King's Evangelical Divinity School

27 December 2011

Former Tory Leader's Son on Anglican Anti-Semitism

Today Nick Howard, son of the former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, has published a lengthy article on a well-known political website severely criticising anti-Semitism in the Anglican Church. The essay is noteworthy for several reasons.

First, it demonstrates how the Middle East situation continues to be propelled up the religio-political ladder. Seen as a fringe theological issue several decades ago, Christian responses to Israel, the Arabs, Islam and Middle East Christianity are increasingly a key issue for believers today. That it emerges at a time when Evangelicals are firmly ditching private faith in favour of engaging with the public square is no coincidence. Thus, Christians who fail to search their Scriptures and engage theologically with this issue, preferring instead to bury their heads in the sand, are in danger of appearing irrelevant when it comes to one of the big issues of the day.

Howard's essay also suggests some Anglicans have not capitulated to the anti-Israel narrative so embraced by some of the Church of England's elites. If in doubt, visit the Anglican Friends of Israel website or the Archbishop Cranmer blog, one of the best known political blogs in the UK. (Indeed, within Catholicism, not noted for its longstanding historical sympathy towards the Jewish people, there's even a Catholics for Israel group.) I've met lots of Anglicans who are deeply uneasy by some of their fellow Anglicans' intense dislike of Israel.

All this raises another issue, namely, how anti-Israel public proclamations by Christian elites are not necessarily echoed by grassroots believers within the same circles or organisations. Consider, for example, the many anti-Israel and Palestinian nationalist declarations emanating from within a particular segment of Palestinian Christianity. Such statements, signed by leading Palestinian clerics, are often light years away from the views of many everyday Arab believers who express theological views about Israel and the Jews quite at odds with those of their leaders. Indeed, some Palestinian believers I've interviewed express considerable frustration at how their everyday spiritual and pastoral needs are ignored or downplayed by their leaders who are more interested in playing politics, or else demonstrating to the Palestinian Authority that they're good nationalists.

Such proponents of Palestinian liberation theology do well to note the failure of another form of liberation theology, in Latin America (where the movement originated). It also quickly became a vehicle for elites to express religio-political ideology rather than ameliorating the very constituency - the poor - they originally professed to champion. Thus, as Latin American liberation theology became the  preserve of anti-establishment academics and revolutionary priests set on ideological and class warfare who claimed to opt for the poor, the poor looked elsewhere for spiritual and material succour. As one observer famously stated,  "While liberation theology opted for the poor, the poor opted for Pentecostalism".

But perhaps the most significant aspect of this article is how it demonstrates just how serious the whole issue is becoming for the Church. Note this is not your everyday blogosphere tittle-tattle, but instead a rather well-known Christian making some very serious accusations of fellow Christians. It's certainly far from the typically wishy-washy language we've come to expect from the Anglican establishment (which the author seems to acknowledge early on in the essay), and as such it absolutely demands careful consideration and further research to determine its veracity. It is incredible that given the horrors of the Holocaust which took place just a few years ago we're still talking today about the existence of anti-Semitism in the Church.


Anonymous said...

Give us a break. Michael Howard is not a Christian and I very much doubt his son Nick to be other than a sayanim within the CoE, something like Giles Fraser. No single decent Christian with an iota of adherence to the Faith can possibly support the modern day Pharisees who are waging a war against Christianity.

Nev said...

Who was the famous author you quoted on the failings of Liberation Theology please?

Andrew Sibley said...

My thoughts for what they are worth. Resorting to language like 'racist' or 'anti-semitism' simply for questioning the political or spiritual legitimacy of the State of Israel is not really helpful, anymore than using the word heresy to describe Christian Zionism helps Christian Zionists see they are reading Scripture wrongly.

The evidence presented in the article looks like an attempt to throw mud in the hope that some will stick. There is also a logical fallacy in the form of a non-sequitor here. Being opposed to the political State of Israel because of its policies doesn't mean one hates Jews.

