What makes for Black Success in Britain today?


John Root offers this review of Black Success—The Surprising Truth by Tony Sewell, published earlier this month. Sewell was recently chair of the UK’s government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, the recommendations which are now the foundations of the government’s policy on tackling racial inequalities.


At the time in early 1970s that Tony Sewell was attending an Anglican Sunday School in south-east London, I was leading a Pathfinder group of 60 or so of his mainly black contemporaries in north-west London. So reading his book at times generated nostalgia, often strong appreciation of his perceptions, and resonance with his positivity and love of reggae.

It is a book of two halves. Part 1 is ‘Education’, referring both to his own experience and his work as an educationalist. He describes his childhood and early education; his involvement in responding to life in Britain, especially writing regularly for the ‘Voice’ black newspaper; his work on The Hackney Learning Trust, and overturning the shibboleths surrounding the education of black children; and setting up the Generating Genius project to develop STEM capabilities amongst, initially, black teenage boys.

Part 1 has already included capsules on what underlies black success, such as Jamaican sprinting gold medallists. Similar exemplary stories are the theme of Part 2 on ‘Black Success’, where he looks at Nigeria, not just at the curious fact of it being the home of world Scrabble champions, but also at the role of faith. A chapter on the famous Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole imaginatively links her with her with the white Jamaican record producer, Chris Blackwell. Sewell flips the narrative of seeing her as being a racialistically overlooked equivalent of Florence Nightingale to instead having the qualities that Sewell is foregrounding—readiness for adventure and the risk-taking utilisation of whatever resources life has presented us with. Instead of being seen for this, in the contemporary debate ‘she is made fit for the needs of modern white guilt and black historic racial trauma’ (page 170).

The chapter on ‘The Housing Lark’ shows how the racism of landlords led the early immigrants to buy their own houses, creating long-term financial benefit. The final chapter utilises once more his love of stories, of ‘Odysseus and the Five Talents’, and exemplified in the success of the 1976 West Indian cricket team, his central role in the highly controversial Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities, and his late life move into developing a ‘wellness’ farm back to his Jamaican roots.

Characteristics of the book—and of Tony Sewell

What are the characteristics of this book, and of Sewell’s approach, and what makes it such a compelling narrative? For me, six things stand out.

Imagination

Sewell was an enthusiastic English Literature scholar at the University of Essex. As I have already mentioned, his book abounds in love for stories and imaginative connections. Thus he connects the Jamaican folk-lore stories about the spider god Anansi with D H Lawrence’s observation in The Rainbow about the gargoyles on Lincoln Cathedral—they are

both in and outside the system…Black success is part of the orthodoxy, but it is also slightly separate. It is mischievous, practical, satirical and defensive…a blend of the sacred and the profane, the grand and the irreverent (pp 45, 54).

Sewell is not just making a clever connection between Anansi and the gargoyle here, it is a ‘figure’ that underlies the whole book (and also, in different register, his Report). Utilising a phrase of the poet Derek Walcott, he writes ‘we did get ‘shat on’, but that we were smart enough to use it as fertiliser for the imagination’ (p 234). Sewell’s attempt to speak positively of the ‘Caribbean experience’ in his Report aroused derision. In his book he can more subtly explicate how brutal historical experience can be transformed into material for a rich and resilient inner life.

Myth Breaking

It is this ambiguous and elusive stance that gives Sewell the clarity to see all the myths that have accrued around multi-racialism, so the ‘conventional myths about black success need to be unpicked’ (p 26). He spells out three increasingly common ones in his educational policy:

  • ‘it’s twice as hard’, when being told the world is stacked against you simply encourages despair;
  • ‘the curriculum is too white’, when ‘I was able to get on in life precisely because . . I delved into the classics’;
  • you can’t be what you can’t see’, when it is the competency not the colour of teachers that matters (pp 37-39).

The extraordinary and policy-changing success of The Hackney Learning Trust was based on their readiness to abandon these sorts of untested cliches. 

Instead he came to realise that:

When we focused on the main issues of good leadership, high expectations and subject knowledge, black children really succeeded. The idea that teachers needed lessons in unconscious bias training, or that black students needed sessions on how Egypt was a black kingdom, were nothing but big diversions (p 128).

His iconoclastic approach runs through the book, as in his overturning of the BHM myths about Mary Seacole. At a time when discussion of race too often consists of black grievance rhetoric responded to by white soft-ball, Sewell cuts through the pieties of our time and rather puts confidence in his own experience and in objective evidence and outcomes.

