Christian Council of Britain: Epilogue?

Giles Fraser writes about Christian rejection of the BNP front group the “Christian Council of Britain” in the Guardian:

Last month, a media-watch organisation started spotting the same faces that appear at BNP rallies regularly appearing at protests over Jerry Springer – the Opera. Local BNP leader Graham Green said: “We are totally opposed to this theatre production, and our members have been helping to hand out pro-Christian leaflets.” But the BNP hadn’t quite thought through their new association. For fundamentalist Christians from organisations like Christian Voice are committed to the literal truth of Genesis: that all human beings are descended from Adam and Eve. Because of this, the human race is of “one blood” (Acts 17: 26).

…Within weeks of setting up the Christian Council of Britain, the alliance was in tatters. “If you don’t believe in Darwinian evolution then you are even dafter than you appear,” the BNP told the national director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green. The love affair was over.

The “media-watch organisation” which first noted BNP hijacking of the Opera protests was MediaWatchWatch; further details were provided by (ahem) me, and the story then got picked up and developed by Ekklesia. Stephen Green’s repudiation of the BNP was noted by the Church Times back in March:

“They’ve got a cheek. If we’d known they were connected with the BNP, we’d have told them where to go,” said Mr Green. “They aren’t sticking up for Christianity: it’s just a front for their racism. I’ve actually been told by someone at the BNP that black people are inferior because of evolution. Evolution doesn’t go down too well with us, either – but can you believe it? We want nothing to do with them.”

That article also noted that

No details of the Christian Council of Britain could be found. “It’s nothing to do with us or me,” said the BNP’s press officer, Dr Phil Edwards. “All I know is, they are a pro-British, British Christian group. It’s separate to the BNP.”

Neither could Dr Edwards furnish details of two churches in Wiltshire that had reportedly “snapped up in bulk” a BNP greetings card produced “in association with county Christians”; or of the “Revd Robert West”, who states that a multiracial society is “a transgression of God’s will”.

Of course, Edwards’ claim was somewhat misleading. Ekklesia quickly noted that the CCoB’s website had been designed by Steve Blake, the BNP’s webmaster, while the Observer reported in April that

Clive Potter, a leading BNP member who was expelled from the Unison trade union for far-right activities, is to be its president.

(Potter, it should be noted, has left at least one comment at MWW)

However, things are not looking good for the Christian Council. Over a month after its website was established, most of its pages still read “details to follow in due course”, while the mysterious “Revd” Robert West, having been suspended from the Tory party, has sunk back into the obscurity he deserves. The BNP appears to have become bored with the project, and has not mentioned it for a while on its own website. But perhaps we can understand why; the Churches Regional Commission for Yorkshire and the Humber has produced a report on the BNP that includes the following anecdote (link added):

During the trial of Nick Griffin in Leeds, members of the “Christian Council of Britain” – a BNP organisation – supported Griffin with placards and Christian symbols…They were singing, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” Inderjit Bhogal, Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum approached these supporters and asked them, “Where do I fit into your vision of Britain?” “You don’t!” was their reply. He also asked them, “How many of you go to church?” They confirmed that none of them did.

UPDATE: West has now found his spiritual home with the BNP, after complaining about the number of “women, non-white and homosexual or lesbian candidates” currently being put forward by the Tory Party. However, West’s door-to-door campaigning for his new party has not been particularly successful; one unhappy householder decided to administer an icy baptism:

The Reverend Robert West was soaked after knocking on a door in Buttery Close, North Hykeham.

…The woman, who did not wish to be named, told the Echo she had no remorse for her actions.

“He was wearing a dog collar so I asked him whether he was a real reverend,” she said.

“He refused to enter into a debate about it. I had the jug of iced water because I was preparing for friends who were visiting that day.

…”If he comes here again I will empty a whole jug over his head.”

The woman said she had consulted her local vicar because she was concerned Mr West was masquerading as a member of the church while campaigning for the BNP.

(Hat tip: Islamophobia Watch)

UEFA OKs Anti-Catholic Singing from Blackshirt Era

Football news from Ekklesia:

Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow Mario Conti has criticised European football’s governing body, UEFA, for its decision not to fine Rangers fans for anti-Catholic singing during the club’s recent Champions League matches against the Spanish club Villareal.

…The offending behaviours of Rangers fans included the anti-Catholic chants, insults to the Pope and a traditional song ‘Billy Boys’ which talks about being “up to our knees in Fenian blood.”

The UEFA report concluded that such songs were part of “Scotland’s social and historical background.”

…Football in Glasgow has for many years been divided between the mainly Protestant club Rangers and the mainly Catholic side Celtic – together known as ‘the auld firm’. The history of rivalry and bad blood between them has included employment discrimination.

