Nicht Christus folgen, sondern Horst Wessel!

Now for something completely different.  This evening I came across a purported quotation from an anti-Christian Hitler Youth song.   I was suspicious, for it seemed a little too good to be true, but it appears to be genuine.  It ran in part as follows, in English:

We are the happy Hitler Youth;
We have no need for Christian virtue;
For Adolf Hitler is our intercessor
And our redeemer.
No priest, no evil one
Can keep us
From feeling like Hitler’s children.
Not Christ do we follow, but Horst Wessel!
Away with incense and holy water pots…[1]

A little experimenting with German leads us to the original, of which the translation seems somewhat inaccurate:

Wir sind die fröhliche Hitlerjugend,
Wir brauchen keine christliche Tugend,
Denn unser Führer Adolf Hitler
Ist stets unser Mittler.

Kein Pfaffe, kein böser, kann uns je hindern,
Uns zu fühlen als Hitlers Kinder.
Nicht Christus folgen wir, sondern Horst Wessel,
Fort mit Weihrauch und Weihwasserkessel!

Wir folgen singend unseren Fahnen
Als würdige Söhne unserer Ahnen,
Ich bin kein Christ, kein Katholik,
Ich geh mit SA durch dünn und dick.

Die Kirche kann mir gestohlen werden,
Das Hakenkreuz ist Erlösung auf Erden,
Ihm will ich folgen auf Schritt und Tritt,
Baldur von Schirach, nimm mich mit![2]

I.e.:

We are the happy Hitler Youth,
We need no Christian virtue,
Because our leader Adolf Hitler,
Is always our mediator.

No priest, no wrongdoer can ever hinder us,
From feeling like Hitler’s children.
We do not follow Christ but Horst Wessel,
Away with incense and holy water!

We follow our flags singing,
As worthy sons of our ancestors,
I am no Christian, no Catholic,
I’ll go with the S.A. through thick and thin.

The church can be stolen from me,
The swastika is redemption on earth.
I will follow it step by step,
Baldur von Schirach, take me with you!

We need merely imagine the environment in which such sentiments could be uttered without embarassment.  Such is the power of media control and suppression of any other opinion.

But where does this material come from? 

Among the search results is a court record of the trial at Nuremberg of Baldur von Schirach, the leader of the Hitler Youth.[3]:

Mr. DODD: Refer to p.228 of the daybook.  You will find that a chaplain, Heinrich Muller, and a parish priest, Franz Rummer, were charged because they had discussed in circles of Catholic priests that the Hitler Youth were singing the following song on the Nazi Party Day in 1934: …

Wait until I have finished.

VON SCHIRACH: I haven’t found it yet.

Mr. DODD: It is on p. 228a and b.  My apologies.

Perhaps you will remember the song if I read it to you?  You know the line, “We do not follow Christ, but Horst Wessel”?

VON SCHIRACH: This song I am seeing for the first time, I don’t know it.

Mr. DODD: Well, I won’t read on.  However you note that the last paragraph in the day-book reads: “The attorney-general noted that there could be no question that the poem in question had been sung or circulated in Hitler Youth groups.  He believes, however, that the claim could be denied, that the poem had been sung on the Party Day, under the eyes and with the approval, so to speak, of top party officials.”

VON SCHIRACH: The third verse is “I am not a Christian, not a Catholic, Go with the S.A. through thick and thin.”  This shows that this is not a Youth song.  If the Youth sang this song, I regret it.  On the Nazi Party Day in 1934, as stated here, the song was not sung at a celebration of Youth.

Mr. DODD: OK.

VON SCHIRACH: The combined programme for the Youth event for Party Day I myself have read through.

I don’t know the song: I have never heard it, and I do not even know the lyrics.

Mr. DODD: You’ll notice that the last line is “Baldur von Schirach, take me with you!”  It is above all very surprising to the prosecution to hear that you as Youth leader did not know that significant disputes were taking place during these years between the clergy of all the churches in Germany and the Youth organisation.

We need not bother with Von Schirach’s response.  A man on trial for his life before a tribunal of his enemies will say what he feels that he must, but we need not pay any attention now.  Likewise, immediately before this passage, he attempts to pass off various incidents of anti-clerical abuse, encouraged by the climate of the times, as a popular response to some supposed currency transactions of local priests. 