Family and fathering

Sewell quotes his ‘Voice’ colleague, Marcia Dixon’s assessment of what were

the upstream reasons why the Caribbean Community couldn’t build on the success of the early Caribbean pioneers. This had everything to do with the collapse of the family (p 57).

As regards his own extensive work with black boys as both a teacher and an administrator, he writes:

My sense is that African Caribbean boys did suffer a particular trauma. Because the male authority figures in their lives were problematic…. I think we would have gone further had there been political leaders willing to admit that we had a family crisis that needed professional support (p 88-89).

My impression is that such an emphasis on the family and especially fathering as a determinative outcome appears more strongly in the book than in his Report.

Whilst he celebrates the positivity that he received from the Windrush generation, notably his mother, his narrative also laments real decline:

What seems to have changed for my generation was the introduction of priority council housing, which incentivized single motherhood and spelled the end for reliable fatherhood. This, combined with mass unemployment, knocked the enterprise stuffing out of a generation. We never really recovered (p 204).

Sadly, this fits with my own perceptions over the generations.

Wariness of ‘race hustlers’

Into this unsettled situation Sowell also notes policies and people that can make it worse.

It was clear to me that emerging alongside a genuine struggle for racial justice were race hustlers. They needed—and still need—a narrative of victimhood in order to keep their jobs, receive grants, and stay relevant. Sadly, this hasn’t changed—there are new books and films released seemingly weekly that revel in black misery (p 71).

He refers to Steve Pope, his editor at the ‘Voice’, being dismissive of the intellectual pontificating of today’s black identity politics, which he claims is ‘a middle-class obsession’ (p 69). The outcome is the bureaucratisation of racial interaction.

I feel some concern that the burgeoning ‘diversity and inclusion’ sector, valued at around five billion pounds, is sucking up black talent (p 241)

instead of leading them into developing productive technical skills.

Further white attitudes now collude with these negative developments.

This white guilt literature hangs like a weight on me every time I go back to Britain: these people never see the region as having its own agency. Once again, it’s about them and how in the end they can have power of others. In this way, the guilty white liberal becomes guilty of a new kind of colonialism (p 225).

Christian Faith

Possibly one ingredient in the acid that corrodes the delusions and deceit around policies on race is the prominence Sewell gives to Christian faith. He speaks very warmly of both the hospitable welcome and the seriousness of theology that he received at the Anglican church that his parents sent him to in Penge, thereby dispelling the myth that the church’s response to Caribbean immigrants was uniformly negative and racist.

The church opened my eyes, my mind, and my world (p 29).

Concerning his time at the ‘Voice’ his warmest accolades are for Marcia Dixon’s outspoken and challenging Christian section, ‘Soul Stirrings’. We find positive encounters with Christian brothers such as Bishop Joe Aldred and Israel Olofinjana, all of Matthew 25:14–30 printed in full, and his book concludes by referring to my blog article ‘Good Story, Bad Story + Lynne’s Story’.

It would be interesting if his essentially ethical understanding of the Christian faith was enriched by seeing the transformative power of God’s grace so that the one who has been ‘shat upon’ has become through faith the source of new life and hope.

Agency

‘This story, this good story, begins and ends with the powerful idea of agency’ (p 242). Thus he began in his Introduction by describing his friendship with American, Jamaican background educationalist, Ian Rowe, the framework of whose book on agency uses FREE as an acronym for Family, Religion, Education and Enterprise. So he tells the stories of those who found ‘For all its persistent racism, Britain was nevertheless a place of creativity, possibility and success’ (p 190). So he is unimpressed that Michael Holding used a space in a cricket commentary to lament a black history omission, when

I wanted to hear the story of how [the 1976 West Indian cricket] team came up in the world; of how organised, professional and scientific black people really are.. It is a world away from stereotypes around instinctive athleticism (p 220).

His own story recounts positives. Based on his mother’s frequent assertion that he was a ‘genius’ (though he failed his 11+), he experienced good outcomes—getting a plum job in his local library as a schoolboy, whilst his enthusiasm to discuss with his lecturers at university led on to social and life-long friendships with them. His apparent enjoyment of a fulfilling life might suggest that what a person expects from their society powerfully determines how they experience it.