Complaints about the chanting and UEFA’s decision were reported in the media last month, but my mental filter usually blocks out any headline to do with sport. A Sunday Journal report reposted here gives a bit more background:

Billy Boys was the marching song of a “razor gang” based in Bridgtown [sic: should be Bridgeton] in Glasgow in the late 1920s and ’30s, led by one Billy Fullerton. He wasn’t a run-of-the-mill anti-Catholic bigot but a committed supporter of Oswald Mosely’s British Union of Fascists. The targets of his gang were not only Catholics but “Reds”: they helped smash up trade union and labour meetings when they weren’t hunting “Fenians.” This was one of the reasons they were tolerated by a “respectable” element which combined distaste for Irish Catholics with fear of Scottish socialists, particularly in the aftermath of “Red Clydeside.”

An academic essay on the topic by Andrew Sanders adds:

Fullerton had formed branches of the Ku Klux Klan in Scotland and the aims of these groups formed the basis for the ‘Billy Boys.’ The gang formed after Fullerton was attacked after a football match, in which he had scored the winning goal. He was brutally attacked with hammers and quickly, like minded individuals organised themselves into a gang in order to prevent such an attack taking place again. The gang are immortalised in the terrace chant, ‘Hello Hello (The Billy Boys)’…in which blatant sectarian language is used.

A discussion of Fullerton and his gang appeared in the Scotsman in 2004.

Meanwhile, a more general discussion of British racist (including anti-Semitic) football chanting can be read here.

US Ukraine Ambassador Accused of “Neo-Sergianism”

Russian nationalists are unhappy with the religious activities of the US ambassador to Ukraine (link added):

The fact that US ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, has been delegated from the diocese of Odessa and Zaporozhie to the All-Diaspora Council, which is to consider the re-unification of the two parts of the Russian Church, is a provocation, stated Constantine Zatulin, State Duma deputy and director of the Institute for the CIS Countries.

‘The ambassador was really baptized according to the Orthodox rite. At the same time, the aim of his efforts as a person at the US State Department service is fairly evident. John Herbst acts in the interests of the USA’.

Zatulin believes that the USA’s plan is “fragmenting Orthodoxy”, in order to lessen the influence of Russia. “TV journalist” (actually a notorious nationalist pundit) Mikhail Leontyev shares his view:

‘Opponents of the unification [with Moscow] who accuse the Moscow Patriarchate of Sergianism, that is submission to the authorities, represent actually fierce neo-Sergianists of American making who have just chosen a different master’.

“Sergianism” was the adaptation by Patriarch Sergius to the atheism of the Russian Revolution.

Zatulin is a long-standing critic of Ukraine’s loosening of ties with Russia:

The people who carried out the Orange Revolution simply jeopardized the process of nation-building. After all, the real goal of the Orange Revolution – as last year showed – is not democracy, but “Ukraine above all” and a final separation from Russia…Russia’s objectives should be clear: To prevent Ukraine’s consolidation as a state that is hostile to Russia, under the influence of forces in opposition to Russia both within and outside Ukraine, thus preventing Ukraine from turning into another Poland and avoiding the return of the Time of Troubles.

Radio Liberty notes that Zatulin has similarly tough views on Georgia, and that he is an ally of the Motherland political bloc, which I discussed here.

Meanwhile, some background to the US ambassador’s involvement with Orthodoxy is provided by Orthodixie, which cites various sources. The ambassador is apparently a member of ROCOR, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, although for a time he was attending worship at a Ukrainian church linked to the Moscow Patriarchate, from which ROCOR split during the Soviet period. When Herbst stopped visiting this church, a Russian newspaper claimed this had been due to an order from the White House:

The President of the United States George Bush forbade the American Ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, to attend the Holy Protection Monastery in Kiev…The ambassador told the believers that the American leadership is unhappy with his visits to the monastery, which belongs to the “Moscow Church.”

Commentary follows from ROCOR member Fr Alexander Lebedeff:

[ROCOR] Bishop Agafangel reports that the same John Herbst, Ambassador of the United States to Ukraine, has been elected at the Diocesan Assembly of the Odessa diocese to be the lay representative of the Diocese at the All-Diasporan Council of the Church Abroad in San Francisco next year, as he is a parishioner of our Church in Malin.

…How can we then accuse the [Moscow Patriarchate] of KGB ties and close ties to the government, when we are electing our own high-ranking U.S. government officials with CIA connections to be delegates at our Church Councils?

To which a response is provided by non other than Herbst’s daughter Masha:

To what depths had this journalist sunk in order to get a “scoop?”…whatever you think about the president, he doesn’t give two hoots about where my family attends services.

…As for Pokrovsky Monastir’, my entire family attended Nativity services there in January 2004. But last winter, during the elections, the sermons there became filled with such anti-American bile that my family understandably became uncomfortable. So they stopped going to Pokrovsky, and began attending services at other churches in Kiev during the weeks that they did not make it to Malin.

And regarding the murky “CIA” allegation:

As a priest, you should know better than anyone that the Lord calls people to service not only in our churches and monasteries, but in other capacities as well. We don’t all have the opportunity to shed our secular lives and seek refuge in the Church, but it doesn’t diminish our ability or responsibility to participate in the life of ROCOR.

Happy May Day