All this, by the way, with the aid of Google Translate.  I am very impressed with how well it now handles German.

The way that an overpowering cultural force impacts on the church is, sadly, a subject that we in the anglophone world may find it useful to revise.  There is more sustained hostility to Christianity in our days than there has been for centuries, and the manipulation of opinion to “justify” this is everywhere.

  1. [1]Ernst Christian Helmreich, The German Churches under Hitler, 1979, p.267.  Google books snippet here.
  2. [2]Taken from http://www.digitale-schule-bayern.de/dsdaten/434/63.doc, which states that it was sung in the streets of Nuremberg in 1934, and contains a series of extracts from Nazi papers.  A reference for the song is given: Thomas Breuer, Verordneter Wandel? Der Widerstand zwischen nationalsozialistischem Herrschaftsanspruch und traditionaler Lebenswelt im Erzbistum Bamberg [=Obligatory change? The conflict between Nazi rule and traditional life in the archdiocese of Bamburg], Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1990, p. 131.
  3. [3]Friday 24th May, 1946, Online here.

Tufts University: banning Christians is “in keeping with Tufts’ commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus community and to a vibrant spiritual life on campus”

Some time ago I learned that Tufts University in the USA had decided to ban the Christian Union.  The excuses made for such bigotry may amuse the educated reader, but need not concern us.  But today I received an email, under the name of Dr Anthony Monaco, President of the University, of which I give the body here.

I am writing to update you on the status of the recognition of the Tufts Christian Fellowship. The Committee on Student Life has now issued its decision with respect to the derecognition of TCF by the judicial arm of our student government.  A message to the campus community from the Co-Chairs of the Committee on Student Life, announcing the decision, appears below and includes a link to the text of the decision itself.  The Tufts Daily opinion piece by the Committee Co-Chairs further explaining the Committee’s rationale for its decision is now available at http://blogs.tuftsdaily.com/?p=8815/

I believe that the CSL’s thoughtful decision is in keeping with Tufts’ commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus community and to a vibrant spiritual life on campus.

And below is the following, inter alia.  The emphases are mine.

The CSL found that the TCUJ had acted in accordance with available policy, and thus acted appropriately in de-recognizing the TCF. The appeal, however, identified a void in policy which led the CSL to explore the conditions under which Student Religious Groups (SRGs) could select for leadership exemplars of their faith based on characteristics not necessarily shared by all SRG members. The CSL determined that SRGs should be permitted to select leaders based on doctrinal requirements.

In certain cases, criteria for leadership positions may conflict with Tufts University’s nondiscrimination policy. As religion itself is protected under the nondiscrimination policy, conflicts may be unavoidable. The CSL has carefully crafted a policy to support the University’s commitments to safeguarding spiritual life on campus and maintaining an environment that upholds the nondiscrimination policy.

From this point forward, all SRGs must justify on doctrinal grounds any departures from Tufts’ nondiscrimination policy in that their leadership positions require. The University Chaplain will evaluate the justification, and if satisfied that the described criteria for leadership are required by a given religion, will allow the SRG to apply to the TCUJ for recognition.

In evaluating applications for recognition, the TCUJ will ensure that any such approved criteria are explicitly described in easy-to-understand language. This language will be consolidated, summarized, and made available to the community via the University Chaplaincy webpage. The TCF is now welcome to reapply to the TCUJ for recognition in accordance with this new policy.

While the CSL’s jurisdiction extends only to the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, the University’s senior administration will work with the University Chaplain and school leadership to apply this policy University-wide.

In plain language, this seems to mean, “We will require every Christian group to obtain the approval of the chaplaincy before we will consider whether it may be allowed to operate.  And then we’ll see.”  The newly minted policy is here.  Whether it is constitutional might reasonably be enquired.

It looks to my ignorant eyes as if the university intends to keep the Christian Union over the fire for a good long time while various people with no judicial training (the chaplaincy again appears in this role) scrutinise whether or not the Christians might, or might not, be allowed to operate as a university society.