Tony Sewell’s Report made him enemies. (The Acknowledgements thank Adele and Zindzi ‘who knew that after the storm would come the calm’; but with no attribution to Desmond Dekker!). I guess this book—personal and narratival as well as analytical—will cause less of a storm, not least because of the wealth of evidence that he offers to support his claims, but it still upsets apple-carts of myth and posture that will invite pushback.

But I hope it will be well read by politicians, educationalists, policy makers and church leaders, and so shift us towards policies that respond more appropriately to the present realities of multi-ethnic Britain. 

Some quotations to consider, especially for the church

We need to be alive to injustice, but celebrate our successes. All this requires skilful mental juggling. We must acknowledge the suffering of our parents and grandparents, but not be burdened with their trauma (p 3).

We’ll also look at class. Low-income white people have a lot in common with their black peers. Identity politics has got in the way of finding this potentially progressive common ground (p 15).

Yes, my fellow Christians were guilty of ignoring the wider racism in society, but I didn’t need their empathy. I only needed my fellow churchgoers to be themselves—to be fair, decent and loving (p 20).

It was clear even during the 1980s that there was no uniform ‘black community with a single view on matters (p 50).

How did we raise the educational outcomes of African Caribbean children and other ethnic minorities when no one else could. How did we stop making ‘diversity’ and ‘deprivation’ a millstone or an excuse in the journey towards academic excellence?… The Learning Trust focused remorselessly on school leadership (p 78).

Quite simply, too much money was being spent on identity issues or self-esteem programmes, rather than the nuts and bolts of academic achievement (pp 82/83).

We put the cart before the horse when we focus on buzzy anti-racism initiatives and don’t plough money into improving teacher competency (p 84).

I never tried to convert the boys to my perspective on race and politics. Despite the nature of our programme, I don’t remember us ever discussing the subject (p 124).


Blurb for Black Success: How did the Windrush generation become so prosperous? Why are Nigerians achieving so highly in the education system? Why does Hollywood rush to cast Black British actors? And why are so many Jamaicans winning Olympic gold? And what lessons are there from these success stories for young black people in low-income communities?


Additional note: Reparations Revisited

I was glad that Ian Paul republished my article on The Fund for Healing, Repair and Justice last Friday, which led to an extensive and quite intricate discussion about reparations (which was taken further by Tony Sewell’s comments on the issue in Saturday’s Times). Whilst the Psephizo debate focussed mostly on the relevance or not of Germany’s reparations for the Holocaust, a number of important qualifications  were made about the basis for the Church of England making any sort of reparative response to Queen Anne’s Bounty’s deposit in the South Sea Company.

  • It may well be that the Church of England made no profit whatsoever from its investment (see this article in the Church Times from Professor Richard Dale)
  • The actual slaves traded went to the Hispanic Americas, not the British Caribbean.
  • The stance of the Church of England to the slave trade in the eighteenth century was more critical than my brief references suggested.

As regards the discussion of the wider question of reparations and responsibility, the picture that comes to my mind is of a football match played without touch-lines—there are no formal constraints to stop the ball going anywhere, so anyone can decide where the limitations are.

  • How far back in history is it reasonable to go? My case is that the cultural and psychological problems generated by chattel slavery are still with us and therefore relevant. Or does this sustain a grievance culture amongst descendants of slaves which is debilitating for future progress?
  • How do we quantify the harm inflicted? There is no way of calibrating this, and therefore it can always be incomplete. As I wrote, the present proposals seem to be asking for the Church Commissioners to have an open cheque book.
  • Similarly, when are the reparations sufficiently paid and therefore finished? Past initiatives are now deemed incomplete, how will future ones be justly regarded as final?
  • And why should we limit these questions to the issue of chattel slavery? What other historic abuses should also be considered?

These are all important questions to address if we are to think clearly about the issue.


John Root was a curate in Harlesden, led an estate church plant in Hackney, and planted two Asian language congregations in Wembley, before enjoying retirement ministry in Tottenham.


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87 thoughts on “What makes for Black Success in Britain today?”

  1. (I realise this isn’t the point of the article, but as someone who worships at an Anglican church in Penge, I can’t help wonder which one Tony attended.)

