On Sunday I did something I’ve never done before: walked out of church during the sermon.
I attend an Anglo-Catholic church in Oxford and I am usually very happy with it but I usually keep quiet about politics as I know that although Oxford is mainly Conservative the Church is a spot of pink if not red. Politics doesn’t usually impinge but this Sunday I heard a purely political sermon. The priest who is Canadian, beaming in that sententious way some vicars can, told us that mass migration to the UK was God’s gift to us and we all needed to open our hearts to it, as most people in Oxford already had.
Still beaming beatifically, he moved on to the subject of Islam. ‘The Muslims of Oxford are all set to welcome the refugees from Syria,’ he said. ‘They have opened their hearts and their homes to people they call, ‘their brothers.’’
Not sisters note. At that point I upped and left, missing communion as I was not in a fit state of mind, feeling upset and excluded. The message so clearly was – Christians must welcome mass migration. In fact they already do, we are all united on this.
I was angry with the spouting prelates’s inaccuracy and confusion. It was our Christian duty to help the Syrians, whom he described as ‘starving and destitute.’ The Syrians I see on TV news are not badly dressed or thin. According to The Wall Street Journal the boy’s father was living in a safe Turkish town for three years, working on construction sites. The sermon made no distinction between refugees and economic migrants.
Obviously all migrants are the same to this visitor from Canada, and so are Muslims. He had no idea that there might be a problem integrating mainly middle class, secular Syrians with Oxford’s Muslims who are mainly from Pakistan, wear traditional clothes, with women increasingly veiled. I have recently seen Muslim men near my home walking about in blood stained aprons, presumably from carrying out halal slaughter nearby.
Neither have I heard any words from the pulpit about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, India and North Korea. Countries which refuse to take any Muslims: Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, and in a different context Japan, and Australia which has made its reluctance obvious, are regarded as barbaric. The C of E has no criticisms to make of radical Islam and hates the Government which is trying to deal with its rising violence.
The Church prefers to align itself with left wing direct action which currently takes the form of welcoming migrants and demanding the Government takes more. These displays of public piety have little to do with Christian charity. Historian Simon Schama calls them, ‘Communities of exhilaration,’ and refers to, ‘campfire enthusiasm politics.’ According to Radio 4 on Tuesday, Britons are now going to Calais to ‘hang out with migrants.’
I did not hang out over coffee and custard creams after the service, but did tackle the vicar in the porch. He melted away, no come back. When I said the support for migrants was political he said that as a Canadian he didn’t know about that. About difference between Syrians and Pakistanis, he didn’t know that either. Worse he then tried to apologise to me. Oh dear, oh dear, I thought, don’t give me that, I have not joined the cult of automatic apology. You have your opinions, I have mine. Let’s thrash them out if we have to but let’s not have any more cringing or equivocating please.