The sort of attitiude expressed in the article also risks leading to a situation where legitimate Christian expression is silenced, particuarly in terms of loss of our Christian freedom to present our faith, and the freedom to develop theology. For instance, so called anti-hate legislation is being used to silence Christians from expressing their doctrines in some areas (i.e. sexual ethics) even in a calm and rational manner. When fear is used to silence critics we may wonder what is lost in terms of truth and love.

One may also ask about links with some in the Conservative Party here and known work (i.e.Fox-Werrity affair) to support the State of Israel.

Anonymous said...

another anonymous

Anonymous you miss the point, no one is claiming Michael Howard, least of all Michael Howard and not Calvin either. His son Nick however, most certainly is a fine evangelical having worked with Roger Carswell's Association of Evangelists for some years.

Spare us your modern day anti-semitic rant against the Pharisees too.

James said...

Andrew, can you please point me to the places in Nick's article where

(a) he says that criticism of Israel is akin to hating Jews;


(b) any of Nick's evidence is wanting?

Or do you seriously believe that distasteful references to Monica Lewinsky's Jewishness, defending Raed Salah, linking to racist websites on Facebook, alluding to the archetype of the Christ-killing Jew, promoting the myth of a global Zionist conspiracy etc etc (all of which Sizer has done, as Nick carefully documents) are "legitimate Christian expression"?

James said...

PS Andrew - did you miss this paragraph towards the end of Nick's piece? Because your comment certainly gives that impression.

"It would have been perfectly possible for Stephen Sizer to criticise Israel without posting links on Facebook to racist websites; or joining forces with recognised anti-Semites across the world; or, when accused of anti-Semitism, turning to a known anti-Semite for support; or alluding to the archetype of the Christ-killing Jew; or downplaying the Holocaust by using the same word to describe Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians; or promoting the global Zionist conspiracy myth; or endorsing a disgraced journalist’s call for Jews to ‘get the hell out of Palestine’; or spreading the outrageous myth of Israeli involvement in 9/11; or making distasteful references to Monica Lewinsky’s Jewishness; or backing the anti-Semitic hate preacher Sheikh Salah."

James said...

PPS Andrew - your final paragraph is a genuine example of mud-slinging par excellence. Was your whole comment meant to be a parody or something?

Anonymous said...

kudos to Rev Nick Howard for exposing the polite well managed hatred that Rev Sizer seeks to pass off as... friendship of Jews!

Anonymous said...

Nick Howard isn't a rev. He was refused ordination in the Church of England. (many might think that a good think) Please be accurate.

There was also a failure on Howards part to use citations.

The apple has not fallen too far from the fathers tree.

Nick Howard said...

Just to clarify, I was ordained via the Convocation of Anglican North Americans (CANA) at Truro Church, Virginia, USA on November 6th 2010.

So far as I can tell, every claim that I make about Rev. Sizer is backed up by a relevant citation. Please follow the hyperlinks in the Harry's Place article.

Nicholas said...

It is one thing for Nick Howard to call for the disciplining of Stephen Sizer. But to do it on a secular, liberal, pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, anti-Christian blog is simply unacceptable.

Nicholas said...

I was talking about the Harry's Place blog, which is an abominable blog.

James said...

He did it there because no Christian outlet cared enough about anti-Semitism to print his piece. In other wor, the secular left takes anti-Semitism more seriously than th Christian church, which is what is truly abominable.

Nick Howard said...

Harry's Place is known first and foremost as a freedom of speech website. It plays an honourable role in exposing anti-Semitism. For example it firmly opposed Ken Livingstone on that basis even though most HP readers would naturally be Labour supporters. On those grounds it was a natural location for exposing the anti-Semitism of Stephen Sizer, once I had established that the Diocese of Guildford was not willing to take action.

Nicholas said...

Sorry Nick, I may have been too quick to criticize. But I was offended by this other article on Harry's Place:

James said...

Hi Nicholas
Yes, there is much on HP which is offensive from a Christian point of view. But doesn't that make it all the more shameful that HP took the issue of anti-Semitism more seriously than large sections of the evangelical world seem to have done?

Nicholas said...

Yes, I agree.