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  2. The chaps on the number 48 Omnibus are delighted that Jesus of Nazareth was a Northerner
    From a “sink” town.
    Nathaniel’s “Can anything good come out of Nazareth”
    And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely, thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agrees thereto. Mark 14:70 – 71
    I think that we must view the travails of black slavery against the backdrop of the conditions of the working class of our own country, for they were indeed only a few steps up from slavery in those days.
    The renowned American evangelist D.L. Moody during a campaign in Glasgow was asked
    “What can we do now? His reply was “Do something for the poor of Glasgow’.
    Keir Hardy a poor man himself learned his public speaking in his church and went on to found The Labour party [Read him on Wikipedia] His Socialism was predicated upon Christianity rather than Marxism.
    There are many who have put behind them their “poor” beginnings and experiences having realized that Nature is “red in tooth and claw.”
    Those who follow Christ find that they are delivered from poverty and oppression and led into unimaginable riches to be the richest people on earth.
    Paul says Phil 3:13 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
    3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
    “Up, up to the whiter than sunshine.”

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  3. I hadn’t heard of Tony Sewell before but I see Nigel Biggar refers to him on a youtube programme from the New Culture Forum called “Why is the Anglophone so woke?” Biggar quotes Sewell as saying Caribbean British culture is pretty anti-academic, which certainly isn’t true of Indian British, East Asian British or African British. And this inevitably brings us back to the question of the family. Almost never to you hear of an Asian British single mother, while among Caribbean and mixed race families this is very common. The sociologist or commentator who ignores this fact is in denial.

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  4. I like this comment from Ray Stedman @raystedman Ephesians /The Christian in the World/
    The Call of the Hour
    The major task of Christian faith, however, is to equip us for life, to live life.

    The message of the Scriptures, therefore, is how to handle life.

    I am not talking about ideal life, life as we can think of it on Sunday morning when we are removed from much of the rush and pressure of our days.
    No, I am talking about realistic life.
    Life with its pressures and problems, its joys and challenges, its heartaches and tears, its confusion and bafflement, its possibilities of greatness.
    We don’t come here on Sunday mornings to huddle together and learn how to hang on. We come here to learn how to handle life so that we can go out and face the worst and still stand, undefeated! That is what Christianity is about.

    Therefore, the purpose of the church (and this perhaps will help clarify our thinking these days when so much is troubled and confused in this area), is not to make the world a better place to live in — it is to make a better people to live in it. Then, as a kind of by-product, and always as that, these better people will make the world a better place. So to the church is given the secret of life. Christians are the only ones who have that secret.
    I know that sounds conceited and arrogant, yet it is based upon the teaching of the Word of God from cover to cover. Christ is the secret of life. Christians have Jesus Christ, that is what makes you a Christian.
    Therefore, to Christians is given the secret [mysteries] of life.
    That is why the message of the church never changes no matter what the age, or the century, in which we find ourselves. That is also why it is always up-to-date. Only that message will meet the need of the world in which we live. When the church forgets this and wanders off into peripheral paths, trying to produce the by-product directly, it loses its influence, its power, and its effectiveness.

    Listening recently to black people discussing their Faith I was delighted to hear that these revelations were known and being joyously lived in by them.

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  5. I was not going to comment but had to thank Ian Paul for posting this wonderful piece by Tony Sewell.

    Sewell is such a superb role model and stands in direct opposition to the grievance race hustlers who he identifies as the cause of so much acrimony and false claims around the issue of race

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  6. I get a little mixed up sometimes between Tony Sewell (UK) and Thomas Sowell (USA). A quick search brings out a clear distinction though I’m uncertain how much TS’s voice contributes to this matter in hand in the UK.

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    • Thomas Sowell is in his 90s now, I think. I don’t know if he describes himself now as a Christian, though he sounds as if he grew up in the culture and rhetoric of the black church, with its stress upon personal culture and responsibility, and a keen awareness that growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s is very different from today. Glen Loury is another black academic in the US with an on/off relationship to Christianity: like Sowell, generally a conservative in outlook and conscious that the problems that afflict the US black community are focused primarily in family and developmental dynamics. The agnostic black academic John McWhorter shares some of these views but is still a liberal Democrat.
      It’s interesting how black women are strongly on the left in US politics while more black men are lining up behind Trump – a gender divide found more widely in the US and the UK.

      Maybe Ian will run a piece one day on why women tend to the left in politics and men to the right – not how it was in the 1960s! And why is the ‘official’ voice of the C of E so leftist?

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      • I’m not aware that Sowell has ever been Christian but he repented of Marxism and wrote the best book-length critique of it; also writing a unique economics textbook and several volumes showing that the history of a people depends on their moral culture and on the geography of the land they occupy. Wonderful thinker.

