Nigel Farage caused a storm a couple of years ago when, against the prevailing political zeitgeist as always, he called for Britain to accept only Christian refugees from Syria. “They are a seriously persecuted minority… under attack on all sides… as Islamist elements seek to purge the (Middle East) of Christianity”, he argued.
Then, after Muslim migrants from north Africa threw Christian fellow migrants out of their boat to drown in the Mediterranean, he proposed that Europe should accept only Christian African refugees “as they have almost nowhere else to go”.
So it was welcome when UKIP deputy leader Peter Whittle recently weighed in too. “There needs to be a prioritisation of Christian refugees from Syria,” he contended ten days ago. He was echoing the concern of renegade former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, that the UK government is “institutionally biased” against Christian refugees and “politically-correct” officials are discriminating against Christian Syrians in the UK’s refugee programme.
The political class is at best embarrassed by Christianity as the nation’s traditional religion, and at worst actively hostile. It prefers to support the religions brought into Britain post-war by immigrant communities, especially from South Asia. Remember Boris Johnson fatuously proposing that we should all fast for a day during Ramadan and then break our fast at the local mosque? I don’t recall him ever asking us all to pray during Lent and visit the local church on Sunday.
And when the then director-general of the BBC was accused by Ben Elton of letting Vicar jokes pass but not Imam jokes, Mark Thompson admitted that the public service broadcaster – flagship of Britain’s global soft-power with a world-wide audience, but also at the heart of British culture and paid for by you and me – does give special treatment to Islam but not Christianity “because Muslims are from a religious minority and… often from ethnic minorities”. It was classic liberal twaddle that patronisingly plays the victim card on behalf of the world’s second largest and most aggressive religion, and flagrantly repudiates the Beeb’s own claims to neutrality and impartiality.
UKIP is never afraid to stand alone or challenge conventional wisdom, so it is both bold and typical of the party that it insists on standing up for the nation’s traditional religion against the prejudiced political establishment. Neither is it surprising that UKIP broke new ground at the May 2015 general election and was the first and only national party to publish a separate Christian manifesto.
Nigel Farage contended in his foreword to the manifesto – it was entitled Valuing Our Christian Heritage – that:
“we need a much more muscular defence of our Christian heritage and our Christian Constitution. Ours is fundamentally a Christian nation… UKIP is the only political party… that still cherishes our Judeo-Christian heritage.”
The manifesto contained common-sense stuff. It recognised that children are best brought up “within safe, secure, happy families”; said that “reasonable accommodation” should be made legally for those in the workplace who cannot accept same-sex marriage; and backed faith schools “provided they are open to the whole community, uphold British values, do not discriminate against any section of society and meet required educational standards”.
UKIP is a secular party and, as far as I know, neither Nigel Farage nor Peter Whittle are regular church-goers let alone committed Christians. But they, and UKIP’s 2015 Christian manifesto, acknowledge that Christianity has a particular place in the culture of our society that Islam and other religions do not have. And, as I have argued elsewhere, UKIP is and should be a defender of the Faith.
In the name of multi-cultural tolerance and good inter-faith relations, liberal Scottish clergy at Glasgow Cathedral recently invited a Muslim student to read verses from the Quran during a service marking Christianity’s Feast of the Epiphany. As a good Muslim and in honour of Allah no doubt, he read the key Quranic verses which specifically deny Christianity’s central tenet – that Jesus is the Son of God.
When a courageous Church of England clergyman, the Revd Gavin Ashenden, objected strongly to this denigration of Jesus within Christian worship, atheist commentator Douglas Murray memorably commenced an article proposing an award for the cleric thus:
“Very occasionally — even in contemporary Britain — some good news arrives. No single piece of news has been more invigorating than the discovery that a member of the clergy of the Church of England has found a vertebra.”
In the event Reverend Ashenden was forced to step down from his post as Chaplain to the Queen for being controversial, so Murray finished his article with an equally memorable conclusion:
“For the time-being, Revd Ashenden is on the retreating side. But in the long run he may not be. In a nation much in need of heroes, an Anglican Reverend has stepped forward, putting his sincere and serious beliefs ahead of the unserious and insincere pieties of our time. Everybody — secular or religious — has cause to feel enormous gratitude.”
UKIP members – secular or religious – should be willing to support Britain’s traditional religion. After all, Winston Churchill was a disbeliever who reckoned himself a buttress of the church rather than a pillar, as “I support it from the outside”.
UKIP ought to continue its pioneering work and publish the party’s second Christian manifesto in time for the June general election.