Last Saturday a group of blokes drove up from London to Bradford, entered mosques, confronted whomsoever they could find, and tried to intimidate Muslims. I was phoned yesterday to let me know what happened. It was reported in the Independent newspaper.
Apparently, this is a group – calling themselves Britain First – that splintered from the British National Party – presumably because the BNP had gone soft. In the perverse mindset of such groups, they think they can intimidate their way to a different world – a fantasy world. They sensitively called their action a 'Christian crusade' and tried to exchange Qurans for Bibles in the mosques.
They are not Christian. They do not represent any sort of Christian church.
They also entertain fantasies about 'Britishness'. Britishness is not only what we inherit – it is what we create.
Coincidentally, I am reading a book of sermons preached by German pastors in the 1930s in the shadow of Hitler. For these brave men (and they are all men) the elision of the Christian gospel into 'race and blood' nationalism was the point where they knew they had to part company with the political leadership of the country. 'Seeking the welfare of the city' and committing oneself to the mutual obligations of citizenship are essential for Christians whose theology has to be rooted in the self-giving love of God in Christ. There is no place for 'race and blood' nationalism here. In fact, most of the pages of the Old Testament (particularly the prophets of the eighth and sixth centuries BC) actually warn about just this – and against taking the character of God for granted when the narrow appropriation of his favour propels people to perpetrate injustice and institutionalise cruelty.
A Christian must seek to create a just and good society for all in Britain. We can never claim 'Britain first' – especially when such a claim is exercised with intimidation, dodgy theology and stupidity. Statements by this Britain First group promise further action in Bradford. It won't work, they are not welcome, and they need to actually read the Bible they wish to leave behind them.
Bradford's response to initiatives like this is to shrug wearily, not rise to the bait, and to continue the excellent work of honest relationship in the city. I wonder who will be next.