Post-election, Fortress Britain: 26 May

Poor political prediction! The Lib Dems failed to maintain their surge of support and Labour support held up. But with significant change coming to the voting system, this could still have been the historic watershed election.

Local factors also seemed crucial in many seats. In some places (like Wells) previously Labour voters supported the Lib Dems, but in others (also in the West Country) the Lib Dems seemed to lose out to the starker options on either side. Maybe enough people just wanted a change, one way or another? Maybe we are at the beginning of a continuing 3 party system, in which coalition is the norm?

No Con-Dem nation now I dread!

I certainly hope that the Lib Dem influence will lead to a reassessment of Fortress Britain guarded by the rottweilers of the UK Borders Agency. Ashbourne has a local group of the Chernobyl Children’s Link, a charity which arranges for youngsters in land contaminated by Chernobyl to come for a month’s holiday. These 10 year olds are exposed to so much daily radiation that a month here will add two years to their lives. But the Borders Agency are trying to stop them coming.

Victor Mizzi, national chair of the UK Chernobyl charity, has written to the Prime Minister, the Home and Foreign Secretaries detailing the ‘harassment’ of both sending families in the Ukraine and Belorussia and of host families in the UK through the visa application process. As with asylum seekers, British officials assume that the applicants are lying and treat them accordingly. Other European countries also give holidays to these children. Most do not require visas. Those that do require visas do not charge. Guess which is the only country to charge its own charities for their sacrificial compassionate hospitality?

We’ve just had the wonderful Tissington Well Dressings. Local people show great team work, craftsmanship, and creativity in producing large petal mosaics mostly depicting Bible themes and stories. Six stunning floral stained glass windows in one tiny village. I had the privilege of ‘blessing’ one well, a delightful detailed picture of Noah’s ark, the rainbow and animals, for the Year of Biodiversity.

Each of the 6 wells stood out in some way. One had magnificent simple gold on magenta colouring. Another, oddly, quoted the devil, ‘Thou Shalt Not Surely Die’, with the snake highlighted. One was in support of Help the Heroes and contained the verse ‘Greater love has no man than he lay down his life…’

It is time that we rescued that verse from the hypocritical distortion of the military. Soldiers do not willingly lay down their lives. They fight to the bitter end for their lives and the life of their country – at least their country’s rulers. Soldiers are trained to fight, to kill, not to lay down before the enemy. They do all they can to ensure that they stay alive, which usually means doing all they can to make sure the enemy dies. If they have life taken away from them in the process this is not what they have wanted. Those who die in battle are the same as those who die in hospital beds or smashed cars, no closer to heaven just because of the way they died.

Of course the military don’t want this truth proclaimed. Like the Taliban promising their soldiers virgins in heaven, our military, supported by much of the Church, half promise our soldiers a sure path to paradise. Jesus and the early Christians must wince every time they hear such distortion.

Shane Claiborne is a leading American Christian activist and author interviewed at length in this month’s Christianity magazine. ( ) Shane says:

‘The early Christians said that when Jesus disarmed Peter [in the garden of Gethsemane], he disarmed every Christian. You certainly don’t see Christians picking up a sword again for hundreds of years.

The idea that we’ve got to protect the innocent is without a doubt the most compelling argument for violence. But the interesting thing is that Bonhoeffer [the theologian who tried and failed to kill Adolf Hitler] never said that what he was doing was noble or holy. He basically said, ‘I’m getting ready to sin, so don’t try to bless what I’m doing, but I don’t know what else to do and I’m willing to face God with this on my hands.’ That’s really different from what we hear about Christians blessing bombs and wars, saying ‘This is God’s mission.’ That’s the place where it becomes dangerous.’

Roger Harper.

One Response to “Post-election, Fortress Britain: 26 May”

  1. Di Says:

    Hi Roger,

    Just changing my e-amil address subscription here.


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