If so, this is a further evil.  Ezra Levant pithy remarked, of the pseudo-legal proceedings to which he was subjected, “the process is the punishment”.  Likewise in Arthur Bryant’s three volume life of Samuel Pepys, he describes how Pepys, facing politically motivated accusations, was kept from reaching trial for term after term by repeated deferrals.  In one case his political opponents joked that they had kept him “by the heels for another term.”

But, as a foreigner, I am mildly baffled.  In the USA there used to be a constitutional principle called freedom of religion.  As far as I remember, it said nothing about requiring the approval of chaplains, or bishops, or licensers.  Indeed I rather thought that it explicitly prohibited the establishment of such things by the state and its organs?

This process of harassment, remember, has been described by the university president as “thoughtful” and “in keeping with Tufts’ commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus community” — hmm — “and to a vibrant spiritual life on campus”.

Quite so!  And my only feeling on reading those words was one of gratitude.  For I am deeply grateful that the task of feeding my family has never placed me in a position where I am obliged to utter Kafkaesque statements like this.

To any free man, the very idea of having his brains strained for conformity to some arbitrary orthodoxy by minor officials is repugnant.  But the phrases chosen may be read two ways.  This is probably not accidental.  Indeed it often happens in unfree societies, where prolixity and obscurity may be the only security of a slave.  On the one hand the words seem very like the evasions practiced by those who know that they are doing wrong and yet are determind to do it anyway.  But possibly they may be the stock phrases uttered by a slave who is trying to do the right thing, and fears a beating.  It is hard to decide which is the case.  And the answer might vary, day by day.

The Christian Union, at any rate, has no security under these arrangements.  That, no doubt, is intentional; to weary, to wear down, to confuse, delay, harass … all the tricks of the persecutor who knows that what he does is wrong and would not be endorsed by society at large, yet is determined to do it anyway.

What is clear is that Tufts University urgently needs reform, and an external commission of inquiry.  In a free country, a confessional university may reasonably require that those who run it share its ethos; and those who attend it at least do not set out to undermine it.  But that is not the case here; the university professes to welcome everyone.  Yet surely, in a free country, no university of this kind paid for by public funds should be permitted to conduct a religious persecution, or to set up a religious inquisition, or to interfere with the enquiry of young minds into every form of normal or mainstream intellectual life and practice?  Any “non-discrimination policy” that ends in banning mainstream Christian groups is a nonsense, and must be abolished.  May I suggest that the withdrawal of funds by the state would probably be the most desirable immediate aim?

We can see in this that some wretched souls at Tufts — possibly including the president and the chaplain — have set out to do harm to God’s people.  In the process they have revealed that only the Christian Union, on the campus, is actually following in the footsteps of He who said that his followers would be hated.[1]  Those who are to say, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, in this corrupt age, will be accused of all sorts of things!

God knows those who set out to do harm, even if we do not.  These people, of course, are about to undergo suffering at the hands of God.  For even the unbeliever has heard of karma.  The more educated know that the measure you give is the measure you get.  We should pray for them, that their suffering will bring them to realise their need for a saviour.

In the mean time, let us give thanks to God that the TCF has been found worthy to suffer for His Name, and that those who hate Him have proclaimed so powerfully at Tufts University their faithfulness.  And let us pray for them, and their national body, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, that God will give them wisdom and grace.

It is, after all, rather a compliment to be endorsed as the only Christian body on site to be faithful to Christ.  For what else, in truth, is alleged against them?!

UPDATE (7/12/12): I see that there is a press-release at the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship site here.

  1. [1]http://bible.cc/john/15-18.htm

Aesopica: the horse and the stag

The Fables of Aesop reach us through many derivative collections, such as those of Phaedrus and Babrius.  To edit a collection of them is no doubt a serious business.  But the fables are not lacking in contemporary relevance.

In Britain the Exclusive Brethren church is being attacked by the Charities Commission, which seems to want to set itself up as arbiter of “allowed” and “not allowed” churches.  The Exclusive Brethren are a reclusive lot, not without some suspicion of being cult-like, and ex-members feel quite a bit of antipathy towards them.  Some of the stories that one may read online are hair-raising.  In consequence there are ex-members who are wildly cheering on the Commission, without considering whether this is in their own interests.  

