Tuesday 26 February 2008

Bishop of Rochester does his job

This week’s Sunday Telegraph carried an interview boldly headlined “Bishop of Rochester reasserts ‘no-go’ claim.” Oh goody, I thought. Now I can find out where some of these places are. We have very significant Muslim populations in Slough, Wycombe and Aylesbury. If one of them’s a no-go area, I can get on down there and find out what it’s really like. Sorry, mate. Turns out the headline bears no relation to anything Bishop Michael actually said. This is the old “Pen an outrageous headline, and they ignore the rest” trick that was played on Archbishop Rowan the other week.

So what was the authentic substance of the piece? Bishop Michael’s personal courage and faith shone through, along with a characteristically sharp, thoughtful and uncomfortable question he’s challenging us all to consider. Christianity has shaped our laws, culture and history in a fundamental way. Do we really want to blow all that? If we don’t, we need to commit to it and nourish it. The positive message I heard was “use it or lose it.”

No no-go areas. In a pathetic attempt to cover up, the journalist lobbed in a random anecdote, nothing to do with anything +Michael said, about the home secretary being heckled by a crazy in the East End last year. Apparently that’s what has to happen for your street to become a “no-go area.” And if that’s all that Fleet Street’s finest can come up with in three weeks of trying, you may safely assume that, whilst there are a small number of nutters out there, the whole “no-go” thing is essentially provocative tosh, designed to prop up dwindling newspaper sales.

Meanwhile the searching question +Michael raised deserves a serious answer from the secular elites who like to think they form our culture. In the present superheated climate, I wouldn’t hold my breath for it, though...

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