You Sleeping or UKIPing?
The European elections always seem to throw some strange looking curve-balls into the world of politics. Rather than be a serious vote on candidates we want to stand for us in Europe they become the place of protest votes and votes to make a political point. This past European election has been no different. Here in the U.K. a party known for it’s extreme views on immigration and leaving Europe have done exceptionally well, and this pattern has been copied through-out the whole of Europe. Many far-right parties have done really well, even some who consider Hitler as a hero! If this is really the heart of the new Europe then we have grave cause for concern, but maybe it is just one of those votes that is trying to capture the attention of the mainstream parties. That opinion is strong on the whole issue of immigration. That England needs to become more English once again. This has caused me to think a lot about what it really means to be English and is it as straight forward as we think it is? As a follower of Jesus how should I see immigration and the foreign influence coming into the Nation? Is it really any more than a fear of the other, people who are different to us? Have we been brought up to view with suspicion anybody who is not like me?
Is God Still an Englishman?
What is it to be truly British or English? A love of cricket and cucumber sandwiches? Punting on the Cam and singing at the Last Night of the Proms? Is it that straight forward? is that just a caricature we have made of a certain image of England? Reading our history we realise it is much more complicated than that, we are a Nation of invaders and immigrants. We are a mongrel Nation. Vikings and Saxons, Romans and Celts, all invaded or the invader, blended together, shaken and stirred. More recently Caribbean and African, Muslim and E.U. member Nations, all added into a mix that creates the wild variety and mix we have today. We can say we are English through and through and yet our ancestral line would say otherwise. I am from the East Anglian village of Lakenheath, my parents, grand-parents etc. are all English through and through, but it does not take much searching to discover my name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, a lead maker, an invader of these shores at some point. Does that give me any more right to this Nation than my Polish neighbours across the road? Am I any more English than my Asian friends living in Leicester who worship in Urdu? Who is my neighbour?
Immigrant Saviour, Immigrant Story.
The Bible is a story of immigrants and immigration on many levels. A wandering Nation without a home that gains land through conquest or lives amongst strangers. Often a Nation without a Nation. Foreigners called to welcome foreigners. Jesus comes as an immigrant and emigrates into Egypt. On another level He is from a different place altogether. The story within the story tells us all we are strangers in a strange land, that we are from another place and not of this world. An immigrant people travelling through this land. That sort of theology does not help us relate to the world but Jesus showed us that deeper connection can be made even as we pilgrim through this land. He so loved the world He gave. Gave of Himself to become part of the living breathing hurting celebrating world. A sense that where we are from creates a more glorious where we are. A connection with community that goes beyond being the foreigner. Our sense of sometimes not fitting in and speaking a different language should make us empathise with all immigrants on earth. But our differences make a patchwork of beauty rather than a dissonance of conflict. The story of both God and man is wrapped up in immigration. Am I firstly English, a child of heaven or a man of the earth? Yes to all three and so much more. I am the other amongst others. That should make us all the more embracing.
Welcome the Stranger.
Embracing the stranger, the outsider, the outcast, the marginalised, surely that is the message because our life is the message. We celebrate a friend emigrating to Australia but snarl at the Latvian wanting to move into our land. We take some sort of strange pride in an empire that ruled into India and Africa and beyond, but when the other returns to serve and work we feel they do not deserve what they get. They don’t even speak English we say. So what! They want to continue in their religions and build Mosques, so what! We really want them all to become as ignorant and self living and loving as us do we? We could not do that over there, no but surely the heart of a Nation that embraces and welcomes is much nearer a heart of Father and Jesus than the alternatives. Would Jesus shut the doors to the other? Are they really taking our jobs? Maybe we need to stop moaning about how they work for peanuts and instead fight for better wages, more justice, more opportunity. While we continue to over educate our children the tasks of the street will continue to be taken by those who are willing. There is much right and wrong in here, much injustice. But why take it out on the other. A Multi-national, multi-faith society can be beautiful and glorious and a true image of a wild abandoned God. Two great links to finish;
The True Born Englishman