I do wish that these people — who may well have legitimate grievances — would look at the larger picture.  Their grievances will not be addressed by this method.

I do not believe that this is about the Exclusive Brethren, and still less about those who may have been injured by it.  The Charities Commission does not give a damn about either of them.  All of them, to a London-based organisation, are nobodies.  The Commission does not care whether the Exclusive Brethren is a cult. 

I suspect — I am not alone in so suspecting — that the Commssion chose the organisation, in order to create a precedent, to create case-law.   This precedent would give it very considerable powers, to decide which religious groups would, and would not be allowed to operate without crushing financial penalties.  So it chose a small, not very popular, little known group as the object of its attack.  It may well have hoped that the Brethren would just take it, or be unable to afford lawyers.   

The question we all need to ask here is not whether we like the Brethren.  Rather it is this.  Is it a good idea to create a Soviet-style “Commission for Religious Cults”, with whom churches must register, and who can apply financial penalties if it chooses?  Few of us would think so.  That is the issue before us.

This all reminded me of a fable, which, after some hunting around I found.  Interestingly there is a retelling of it by Isaac Asimov, which I will give first.

 A horse having a wolf as a powerful and dangerous enemy lived in constant fear of his life. Being driven to desperation, it occured to him to seek a strong ally. Whereupon he approached a man, and offered an alliance, pointing out that the wolf was likewise an enemy of the man. The man accepted the partnership at once and offered to kill the wolf immediately, if his new partner would only co-operate by placing his greater speed at the man’s disposal. The horse ws willing, and allowed the man to place bridle and saddle upon him. The man mounted, hunted down the wolf, and killed him.

The horse, joyful and relieved, thanked the man, and said: ‘Now that our enemy is dead, remove your bridle and saddle and restore my freedom.’

Whereupon the man laughed loudly and replied, ‘The hell you say. Giddy-ap, Dobbin,’ and applied the spurs with a will.[1]

The ex-members are the horse; the wolf is the Brethren; and the man is the Charities Commission.

Searching for this, I came across a website dedicated to the Aesopica, run by Laura Gibbs who published a translation.  It’s rather wonderful!  It includes the Greek and Latin.  Here is Gibb’s translation of the original:

47. THE STAG, THE HORSE AND THE MAN

Perry 269 (Aristotle, Rhetoric 1393b)

There was a horse who was the sole owner of a meadow. Then a stag came and wreaked havoc in the meadow. The horse wanted to get revenge, so he asked a certain man if he would help him carry out a vendetta against the stag. The man agreed, provided that the horse took the bit in his mouth so that the man could ride him, wielding his javelin. The horse consented, and the man climbed on his back but instead of getting his revenge, the horse simply became a slave to the man.

Note: In some versions of this story, it is a boar, not a stag, who provokes the horse’s reckless anger (e.g., Phaedrus 4.4). There is an interesting version of this story in a fragment of the Greek historian Conon (cited in van Dijk 7T3), and the fable is also found in Horace, Epistles 1.10.34 ff.[2]

 The Greek text of Chambray’s edition is also online here.  Gibbs adds:

Chambry published a multivolume edition of the fables for the Belles Lettres series in 1925/6 (Paris). He later revised this into a single volume, omitting hundreds of the fable variants. In addition, the numeration between these two volumes is not consistent. The texts here are taken from the 1925/6 edition, but the numeration follows the stanard single volume edition.

Like most people, I have only a hazy idea of the transmission of the Fables.  But how very, very useful to have a reliable source online!

UPDATE: The Chambry text seems to be entitled Fabulae recensuit Aemilius Chambry.

  1. [1]Isaac Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy, part III, chapter 8.
  2. [2]Aesop’s Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World’s Classics): Oxford, 2002. http://www.mythfolklore.net/aesopica/oxford/47.htm

Plymouth Brethren banned in Britain

Or they might as well be, if their members have to pay 33% tax on every penny they donate, and the church then has to hand over 20% of all donations to the state.

From the Daily Mail:

MPs are demanding an inquiry into the Charity  Commission after the watchdog banned a Christian group from charitable status on  the grounds that religion is not always for ‘public benefit’.

