An open letter to Nigel Farage

Dear Mr. Farage,

You have got your seat and, to be fair, you nearly got another one.

Of course you want to promote U.K.I.P. as a party offering a new, different and radical, politics. But, is this true? It seems to me that history is full of political parties who have defined themselves along narrow nationalistic lines. Doesn’t history also show that such parties have an appalling tendency to extend the range of their disapproval to other vulnerable, minority, groups over time? Maybe you’re not like that, but history is not on your side.

But, what really bugs me is this: the way you talk about U.K.I.P. as a party committed to protecting Britain’s Christian past, as though you care about the flourishing of Christianity in this land.

The problem you face is this; you can’t talk about Christianity without talking about Christ and, the work of the cross (in reality there isn’t much else to talk about), and you don’t talk about either of these. Christ and Christianity cannot be separated, yet you seek to do so. For a political party to talk about Christianity without talking about Christ is to render Christ an idol, to manufacture him into a political and identikit caricature of the Divine and this is graceless in the extreme.

It is legitimate, of course, to hypothesise over where Christ’s contemporary allegiances may or may not lie. But, I suspect that at the end of the day you would have to say the data indicates is that he transcends nationalism and party politics. Let me offer you some evidence from both the Scriptures and the Christian heritage you say you are so keen to preserve.

Starting with the Gospels we find Jesus declaration of his own mission (Luke 4, 18-19). Although it would be misleading to suggest that Jesus is specifically advocating the tearing down of national borders, it is fair to suggest that his message is one of radical inclusivity. Indeed, we find a foretaste of Jesus’ being available for all in the Song of Simeon (the Nunc Dimitus – Luke 2, 29-32) which does, explicitly, suggest that Jesus’ -who was a loyal Jew -commitment to all people was not constrained by national identity.

St.Paul in his pastoral letter to the Galatians is keen to stress that ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,’ (Galatians 3, 28). Now clearly we all do have a national identity but, for the Christian this can never be our primary identity. National and religious identity are not, cannot be, one and the same, as you seem to suggest. The Christian is always both resident and alien with regard to the nation state. As St. Augustine suggested Christians belong to Two Cities.

Turning to Christian tradition the Second World War martyr Bonhoeffer might be of interest. Bonhoeffer was always keen to highlight that he was both a Christian and a proud German. Bonhoeffer of course ‘betrayed’ his country. Writing to his friend Reinhold Niebuhr, in 1939, he said: ‘Christians in Germany will face a terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or, willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization, I know which I must choose.’ History indicates that Bonhoeffer, was the real patriot, the authentic German because he understood that any attempt to pander to some form of nationally defined Christianity was to cheapen everything that Christ stood, and stands, for.

So my one, sole, request is this. By all means carry on advocating whatever policies you wish, but please don’t equate them with Christianity, unless you are prepared to talk about the Christ of Scripture, for Christianities’ only logic is Christ. To talk about Christianity separate from Christ is to secularise Christianity, which according to Bonhoeffer is the very definition of blasphemy (against the Holy Spirit).

Yours in Christ,

The Rev’d Andrew Lightbown

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