Open Letter to Home Secretary Theresa May

Open Letter to Home Secretary Theresa May

by Rev. Frank Julian Gelli

Dear Ms May,

I wonder whether I am a hate cleric. One of those you want to gag by ASBO - anti-social behaviour order - as an ‘extremist’. God forbid!

You reassure me: ‘Nothing to worry about. I am not gunning for clean-shaven Anglican vicars but for shaggy imams. I know you Christian clerics are harmless do-gooders. Preachers of love, not hatred. ‘Love clerics’ – would anyone mind that?’

‘He who does not love does not know God; for God is love’ says St John, the Apostle of Love. Beautiful. Yet St John shows an extremist streak: ‘…the whole world is in the power of the Evil One…Keep yourselves from idols…He who has not the Son of God has not life.’ Stark warnings. What is to be done?

If the whole world is in the power of the devil, that presumably includes rulers and governments and parliaments and authorities, democratic or otherwise. Now a Christian can have no tracks with the Prince of Darkness and his foul minions. He must fight them…Er…does that amount to preaching ‘the overthrow of democracy’? Or what? ASBO ahoy?

Scholarly clerics are not literalists, of course. They interpret Scripture thoughtfully, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. ‘The problem’, to quote Tariq Ramadan, ‘is not with the text: it is with the reader.’ And when the reader is you, dear Ms May, I am not convinced we are in good hands. Whether it is the Qur’an or the Bible or the Bahgawad Gita, you have not a rat’s ass of a clue about the meaning of sacred texts. Therefore you are not in a position to decide whether a cleric quoting them is preaching extremism or not. Just keep out of things of which you have no knowledge, will you?
Christianity is the religion of love. Yet its Founder did at times commend hate (misein in the Greek of the Gospels): ‘He who does not hate his mother and his father cannot be my disciple.’ Does that make Jesus a ‘hate cleric’? Deserving an ASBO? I bet you Ms May would go further. You’d throw the bearded Hebrew agitator into jail. Or into a loony bin, perhaps…

From early on loving Christians have been tough on sin. A man called Tertullian, a theologian from North Africa, addressed its fellow Roman citizens, a.k.a. pagans, sternly. He listed some abominable practices: ‘We are not like you. We do not live and act like you. We do not kill our unborn children in the womb. We do not practice infanticide.  We do not fight each other in the arena. We refrain from shedding the blood of other human beings. We do not cheat each other…instead, we love one another.’ Incendiary language. It must have made the local Roman Home Secretary pretty upset. What an anti-social lot those bloody Christians! Got to sort them out. Chuck them to the lions, perhaps?

OK, the world has moved on…but has it? Abortions by the millions in ‘Christian’ Europe and America. I condemn the anti-abortionists who engage in violence, though I have participated in peaceful pro-life demonstrations. Sometimes the atmosphere got a bit hot. The faces of the pro-choice brigade were twisted with hatred. Some pro-lifers’, too. Not easy to love your enemy when the lives of innocent, defenceless children are at stake. Anyway, I am glad I got away without an ASBO!

St Augustine argued that when you stop someone from doing evil, even by force, you are actually doing him good – i.e. loving him. It makes sense. Take the female Ukrainian activists of Femen. They engage in unpleasant, public shock acts of protest such as desecrating churches, mosques, clerics, and symbols of worship. Although I find the Femen girls a disagreeable bunch, I do not hate them. Instead, I love them. And I would show my love by having them consigned for a few months to the loving care of an Orthodox monastery. The good nuns would take care that the offenders learn proper conduct towards religious persons and emblems. Analogous to the anti-racism awareness courses benighted individuals have to follow in the West. Love in both cases, surely?

Nasty to be ‘anti-social’ but it depends on the society you are in. In the Soviet Union to believe in God and in his laws was deemed akin to madness. Dissenters were sent to Siberia. To an atheistic and materialist society God was a threat. The West is different. No one stops you from going to church. Priests can mumble away their prayers while the people yawn or doze off. Why should anyone get worked up? Stock Anglican religion makes no real difference to society. It seems an innocuous pastime, mildly eccentric like bird-watching or trainspotting. Start taking the laws of Christ seriously though, demand that society should conform to them – it will terrify Ms May and her ilk. You will then become a ‘hate cleric’. An object of fear and loathing…

Too many pusillanimous clerics happily cow-tow to the powers that be. Obedient ecclesiastical civil servants. Like the Mr Bean-lookalike Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has backed the latest military adventure, the bombing campaign. On Judgment Day the useless man will get the reward he deserves.

Dear Ms May, fighting against immoral practices is not an option for a Christian. It is an obligation. A command of Heaven. An imitation of Christ. It does arouse the hatred of the impious, of course. And yet Christian clerics like me have no choice but conform to the divine will. You and your bullying parliament can do your worst, we shall do our best.

Rant Number 602     1 October 2014
Rev. Frank Julian Gelli can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)