The Narrow Way

This post is going to be a bit political. But actually, that’s okay… Jesus was political. It’s partly what got him killed.

This morning, the newspapers here are full of outrage over the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter Day sermon, in which he ‘intervened’ in the growing row over Priti Patel’s plan to send single male asylum seekers to Rwanda for ‘processing’… A ‘process’ which, it seems to me, is a blatant attempt to ‘offload’ the problem onto a struggling third-world country - there’s no plan, apparently, to allow any men whose applications ’succeed’ to return to the UK. The plan is probably illegal anyway, and is certain to result in huge legal costs… Overall, it’s an ideological ‘stunt’ - and likely to cost far more than simply allowing the men to apply for asylum and settle here if their applications succeed.

Anyway, returning to the point I want to make. The headlines are quite vicious.

‘Outcry at Welby’s Attack on ‘Ungodly’ Asylum Plan’ screams the Daily Mail.

‘MPs Attack Welby Rant’ takes up most of the Daily Mirror’s front page.

‘Patel hits out at Welby in Rwanda migrant row’ says The Times, in more restrained fashion.

The Daily Telegraph also strikes a more temperate, but still highly critical, tone: ‘Welby moralising criticised’.

Whenever archbishops - and other religious leaders - ‘join in’ with politics, pointing out the inhumanity and indeed iniquity of some government policies, there is always a backlash - a sort of ‘isn’t it awful when these religious people interfere; they should stick to what they know’ tone is adopted.

What the writers don’t realise, or choose to ignore, is that it is simply the continuation of a long ‘tradition’ of speaking truth to power. It’s what Jesus did - and it was probably partly responsible for His execution. The Romans wouldn’t have put Him on trial and executed Him if they hadn’t seen Him as a threat to public order… Yes, the charges were ‘trumped up’ by the Jewish religious leaders, but the threat of civil unrest seemed all too real to the Romans - His execution was therefore expedient.

I see echoes of this attitude in the strident headlines over the Archbishop’s sermon. Happily, we don’t seem to crucify people in this country, but the headlines don’t suggest that the authorities’ attitude towards dissent is really any better.

I’m sure the government would far rather have an archbishop like Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, marching in lockstep with his political masters, encouraging their blatant aggression against Ukraine.

Of the two men, I think it’s obvious which one who has understood, and decided to follow, Jesus’ example. The other has, as the church has far too often done down the centuries, sided with the ‘right-handed’ power of the state, instead of following the narrow way of following Christ whatever the cost.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022