On Sunday August 16th, the BBC Songs of Praise programme will be broadcasting a segment from the refugee camp at Calais, (known as ‘the Jungle’), with presenter Sally Magnusson joining Christian refugees in their makeshift church as they worship, looking at their life as Christians in the camp.
Songs of Praise – that bastion of white middle class comfortable Christianity – is essentially simply following its brief. It brings hymns and worship music from various churches and Christian music artists, as well as magazine style segments that cover ‘topical’ issues. A bit ‘One Show’ with worship music if you like that sort of thing.
The spitting, furious, bile-drenched, vitriolic racist outrage from the Daily Mail and Daily Express was, in a sense, predictable: ‘refugees to be portrayed as human beings’ is never going to sit well with a newspaper that thinks God would shut the gates of heaven to refugees and employ truncheon wielding angels to try and stop them storming the Kingdom. This is not a paper that wants us to see refugees as human, or one that wants comfortable slipper-and-pipe middle class Christian institutions like Songs of Praise acting like spending time with the oppressed and the outcast is a part of the faith they would rather maintain for the benefit of upstanding white men and women up and down this great nation of ours.
But whether the right wing press, the rag tag of outraged UKIP-ers or the little Englanders who have howled with fury that a Christian programme should do as Jesus did, like it or not – that is exactly what Christians are supposed to do.
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have uttered falsehood and envisioned lies, I am against you, says the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations; they shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord God. Because, in truth, because they have misled my people, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace; and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear whitewash on it. Say to those who smear whitewash on it that it shall fall. There will be a deluge of rain, great hailstones will fall, and a stormy wind will break out. 12 When the wall falls, will it not be said to you, “Where is the whitewash you smeared on it?” Ezekiel 13