THE art of preaching Christian social responsibility to a parish
congregation was once likened to explaining the world-view of
The Guardian in the language of the Daily Mail to
readers of The Daily Telegraph.
No part of this quip is true. Few clergy have perfected the
language of the Mail, and not all inhabit The
Guardian's view of the world. Nor is it true that most
churchgoers are Telegraph readers. But the quip reflects
something easily forgotten, which is that the Church has a
significant lay constituency that is instinctively conservative;
and within it some are inevitably drawn to UKIP.
I have yet to meet a priest who has anything but scorn for Nigel
Farage's party. I don't like it much myself: the constant
scapegoating of immigrants infuriates me, and I dislike the
knee-jerk anti-Europeanism. But it is important to be aware that
there are people in the pews who feel a resonance with UKIP's
Among them are some conservative Christians, Roman Catholic and
Evangelical, who cannot understand why the Church seems so supine
in the wake of the breakdown of traditional sexual morality. Then
there are those whose Christianity is linked to a love of England,
a deep sense of continuity with past generations, and a belief that
values once commonly held have been diluted by mass immigration and
the dominance of a liberal elite in the media and in academia.
Those views, not uncommon in rural areas, play to UKIP's
The concern for the Church must be that, while most of those who
share the values of the metropolitan elite find Ukip either comic
or repulsive, there are anxious Christians who could come to
believe that Ukip supports their Christian identity. They, like
seceding Tories and disenchanted Labour voters, are projecting on
to Ukip their sense of being ignored by church leaders as well as
by the big political parties. The liberal elite does not speak for
them, and does not appear to care about them. It is tragic that
anyone could find in Mr Farage the face of authentic Englishness,
but that is what his followers claim.
The truth is, of course, that Ukip does not yet know what it is.
It now tries to distance itself from its anti-liberal stance on
sexual morality (which puts off the young, who are more tolerant);
and, with its inroads into Labour territory, it is no longer
obviously a right-wing party. What those who preach to potential
Ukip supporters should address is their massive sense of
The Revd Angela Tilby is Diocesan Canon of Christ Church,
Oxford, and Continuing Ministerial Development Adviser for the
diocese of Oxford.