing on the doorstep.They get all the headlines they want and then act wounded innocence. I suspect this campaign is designed to provoke such a response. They probably have their soundbites ready prepared.

    However, we need to be thinking now how to respond and with what arguments.

  • I suspect you are both right, and there does need to be more than a knee jerk feel-good response. I have to confess that I wasn't too chuffed to receive a begging email from this campaign group.

    Part of my concern is that Dibley has BNP councillor and the average Dibleyite doesn't see any problem with this (explain that to my Barbadean church member). Two years ago when he was elected I did preach 'into' the situation and this disturbed some my folk as a political Jesus isn't quite what we want around here... much.

    All tricky and no easy answers...

  • I share your concern, Catriona, that extremist policies can dress themselves up as the reasonable views of the patriot next door and be seen as normal. This played out in the local newspapers' letters pages last summer when two wards in this borough elected extremist councillors.

    I could imagine such views seeming natural and normal to other communities in your vicinity, particularly among cohesive and traditional communities who perceive themselves as being marginalised and in decline. I too have encountered a resistance to political theology from nice, respectable people who simply fail to recognise their own inherent biases and see their own prejudices as just common sense.

    On the other hand, like you, I'm concerned that HNH seem to have done some particularly opportunistic and high pressure fund-raising on the back of a petition signed in good faith. Not encouraging tactics. I reluctantly declined to support their campaign locally last year because I wasn't happy with the quality of the material they presented me with.

    But the parallels with the rise of extremism in 20th Century Europe under the banner of sweet reasonableness and the appropriation of popular religion is disquieting.

    We have to find the right ways of speaking and to understand the time to do so.

The comments are closed.