Why the UKIP vote matters
by- 21st May 2014
Tomorrow we in the UK vote.
And for many it will be a vote about one thing: immigration. Or Europe, but that’s the same thing.
From where I’m standing, the people are revolting. On the street, they are fed up with being humiliated by laws they did not pass made by people who do not live here that drive a wedge between us and our own common sense on things like extradition, employment, and equality.
And that’s just my Algerian cleaner.
Thousands of Somalis, Poles and Russian-speaking Eastern Europeans have settled where I live in north Haringey in the last ten years, joining thousands of Turks, Cypriots, and Kurds from previous migrations.
You cannot buy English food in the corner shops any longer or understand what’s written on the stuff that is for sale – it’s all in Polish. And you cannot ask the shopkeepers who are Afghan and don’t understand Polish - or you - either. Well it makes for merriment, and an adventurous palate . . .
But now so many recent comers have failed to find work that all the local churches are running food banks for them.
The alleys where children skip with their parents to school are littered with Polish beer cans.
Not just the odd one, but small mountains of them piling up over the railway fence.
And the same alley literally runs with urine during the day because there are no public loos at all round here and what else are they supposed to do?
Much like British football tourists visiting Poland, I was told tartly last week by a Polish Monsignor on a bus tour of Corinth.
Indeed. But that doesn’t disguise the fact that something has gone awry.
When one country has to host another country’s unemployed without jobs enough of its own, and without anything at all being done to encourage assimilation, something’s wrong.
Why do the local councils not organise ‘hospitality points’, or welcome packs for those of us who would like to offer it?
Why are there not portakabin loos erected, if we are to anticipate a lot of unemployment until such time as jobs are found - or created?
Consternation is mounting.
Even our gay community mobiliser whose partner is Eastern European is voting UKIP tomorrow!
But as a Christian I struggle. My best friend is Polish. My hair-dresser for the past ten years is Latvian and flies in from Riga for his 100 clients.
My church congregation is multi-cultural. At a recent house group, the women round the kitchen table with me were Kenyan, Indian, Israeli, Anglo-Indian, Rumanian, and Brazilian: a fantastic foretaste of the Kingdom when people from every tribe and tongue and nation shall be safely gathered in, according to the vision in the final book, Revelation.
For this reason, and because the Old Testament bids us ‘love the alien’, churches have been at the forefront of advocacy for asylum seekers, emergency provision for migrants, and advocates of immigration as a good in itself.
Assimilation means joining in, and the churches are geared to foster it.
And that’s what’s at the root of where it all goes wrong, because the nation as a whole couldn’t care less.
Live and let live is fine unless it’s no better than indifference.
When the churches do not balance their enthusiasm with other biblical principles about boundaries, provision and incentives, no one else will give a lead that counts with ordinary people.
There are biblical conditions on immigration, and there certainly are very careful principles for organising it to preserve well-being, order and identity.
And until the churches stop biblical proof-texting, often for political reasons, or just in ignorance, and start reading the whole text, they will remain a significant moral force against solutions.
And that will exacerbate the pressure that’s rising from the streets from agitators who will continue to find there the fuel they seek. Just calling this ‘racism’ is beside the point.
A detailed piece of research by the noted academic lawyer Dr Jonathan Burnside in 2001 is only just surfacing – at a conference at Campion Hall, Oxford last week, and simultaneously at the Hope for Europe Conference at Athens – by coincidence.
The Status of Welfare of Immigrants published by Jubilee Centre, is a study of types of ‘foreigner’ – gerim and nokrim – in ancient Israel, and how they should be treated. Israel distinguished those who were needy and wanted to assimilate but keep their ethnic identity, from non-assimilating ger who had settled in the community but who chose to retain an independent sense of identity. These in turn were distinguished from the ezrach or native Israelites, and the nokrim – strangers or true foreigners who lived in their own country outside the land of Israel and who were the only ones subject to bans on things like eligibility to kingship, and access to assembly and sacred space. All foreigners were to be treated not just fairly in terms of employment, and the courts, but ‘with the kindness appropriate to dependants’. This included the well-known injuction to ‘love the alien for you were aliens in Egypt’. But there was a sense of danger too, based on history, which underpinned the distinctions.
Crucially however, the limits of assimilation, which had to do with the Israelite sense of a bond from past history, were held together within a context of that sense of nationhood which was God’s gift and part of God’s purpose. Paul, himself a foreigner addressing the Athenians at the temple of the god of war, Areopagus, said: ‘From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the boundaries where they should live. (Acts 17:26).
Says Dr Burnside: ‘Nationhood is a relational issue because it is an essential part of individual identity and communal human living. The positive view of nationhood in the Bible is consistent with the positive attitude taken in Biblical law towards assimilating foreigners’.
Nationhood is more than ethnicity. The building blocks were and are land, language and families, and only from within a securely defined sense of these things could an invitation to assimilate be offered.
All have been dangerously eroded in present day Britain.
On the basis of this, he concludes with three strong recommendations which might all inform our voting tomorrow:
‘First, we must retain a strong sense of national identity.
‘Second, migrants should decide for themselves whether they wish to assimilate or not. This is a choice that can only be made by them. However, voluntary assimilation may be encouraged by offering incentives to those who wish to assimilate and withholding incentives from those who do not wish to assimilate.
‘Third, this should be combined with the need for protection and fair treatment of all migrants, regardless of whether they choose to assimilate or not.’ (Think portaloos …)
UKIP may have its day not just tomorrow but in future unless the churches take a more nuanced – and biblical – view.
With Europe’s encroachments in mind perhaps, Dr Burnside cautions: ‘A watchful eye should be kept on attempts to abolish the constituent elements of nationhood and international trends that deplore or weaken national awareness.’