Holy Smoke

What the police disruption of a Polish church tells us about post-Christian Britain

35 min listen

The intrusion of the sanctuary of a Polish church in Balham on Good Friday by the Metropolitan police was not only a shocking event but also a deeply concerning piece of history. It can’t be interpreted as a premeditated attack on Christianity – but it’s evidence of the utter irrelevance of Britain’s Christian heritage to the culture of liberal bureaucracy that is fast replacing it.

In this week’s Holy Smoke episode, Dr Gavin Ashendon and I talk about the blundering insensitivity of the police officer who marched into the sanctuary of Christ the King Church during the veneration of the Cross without apparently understanding anything of what the ceremony signified.

But equally unsettling, in its way, has been the relative silence of Christian leaders when confronted by this outrageous disruption of a service on the grounds that the congregation were not observing social distancing procedures – something that isn’t immediately clear from the video footage. In my opinion, Anglican and Catholic bishops are just as passive in the face of liberal bureaucracy as any heavy-handed police officer. It’s no coincidence that today’s police chiefs and senior clergy use roughly the same vocabulary to express many of the same dogmatic platitudes.

Gavin and I cover a lot of ground in this episode, including Boris Johnson’s extraordinary Easter Sunday address to the nation in which he appeared to be professing his own Christian faith. Was this perhaps a veiled response to Friday’s public relations setback – one that would have been a full-scale disaster if the police had invaded any religious ceremony held by a recognised ethnic minority? But, of course, that would never have happened.


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