Monday, 16 March 2009

Celebrating Martin Niemoeller

A hard won lesson from the twentieth century is that Christian people should never consider voting for a party simply because it supports better law and order if that means turning a blind eye to the racist views on which it is founded.

I included those words in my sermon yesterday in case I needed it for a Press Release about the BNP candidate in next week’s Council by-election in this Ward. But the feed back I get from others is that the support for it isn’t significant so any public statement from the church would probably simply give it extra publicity. The only canvassing I have received so far has been a single leaflet which outlines national policies (increased police funding, restrictions on immigration and withdrawal from the EU) which aren’t areas in which a local Councillor has any say.

This month marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Martin Niemoeller, who was very fortunate to live into his nineties since he was a prisoner of the Nazis (in jail and in concentration camp) for eight years. At the time of the 1933 General Election he was pastor of a wealthy congregation in the Berlin area, and he advocated support for the party led by Adolf Hitler because it promised things like more police on the streets. Gradually he came to see that he had been wrong and was eventually arrested for his opposition.

He is perhaps best known for saying ‘They came first for the Communists, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist, and then they came for the trade unionists, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist, and then they came for the Jews, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew, and then they came for me, and by that time there was noone left to speak up.’

Jesus of Nazareth seems to have caused most offence when he associated with tax collectors and sinners and when he made a despised Samaritan the hero of one of his stories. I suspect it follows that we are most Christ-like when we are criticised by those who think they defend traditonal values because we stand alongside minorities and outsiders. I suspect that in recent years the people of the Yarborough Ward have been most Christ-like when large numbers of them stood up for a Pakistani human rights lawyer whose children were in a school in the Ward and whose asylum appeal was failing.

Meanwhile, I had to be in Freeman Street before seven o’clock yesterday morning and the sun was shining on the Grimsby Dock Tower towards which the road points.

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