More than 50 MPs from all the main parties  have signed a Commons motion calling on the charity regulator to think again,  amid fears that hundreds of religious groups could be stripped of their  tax-exempt status, threatening their very existence.

They accuse the Charity Commission of ‘politically correct bias’ against faith groups after it ruled that the Preston  Down Trust of the Plymouth Brethren Church – which has 16,000 members across  Britain – is not entitled to charitable status because it does not do enough  good works in the community.

MPs say the ruling is ‘outrageous’ because it  ignored the way the group, which has enjoyed charitable status for 50 years,  runs soup kitchens for the poor and hospital visits for the sick.

Tory MP Robert Halfon said: ‘There is  something rotten in the Charity Commission. I cannot understand why the  Brethren, good people who do so much in their communities, have been singled  out.

‘I believe an inquiry is needed into the role  of the Charity Commission, to consider how it came to make the decision. What  has happened is unjust and is creating fear in many churches across the  country.’

In a ruling that sent shockwaves through even  the established church, the Charity Commission ruled that its decision ‘makes it  clear that there was no presumption that religion generally, or at any more  specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or  the Church of England’.

It’s great news!  Yes, the establishment has rediscovered the Test Act and the Act of Uniformity!!!!

I was so missing the days when the state decided which religions were “authorised” and “not authorised”.  We got rid of that around 1850.  Now, at last, once again we can sneer at people as “dissenters” and subject them to discriminatory taxes and legal penalties.

And that should show these dissenters which way their bread is buttered.  After all, if they aren’t a charity, they will have to pay 20% corporation tax on all donations.  David Cameron will take 20% of every church collection.  And …. those donations won’t be eligible for gift aid either.  So church members will have to pay 33% tax on every penny they donate, and then the church will have to pay 20% of whatever pennies they receive.  That’s teach them not to conform, the vile dissenting creeps!  Hang them!  Burn them!

Cracking!

More seriously, this is evil news.  It has been a long, long time since we have had state servants operating a system of “approved” and “unapproved” churches, with legal penalties and discrimination against the latter.  Abolishing all that sort of thing in the mid-19th century allowed half of England back into public life.

This is, of course, a political case.  The Charities Commission — whoever that is — made their decision based on political grounds.  The political left has a deep hatred for Christianity.  The Exclusive Brethren look like a small, powerless group, unlikely to have friends at London dinner parties.  No doubt the inquisitors decided that they looked like suitably helpless victims.

The Charities Commission used to be an innocuous group.  But there is very little practical difference between banning an organisation which relies on donations, and levying on it the brutal taxation to which small businesses in Britain (but not big ones like Vodaphone, Google, Starbucks, and so on) are subjected.  Indeed that is rather the point; to persecute while disclaiming the name, to harass while claiming to be impartial.

I am not a member of the Brethren, about whom I know little.  But I do know that they are a small and harmless group who cause no-one any trouble and who have been quietly doing their own thing for decades.  Only a complete shit would decide to attack them.

Evil days indeed, these.

UPDATE:  The New American also reports on this.

Two members of Parliament have defended the Brethren. The first is Charlie Elphicke, who called the attack on the church “anti-religion,” LifeSiteNews reported. Elphicke, a member of the committee that uncovered the letter from the commission, told members of the Brethren that the charity bureaucrats “are committed to the suppression of religion and you are the little guys being picked on to start off a whole series of other churches who will follow you there.”

Another member of parliament, conservative Bernard Jenkin, explained a larger purpose in the government’s attack on the Brethren, said LifeSite:

“The Commission seems to be using the group as a test case to establish the meaning of the public benefit requirement in charity law,” he said.

“Picking a relatively vulnerable organisation and putting you through huge time and expense is a rotten way to decide what charity law means,” Jenkin said.

Indeed.

There is a useful article at the Third Sector site here.

British MP attacks Charity Commission attempt to tax the Brethren

Good news.  British MP Douglas Carswell today writes how absurd it is that a modern quango is involving itself in deciding which religious groups are allowed to be charities, and which must be taxed:

Religious freedom means – amongst other things – allowing practitioners of a faith to decide for themselves who is, and who is not, part of their denomination. In other words, they can be as exclusive as they like.

