The Rev’d Jarel Robinson-Brown is a curate in London. He sets out his biography (and presumably mission priorities [“Black Prophetic Fire”]) on his Twitter account: “Human | Cleric | Writer | Aspiring-Scholar in Late Antiquity ~//Justice, Freedom, Liberation, Equality: By Any Means Necessary//~ Psalm 27:4.” It seems that “Any Means Necessary” extends to the tin-eared crassness of condemning a heartfelt tribute to a national hero as “a cult of White British Nationalism”.
Nobody had heard of Captain Tom Moore when he was 99, but his death at the age of 100 has been marked with tributes from the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the President of the United States, among many, many others. And all because he set out to raise £1000 for the NHS during the Covid crisis by painstakingly pacing up and down his garden with the aid of a walking frame. In the event, he went on to raise almost £32million for the NHS and inspire a nation (and, indeed, the world), for which he was duly knighted. A national round of applause seemed a fitting tribute – for those who could be bothered.
The Rev’d Jarel Robinson-Brown not only couldn’t be bothered; he felt the need to broadcast his condemnation of “The cult of Captain Tom” as “a cult of White British Nationalism” to the whole country. He could have decided not to participate quietly in his heart, out of respect for a mourning family, and out of sensitivity for those who grew to love the man known as Captain Tom. But that “Black Prophetic Fire” sensed an opportunity to attack whiteness and all its evils, so he published his tweet, and the backlash began.
Somebody must have had a word:
But Twitter speaks what the heart is full of. It is one thing to apologise for “insensitive timing” and the “content of my tweet”; it is quite another to repent of a judgmental attitude of mind and heart. The “Black Prophetic Fire” of Black Lives Matter (with raised fist) is uncompromising: his mission is righteous; the Spirit of the Lord is upon him; he has been anointed to proclaim a stern message to white people and freedom for black people, because their lives matter.
Presumably, the Rev’d Jarel Robinson-Brown still believes that the nation paying tribute to a man who raised £32million for the NHS is “a cult of White British Nationalism”. Presumably, then, any of those who worship at All Hallows By the Tower (where has been appointed curate) and who happen to believe that Captain Sir Tom Moore is a national hero, are part of this cult, and the Rev’d Jarel Robinson-Brown is sneering at their ignorant nationalism and spiritual ignorance.
One wonders what the Curate thinks when the Bishop of London stands at the Cenotaph on a cold November day every year to honour our war dead. Does he think Remembrance Sunday is a projection or reflection of “a cult of White British Nationalism”? Or is it not so because there are a few black faces? If Captain Tom had been a person of colour, would a national tribute have been more acceptable to the Rev’d Jarel Robinson-Brown? If so, doesn’t that make him rather.. um.. racist?
Does he think, perhaps, that he might try to squeeze Jesus into “Justice, Freedom, Liberation, Equality”? Humility isn’t the broadcasting of becoming a signatory to the Church of England’s Digital Charter; it is a Christian virtue which is grounded in an understanding of the nature of God. It is about becoming less, so Christ may become more; it is about emptying oneself of personal prejudices and harsh judgments and respecting the freedom of people to respond or not as they choose.
Captain Sir Tom Moore was made in the image of God, and his good works were undoubtedly God-centred: healing the sick, comforting the bereaved, and weeping with those who weep. Commemorating the inspiration of his life (or the last year of his life) isn’t so much part of “a cult of White British Nationalism”, but a national desire for the love of secular saints; a yearning for transformation of the ravages of a global pandemic; a hope for communion with a divine sense of power which, God knows, the Church of England doesn’t seem overly bothered to express.