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        • Yes, he is big on geographical explanations for how civilisations develop, contrasting the Eurasian landmass with Africa, for example, noting the lack of ports and navigable rivers in Africa and the barrier that the Sahara presented for sub-saharan Africa. He was commented also on the Jewish experience in America, looking at literacy, family unity and employment patterns.
          The lack of wheels in pre-colonial Africa was a major factor in the failure to develop because do much human energy and time was taken up in just carrying stuff. Wheels were invented in pre-Columbian South Anerica but only ever use in toys.
          Sowell is a great critic of American schooling compared to his youth. Numerous readings of his work can be found on YouTube.

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          • James: “the lack of ports and navigable rivers in Africa”.
            Umm. like the Nile and the Congo rivers?

            “The lack of wheels in pre-colonial Africa was a major factor in the failure to develop because do much human energy and time was taken up in just carrying stuff.” [sic.]
            Yes, they would need many million slaves to carry the stones for the Pyramids?
            Maybe his geographical explanations don’t quite work, James?

          • Bruce,

            Sowell means subsaharan Africa, and both the southerly parts of the Nile and the Congo have rapids that preclude serious transport of goods by ship, I think he says.

          • Anton: yes, that is correct – I was referring to sub-Saharan Africa, especially the Congo. The Zambezi and other rivers may also pose severe challenges to navigation. Remember how long it took to discover the source of the Nile. The lack of suitable ports on most of the African coast is well known. They were only developed in colonial days. All of this hindered trade, communications and the development of larger kingdoms in which skills and crafts can develop.

            Bruce: I am sure you are aware the history and development of sub-Saharan Africa is entirely different from Egypt and North Africa, which for centuries were part of the Roman Empire. Nubia shared in Egyptian culture and Abyssinia in the culture of South Arabia, a short dhow ride across the Red Sea. Abyssinia had literacy, wheels, metallurgy, stone carving etc.
            But in sub-Saharan Africa prior to the colonial days there were no wheels, made-up roads, pack animals, ploughs, literacy or much in the way of metal smelting. And you need bronze and iron tools to make large boats.

          • Anton and James. You seem to be making a lot of “Western” thinking assumptions in your comments here. Maybe you need to discuss these ideas with people who live in cultures other than your own or think a bit more about how we human beings live/have lived.
            For example, why is the “source” of the “Nile” an important thing to know? Do “skills and crafts” develop only where there are sea ports? (Ridiculous idea!!??) What would be the point of building large ships in “Uganda” or “Australia”? How did Maori people get to “New Zealand” without bronze and iron tools?
            Literacy is important, yes, but literacy is not the same as language, intelligence or creativity.

          • PS. And Anton, reading the Wikipedia entry on “Cataracts of the Nile” seems to contradict your claim.

          • James (March 29, 2024 at 11:55 am ) said:

            “I am sure you are aware the history and development of sub-Saharan Africa is entirely different from Egypt and North Africa, which for centuries were part of the Roman Empire. ”

            This seems revealing to me. Why is ‘Rome’ the touchstone for civilising influence? The time when Egypt was under Roman rule was relatively short. An interesting fact is that the time between Cleopatra – the last of the Ptolemaic rulers, who succumbed to Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, and ourselves today is shorter than the time between the construction of the great pyramids at Giza and Cleopatra. Egypt had a vastly hinterland of civilization compared with Rome when the latter finally turned up towards the middle of the first century BC.

            They invented their hieroglyphic writing at about the same time as the Sumerians invented cuneiform. It is highly likely this influenced the alphabet – strictly the adjab – of the early Semitic languages such as Phoenician and Hebrew, the Greek from which the Roman alphabet was derived.

            Romans were good at stuff (e.g. aquaducts) but I’m not sure exactly how innovative they were. I’ll give them concrete, but perhaps these days that is as much a curse as a blessing.

            In the West, the Classical Period of the Greeks and the Romans has held a sway over much of the thought of the opinion formers. That is probably a bad thing.

            How about considering China?

          • My father taught Metallurgy, so I have an interest in that. According to the Wikipedia page on the ‘Iron Age’, there is evidence that iron smelting developed independently in sub-Saharan Africa from perhaps 2000BC, around the same time if not earlier than smelting in the Anatolian/Caucasion region. It took a while to get established in the Eastern Mediterranean and ANE, coinciding roughly with the lat Bronze Age collapse.