The Charity Commission is imposing a state dogma of uber inclusivity on to a religious group that chooses to be moderately exclusive. Not very Big Society, is it?

Once again, when state officials make a decision on what constitutes public interest or benefit, actual members of the public – such as those Brethren who live in my part of Essex – have no say.  If the Brethren fail to tick all the Charity Commission’s boxes, change the Commission and their boxes.  

Instead of replacing one quango chief with another, we need to overturn the dogma that says it is any business of state officials to be sitting in judgement of faith groups in this way in the first place.

I wrote about this story here.  It is good to see that mainstream conservatives have no desire to engage in this 17th century business.

Let us praise God for the persecution of Christians on campus

I’ve mentioned a number of cases where Christian groups are being banned by universities on one pretext or another.  Of course, in a secular way, such persecution is disgusting.

But if we look at it from the perspective of eternity, it looks very different.

God is allowing these hateful and malicious persons to reveal themselves.  He is allowing them to target the real Christians on campus.  And He is allowing them to say, thereby, “These are the real Christians, the ones whom the world hates.  These are the ones who are despised, who won’t conform, who we fear and hate.”  He is making the world proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

Most universities have a range of groups onsite which call themselves Christian.  These range from chaplaincy groups, to denominational societies, down to groups of unbelievers with a religious bent.  Quite often, the unbelievers point to these, and ask rhetorically, “why do you think you’re special?”

But now God has allowed a persecution to take place.  And … some are found worthy, and some are not.  And the judgement is proclaimed on university noticeboards, and in the press.

Praise God that Exeter University Christian Union was found worthy a couple of years ago.  And that the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Tufts University has been found worthy as well.

Always good to see God vindicating his name!

British Government to take 20% of church collections in tax

A story has surfaced (via eChurch blog) that some small Brethren churches were being “denied charitable status” on the grounds that the “2006 Act removed the presumption of public benefit from certain classes of charity including religious charities”.  Another small church is having its charitable status “revoked”.  But this rather hides what is happening here.

This means that these churches will now be treated as businesses for tax purposes.  This in turn means that their income will be subject to corporation tax at 20%.  It means that David Cameron will be taking one pound out of every five from the collection plate of these tiny west-country churches.

That’s quite a proposal.  It has, as far as I can tell, attracted little press comment.

Julian Brazier MP comments here:

In particular, they feel that the Commission’s decision runs counter to the assurances given by both Government Ministers and the Commission itself, that established religions should not find themselves denied charitable status as a result of the provisions of the 2006 Act.

Some of us knew what would happen, even then.  This Is Cornwall comments:

The Westcountry branch of   an evangelical Christian movement is to become a test case for legislation which could strip thousands of religious groups of their charitable status.

Preston Down Trust, which runs meeting halls for the   non-conformist Exclusive Brethren in Torquay, Paignton and Newton Abbot, is fighting exclusion under the Charities Act. …

Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, said it was “alarming” the commission was “getting involved in assessing whether they like a particular religious belief, whether they think it has a benefit or disbenefit”.

The Charities Commission has cynically “welcomed” the “chance to clarify the law” by putting this tiny and harmless group through the misery of a drawn-out court case.

Another report is here.

UK: Brethren church refused charitable status

A group of Exclusive Brethren churches in the UK have been refused charitable status.  From here:

A Brethren church has been denied charitable status, in a move which  some claim could lead other Christian groups into difficulties….

This is the first time that charitable status has been refused to a religious group, since changes were made, requiring applicants to demonstrate the ‘public benefit’ of their work.

The introduction of the Charities Act 2006, means that the advancement of religion alone is not enough to make an organisation eligible for charitable status.

Because of the relatively closed and exclusive nature of the Brethren churches, it may be difficult to demonstrate this. …

Preston Downs is not alone in the struggle, it’s appeal has been lodged alongside one by the trustees of the Horsforth Gospel Hall Trust, a Leeds-based Brethren group that was granted charitable status in 1988.

The Commission spokeswoman explained: … “The 2006 Act removed the presumption of public benefit from certain classes of charity including religious charities.

