Wednesday, May 11, 2016

UK: When Corbyn’s Labour Party shames the evangelical church

David Watkins @ Harry's Place:

[...] Such measures and statements are seen by many as half-hearted and flawed. But here’s the thing: these Labour figures have at least said and done something, rather than nothing. They have at least given the impression that they care about the issue.

Now let us compare this with the reaction to Stephen Sizer by the conservative evangelical Christian leaders with whom he identifies most closely. It is of course true that Sizer was eventually disciplined by the Anglican hierarchy. However, Sizer identifies himself as a conservative evangelical, and so it is instructive to examine the response to his statement (and other actions) by other conservative evangelical leaders, and compare this with the response to anti-Semitism from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.

Sizer’s linking of Zionism with Nazism, and his citation of Lenni Brenner, did not prevent his book being published by Inter-Varsity Press (IVP), probably the leading conservative evangelical publishing house in Britain. (Nor, for that matter, did his citation on pp. 21-22 (and on Press TV) of Holocaust Denier Dale Crowley; nor his subtle insinuation of Israeli complicity in 9/11 in a footnote on p.251.) They did not prevent the book being warmly endorsed by a number of high-profile conservative evangelical leaders, including the late John Stott, the well-known preacher Dick Lucas, the former Principal of Oak Hill Theological College David Peterson, and the trainer, pastor and writer Graham Beynon. IVP later invited Sizer to write a second book on the subject for a more popular audience, Zion’s Christian Soldiers? (IVP, 2008). Whereas Ken Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party for relying on Lenni Brenner to link Zionism with Nazism, conservative evangelicals did not bad an eyelid when Stephen Sizer did the same.

In fairness, we would not necessarily expect the average evangelical theologian, reviewing a book, to be familiar with Trotskyist anti-Semitism, still less to know about Lenni Brenner. Why wouldn’t they take Sizer’s claim at face value? (A respectable Christian publisher has less excuse, however, for not checking the source of an inflammatory statement.) Twelve years on, however, the evidence of Stephen Sizer’s anti-Semitism is inescapable. He has
Nick Cohen’s words are apt: “Polite [Christian] commentators say that I must add at this point that ‘[Stephen Sizer] is not an anti-Semite’. Sorry to be a fact-checking bore, but if he isn’t a racist, then he is a remarkably stupid old man who in George Orwell’s phrase is ‘playing with fire without knowing fire is hot’.” Yet there is nothing in Stephen Sizer’s background to suggest that he is stupid.

It was the last of the above incidents, in January 2015, which finally prompted the Diocese of Guildford to ban Sizer from using social media for six months and to seek an undertaking from Sizer that he would no longer write or speak about the Middle East. The Archbishop of Canterbury approved. Whilst Sizer apologized – as he has done before – there is good cause to be sceptical.

The controversy surrounding Stephen Sizer has been widely reported: in the Jewish press; the Christian press (including the newspaper Evangelicals Now and the widely-read blog Archbishop Cranmer); and in the secular media. It has recently come to light again in connection with Jeremy Corbyn, who once wrote to the Church of England to defend Sizer; and in connection with Ken Livingstone, whose incendiary claim about Nazism and Zionism is similar to the one published by Sizer in 2004. And so this begs the question: how have Sizer’s conservative evangelical peers reacted to his multi-faceted anti-Semitic statements and actions? And how does this compare with the Labour Party’s reaction to Ken Livingstone? The answer, sadly, is disheartening.
In short, conservative evangelicals have said and done virtually nothing in response to Stephen Sizer’s anti-Semitism. They have done even less than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has done in response to Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitism – which is saying quite something. If John Rentoul of The Independent can recognise that there is a serious problem with Stephen Sizer, why can’t conservative evangelicals?

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