          • Bruce:
            I don’t know what is ‘Western’ about my thinking here – these are standard notions in ancient world history. The civilisational model I have described is exactly what you find across the Asian landmass, including the Indian subcontinent, SE Asia and East Asia (China, Korea, Japan). Some of these places were far more developed in 1000 BC than parts of Britain and western Europe were at that time. I think the Celts came to Britain and Ireland about 600 BC from central Europe. I don’t really know anything about the pre-Celtic settlement of the British Isles.
            By 600 BC, wheels, pack animals, ploughs and metallurgy were found in all these places (and literacy in some places), from Ireland to Japan but not in sub-Saharan Africa and (with minor qualification) in the pre-Columbian Americas.
            Two factors in particular seem important to me. First, the invention of the wheel and the domestication of the horse among the earliest Proto-Indo-European societies (the Kurgan civilisation), possibly 3500 BC, and the dispersion of these communities across Europe and into Iran and India. The horse and wheel – and the great European plain – made these great Volkerwanderungen possible, as well as making a new way of life possible: sheep farming (for which you need horses and carts). Sheep farming meant big changes in nutrition and clothing, and allowed new regions of the vast plain to be settled. Writing seems to have come from the Middle East, from Egypt and the Levant, and was likely spread to Greece by Phoenicians.
            On your specific questions:
            – I mentioned the source of the Nile only to explain why there was no contact between the peoples of East Africa and Egypt: it was not possible in ancient times to follow the Nile to its source in Lake Victoria and Uganda. In other words, physical isolation prevented the kind of cultural dissemination of the kind that we saw in the move of the PIE people into Europe and west and south Asia. If Egyptians or Ethiopians had penetrated East Africa, history would have been very different.
            – Do ‘skills and crafts’ develop only where there are sea ports? I never said such a thing. I said they develop only in larger kingdoms – which were lacking in Africa. The reason is simple. Hunter-gatherer societies hardly develop at all in their material culture (the Khoisan and the Australian Aborigines were unchanged for thousands of years) because there is no need or time to do so (you are always following the game, you don’t settle to build towns) and the same applies for subsistence (slash and burn) agriculture, where people are constantly on the move (possibly the reason for the great migrations over centuries of West Africans into southern Africa). Advanced skills in pottery, stone masonry, complex textiles and above all metallurgy (bronze and iron working) can only develop in surplus production economies, when significant classes of people can be employed in these crafts (in craft guilds or maybe as slaves) rather than in subsistence agriculture. Urbanisation is the key because it is in cities that the crafts developed anciently.
            – Large boats facilitate trade and cultural dissemination among diverse peoples, as well as all the trades associated with shipbuilding (skilled carpentry, large textile making, caulking etc). But you usually need metal tools to make such vessels).
            – The Polynesian peoples probably originated in Taiwan, perhaps in 3000 BC. Their progress across the Pacific was slow, from archipelago to archipelago, in canoes carved with stone tools. The arrival of the Maori in New Zealand was very late – New Zealand was in fact the last place on earth to be settled in c. AD 1250, perhaps from the Cook Islands, as well as the most isolated one historically, because there is no record of any Maori returning or travelling north after the Great Migrations of the thirteenth century, and they had no significant contact with anyone until Captain Cook in 1769. The Polynesians were of course great navigators by the stars in the vast expanse of the Pacific, in the triangle marked out by Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island.

          • Bruce,

            Have you actually read Sowell on subSaharan Africa, a 75-page chapter in his book “Conquests and Cultures”?

            I suppose it would be impolite of me to point out that he is actually black, but politeness has never been my strong point.

          • James:
            “I don’t know what is ‘Western’ about my thinking here…”
            Apart from maybe, “[Maori] had no significant contact with anyone [sic.] until Captain Cook in 1769.”
            Or as David Wilson asked, why is Roman civilisation the standard.
            But thank you anyway for your “standard notions in ancient world history.” I do suggest though that your characterisation of hunter/gatherer and agricultural societies is a bit simplistic.

            But what are you actually claiming about languages? That Proto-Indo-European is proto-World?? That is, PIE spread into Asia, eventually to Taiwan from where “it” spread further into Polynesia? Is this what you are saying or in the case of Polynesian languages are you confusing them with the “ancestor” Austronesian?