All of this arises from a piece of spite by the then government.  The charities legislation was amended, and a new chairperson installed at the Charities Commission.  The object was nothing to do with benefiting the public, but as a means to attack the public schools, such as Eton and Harrow, which are all charities.  It is expensive to educate your children privately; the idea was to make it even more expensive by levying tax on them, thereby forcing many to close and restricting access only to the very wealthy, or, at the very least, subjecting them to endless harassment under pretext of “investigation”.  The law was made very complex, which of course placed power in the hands of the Charities Commission to allow or withhold at a whim.   Instead of some simple categories of activity, a body disfavoured by the establishment might find itself obliged to “prove” that it did things that the establishment agreed with.

It was always clear to me that this tool would be used, sooner or later, against the churches.  It looks as if some minor bureaucrat has initiated the purge.  Forcing these tiny churches to pay 20% tax on everything they collect would force them to cease to exist.  The churches could not own their own buildings; would be forced to disincorporate, to find ways and loopholes simply to exist.  Just imagine the “inspections” by tax officials, to “make sure the correct amount of tax is being paid”, etc!  Just imagine the council officials, “questioning” the use of the building, whether it conforms to planning laws since it can’t be a church, yet worship is going on!

We’re squarely in religious persecution territory here.  Some may feel this is exaggerated language.  No-one is being killed.

But I would suggest that anyone so inclined read into descriptions of what it was like to be a Christian in the old USSR.  The creation of an environment deliberately designed to harass believers at every turn is exactly what Stalin did.  If that works, by itself, you don’t need to apply the harsher methods of arrests, beatings and executions.

Every persecutor, from Julian the Apostate down, has adopted this method.  It’s much harder to battle against, and it allows the persecutor to claim that no persecution is going on.  This in turn makes it harder for confessors to rally against the attack.  The seeming vagueness is itself a designed technique for persecution.

In this case matters will probably work out.  There is no longer a Labour government in power, determined to attack those it hates by any means possible.  The current government has no views on this; the Charities Commission has gone very quiet since the fall of the Labour government; and no-one has any special interest in these particular churches.  There will be an “appeal” — no doubt this will cost the churches in lawyers’ fees — and a ruling permitting, in this case, the churches to register will be given.

But the principle has been set; that churches may be slapped with a tax of 20%, depending on the favour of officials.  Such a situation has not prevailed in Britain since the middle of the 19th century, when the laws creating religious discrimination were abolished.

It is an evil day.  Shame on Britain, for allowing this.

Dishonesty at the BBC – as usual

Over the last year or two I have noticed some curious reporting on the BBC website and Ceefax.  Whenever there are violent attacks on Christians around the world, the story is often titled “Clashes between Christians and <whoever>”.  It’s usually Moslem attacks on Christians, of course.

They did it again on Wednesday.

At least 16 people have been wounded after Muslims attacked a church and Christian homes in a village near the Egyptian capital, Cairo, officials say.

And how was it titled?  Yup:

Coptic-Muslim clashes erupt in Egypt

The article tries to create a false equivalence to back this up.  We are solemnly told that, four days earlier, some Moslem was complaining a Copt burned his shirt while ironing, and a punch-up ensued, in which firebombs were traded to and fro and a Moslem died.  But the BBC didn’t report that.  And even the BBC can’t conceal the one-sidedness of the “clashes”.

Last October, a suicide attack on a church in Alexandria killed 24 people.

Police in Dahshur early on [the previous] Wednesday fired teargas to stop a Muslim mob from setting fire to a church, but the rioters instead torched several Christian properties and three police cars, officials said.

Ten policemen were among the 16 injured, according to the authorities.

The office of the local Coptic archbishop of Giza said the entire Christian population of Dahshur had now fled, according to the Associated Press.

Doubtless the BBC would head that last detail “Moslems and Christians flee violence.”

I prefer honest information, myself.

Christians in an increasingly hostile society

Via the Trevin Wax blog, I learn of this article by Michael Bird:

As we construct a Christian response to gay marriage, the evangelical and apostolic churches (not the liberals churches who are little more than chaplains for Nero) need to do from an ecclesiology of exile, not from an ecclesiology of christendom. We are on the periphery of society, not in its privileged position. We do it recognizing we are the outsiders, we not the respected authority we once were.

It tends, fittingly, with a long and very relevant quotation from the Epistle of Barnabas.