St John’s is a thriving Scottish Episcopal church at the heart of Scotland’s beautiful capital city. Here we aim to express love for God and neighbour in all that we do. And to help people discover for themselves the significance of Jesus Christ. You would be very welcome to join us for worship at one of our Sunday services…
So reads the website of the Church of St John the Evangelist on Princes Street, Edinburgh. They clearly love their neighbour, which is manifest in all that they do, so they say. With the possible exception of their mission mural, which isn’t very loving to Nigel Farage, who is, apparently, just three evolutionary strides from Adolf Hitler, sharing political DNA with the Blackshirt fascist Oswald Mosley and BNP neo-fascist Nick Griffin. Such people aren’t worthy of any expression of the love for God, because.. well, they’re just not very neighbourly. And so this Scottish Episcopal church isn’t going to be very neighbourly back to any Ukip supporters, because Jesus only told us to love our enemies: He never said anything about the far right.
And ‘far right’ is precisely the message this church seeks to convey with this crass wall art, which is one of a series of “thought-provoking murals” which form part of its justice-and-peace mission. Apparently, St John’s is “widely known” for this creative initiative. The Rector Markus Dünzkofer said: “We really wanted to make people engage and think and reanalyze.” United with his Associate Rector, the church’s mission is defined: “It is sometimes necessary to raise questions, which some people may find uncomfortable, though it is never our intention to cause offence.”
Funny, isn’t it, that none of their murals seem to have a dig at Labour, the SNP or any on the left of the political spectrum, which apparently has no extremists. The only missiological questions that it is necessary to raise are those concerned with the ‘far right’, and the evolutionary evidence is apparently overwhelming that Hitler leads to Farage; from Nazism we derive Ukip; the darkness of the Holocaust results in the desire for controlled immigration.
“Advent is all about light and darkness and I think there’s a lot of darkness and fear around immigration in this country and there some people who are using that fear to not bring in any light but to put in more darkness,” explains the Rector.
But it is curious that the primordial fascist is German, and he evolves into three Britons, or, to be more precise, three Englishmen. The Church of St John the Evangelist wouldn’t be spreading a bit of darkness and fear among Scots about the English, would it? “As we move closer to the referendum, how will we encounter fellow citizens, with whom we disagree and how will we continue to love if the referendum does not go our way?” asked the Rector a few weeks before the referendum on Scottish independence. He might well reflect upon how he encounters Ukip-ers – with whom he plainly disagrees – and how he expresses his love for them if their identity is scrambled with that of Adolf Hitler.
It is telling that the mural does not unfold from Germany’s Nazism to Austria’s Freedom Party, France’s Front National, Greece’s Golden Dawn or Belgium’s Vlaams Blok. Nor does it (more rationally) develop from German Nazism to ISIS Jihadism. No, the church conveys that political ideology moves from slaughtering six million Jews in concentration camps to the control of EU immigration in Britain. The inference is that systematic genocide leads to the scapegoating of minorities. Or is it the other way round?
Quite why the Church of St John the Evangelist insults the sacred memory of six million Jews by juxtaposing their harrowing fate with Ukip’s plans for EU migrants is unknown. Unlike genocide, nationalism and racism, the phenomenon of controlled immigration is neither un-Christian nor un-biblical. You really have to strain at scriptural exegesis to make it so. Indeed, controlled immigration is entirely biblically rational, for God conceived the nations, created ethnic diversity and developed native identity. And He desires communal harmony and civil peace. Politicians who advance policies which foment discord and division, or which lead to violence, terrorism or injustice, are not acting righteously.
Ukip is not the English Defence League. Its supporters are not a ‘counter-jihad’ movement or a paramilitary nationalist outfit in pursuit of imperial supremacy. They are not fascists or third-millenium neo-fascists, though some of them may be. But there are anti-democrats in all the main political parties, and you’ll find in them the desire to marginalise certain minority groups, as well. If it’s not Muslims and gays, it’ll be Christians, Jews or Eurosceptics. Why is the only illiberal radicalism to be challenged that which gives rise to what is termed the ‘far right’?
The Church of St John the Evangelist has succeeded in raising uncomfortable questions, but it has palpably failed in its stated intention not to cause offence. In seeking to draw on the Nazi lesson of history, they have ventured to suggest that the desire for UK secession from the EU is extremist, if not fascist; that the recession and austerity which gave rise to the German nationalism of the 1930s is akin to the political cynicism which has yielded a surge in support for Ukip.
It is missiologically insupportable that this church or any church should conflate warmongering and genocide with the peaceful and democratic pursuit of national sovereignty. How does this lead to salvation? How does it exalt the name of Jesus? It is provocative but quite perverse that they find a political thread weaving Hitler’s brutal tyranny to Farage’s concept of liberty, as though their souls were fused and their sins comparably unforgivable. If Markus Dünzkofer wants to find vulgar generic political similarities and kick around slippery historical parallels, he might prayerfully consider that the Nazis had a plan for an empire – a Reich – of one people organised under a single economic order living under one law ruled by one president: Hitler’s ultimate political objective was the destruction of the nation state and the establishment of a United States of Europe. There’s a more credible evolutionary thread to be found weaving Munich to Masstricht than any ideological interconnection between Adolf Hitler and Nigel Farage.