          • Bruce,
            There is no confusion in my comments about language. You seem to have misread me. I did not say PIE spread to Taiwan. It didn’t. It spread to northern India and became the progenitor of Sanskrit and its descendsnt languages. The Dravidian languages are quite different but interestingly Sinhala is Indo-European. What I did say is that most ethnographers trace the origin of the Polynesians to Taiwan, from about 3000 BC. The settlement of the Pacific took about 4000 years, concluding in the arrival of the Maori in NZ about 1250 AD. It is a historical fact that the Maori were the most isolated peoples in the world, having no contact with any others (including other Polynesians) for over 500 years. The Maori were never a unified kingdom but lived in scores of separate iwi (tribes) and hapu (sub-tribes). Like all Polynesians, they had had some impressive stone tools used for wood carving (decorative and canoes) and weaponry.
            David: no argument from me re Egyptian civilisation. It was advanced over its neighbours in 2000 BC and went through numerous rises and falls. It was actually in the Roman Empire until the Arab invasion in the seventh century. My point was simply that the Egyptian civilisation was oriented toward Europe and the Middle East, not sub-Saharan Africa, although Egyptian civilisation was diffused down the Nile Valley into Nubia and Abyssinia, where there was a meeting with south Arabian culture across the Red Sea (hence the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea). Iron smelting does seem to go back a long way, by the bloomery method. The “great leap forward” was the invention of the blast furnace, possibly in Anatolia (1400 BC?).

          • Oh but James there is confusion in your statements about language. When you talk about Polynesian languages originating in Taiwan, why only Polynesian languages? Shouldn’t you say, rather, Austronesian? Isn’t that the hypothesis? So you say nothing about the non-Austronesian languages in the Pacific. Where did they come from, if your basic idea of the peopling of the Pacific was migration?
            In the same way I think you leave yourself open in a number of your other seemingly “factual” claims (such as agricultural (“slash and burn”) societies having to move so they do not develop “crafts and skills”, no “kingdoms” in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Maori had a community based society), to the basic questions: Do they?, Did they? and So what?
            James, there are big holes in your argument.

          • Bruce, you have evidently not understood what I wrote and you are confused about linguistic history. Very briefly:
            1. Austronesian is a language *family (like PIE, the Afroasiatic family, Sino-Tibetan etc); Proto-Malayo-Polynesian (the ancient progenitor of Hawaiian, Maori etc). is one *branch of that family. Of course there are other peoples in the Pacific (Melanesians, Micronesians). The Polynesian languages are related to Malay and this has been known for over 300 years. Taiwan seems to have birthed several linguistic branches, just as PIE divided into 12 major family lines.
            2. I never said there were no sub-Saharan African kingdoms- that would be absurd. And you have clearly misread me. But these kingdoms were generally small in area and population (50,000?) compared to European states.
            3. My knowledge of Maori “agriculture” (kumara gardening, actually, they didn’t cultivate fields or keep livestock) and Maori social structure is from my education in New Zealand and subsequent lifelong reading. The pre-European Maori were primarily hunter-gatherers with fishing and kumara growing important to their diet. They didn’t have metals or ceramics; tools and weapons were made from wood, stone and bone. There was no unified Maori kingdom or any surplus economy (because crop-based agriculture didn’t exist in NZ then). Their average life expectancy (based on skeletal remains) was about 35.

          • James, thank you for your response. Yes I may not have been clear in what I was questioning you on.
            My main questions to you regarding a number of the claims that you have made, and continue to make are “So what?” and “do your claims reflect understanding of cultural anthropology”?
            On the question of “skills and crafts”. Would you not count, say, making tools and weapons of bone, wood and stone, or carving, or navigation, “skills and crafts”? Yes, in Europe there were guilds, but is that the only way that crafts and skills are passed on?
            Why does the size of a population in a “kingdom” matter?
            In saying that Maori people never had a “kingdom” structure (which I agree with — like many other human societies) what conclusion are you drawing from this? IOW “So what? Is this form of societal structure the only one that “works” by which I mean meets the human needs of a group of people in the environment they are in?
            You claimed that Maori people in New Zealand were the most isolated — yes, indeed from the point of view of the UK and Europe. Again, so what?
            Incidentally, to bring in language would you not say that the Australian first peoples were more “isolated”, since they had no “linguistic” “relatives” elsewhere in the world?
            Again on language, you say “Of course there are other peoples in the Pacific (Melanesians, Micronesians).” Yes indeed, but you haven’t addressed my question about non-Austronesian languages in the Pacific. And, note, we are talking about LANGUAGES not “peoples”. Micronesian languages are Austronesian and Melanesian languages are either Austronesian or a label which stretches the idea of language family so it probably breaks.
            You say,that Polynesian languages are related to Malay: yes, of course. But again, so what? And what incidentally are you meaning by “related”?
            You say: “The pre-European Maori were primarily hunter-gatherers with fishing and kumara growing important to their diet.” Can I ask what you mean by “primarily hunter-gatherers”. Does “kumara growing” contradict that as a label? Did they find kumara in the New Zealand bush? Did they gather only what they needed or did they use pataka? Why then does your definition of “agriculture” require “cultivated fields”?
            I do think this discussion is not really going anywhere but simplistic assumptions about languages and societies concern me.

          • Bruce, you can find the answer to your questions in any standard cultural anthropology of the Pacific. Please feel free to ignore me from now on. Cheers.

  7. These learned history lessons are of some interest;
    However what of the “visionary”views
    “He argues in favour of rejecting victimhood and low expectations and embracing high ambitions, drawing on a range of interviews and stories to offer a more exciting, sometimes visionary new view of black life in Britain today.”
    What visionary views might the Church offer that will enrich people of multi culture,ethnicity and colours.
    Why are multi coloured churches fastest growing here and in Africa and Brazil; what can we learn from Them?
    I would advocate for the “Multicoloured wisdom of God”

    Reply
    • God questions. I think the answer is: social uplift as the first Methodists offered Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. But it has to be allied to strong marriages and strong families.
      Social uplift isn’t really possible without strong families headed by father and mother committed to the scholastic, economic and moral success of their children.

      Reply
  8. It has been wonderful to see the Passion of our Lord so wonderfully explored by Gareth Malone in his three part series on the BBC over the weekend. How refreshing of the BBC to devote 4 hours of prime time broadcasting to the most significant story for Christians. There is so much testimony in the programmes. And how wonderful also to see a black Priest, Jared Robinson-Brown articulate the theology for those taking part. So wonderfully moving.
    A reviewer of Fr Jared’s book “Black, Gay, British, Christian, Queer – the church and the famine of grace” wrote that ‘This book enabled me to recognise that issues of whiteness, along with an (often unconscious) sense of entitlement and assumptions about what is normal are common to all justice issues. Its value lies in helping the reader, whatever their views, to look at the issues through the broad lens of God’s grace rather than relying on interpreting the usual proof texts, and to recognise the pain of a hurting community described without bitterness.’

    I commend the BBC programmes to all readers.

    Reply
        • The interview didn’t make that clear at all unless he really wants to be a Roman Catholic, which I doubt. So much he doesn’t tell but just hints at. I suspect he knows that Methodism is a busted flush in Britain and will be dead before he is.

          Reply
          • Blimey James you must have been reading a very different interview to me if you didn’t see his clear answers to the question about why he moved from Methodism to the CofE.

          • Oh, I read what he said about his rejection in London by the black church there who didn’t want a homosexual pastor, but he doesn’t tell us whether he was a practising or partnered homosexual or what he was saying in his sermons. I saw on youtube a lecture he gave to some ‘Comtemporary Theology Group’ in Canterbury earlier this year and it was a very depressing and confused lament. I think he could have found some boring old white congregation in Yorkshire but the truth is Methodism is dying on its knees. In 2022 the statistician John Hayward said the URC and the Church in Wales will be dead in 12 years and I think Methodism will be, too, looking at the age of congregants.
            I saw this pessimism as well in the Holy Saturday postings on ‘Thinking Anglicans’ – one by Colin Coward saying he found no life any longer in the C of E, compared to his early days in Southfields where half the clergy he knew seemed to be gay; and another piece about Martin Sargeant and Alan Griffin and the demi-monde of London diocese – all very despairing material. The gay Anglican world does seem to be riddled with problems now.

          • James, what perhaps you did not read is Jarel’s poem, published openly on Facebook, about how the orgasm he experiences as he anally penetrates his partner is an expression of the Holy Spirit in the believer.

          • Well if you want pessimism about the CofE you don’t have to read very far in this blog James. Countless conservatives complaining how dreadful the whole place is and how awful the bishops are.

            I think Colin is correct to say there is no life in it. The CofE has become paralysed by fear. I re read ‘Priestland’s Progress’ during lent. A remarkable collection of thoughts and interviews from over 40 years ago. What was obvious then was what a creative and hopeful institution the Church could be. Interesting and inspiring bishops, and thoughtful projects like Faith in the City and The Church and the bomb emerged.

          • Andrew G, mostly on this blog is not ‘pessimism’, but facts highlighting the issues. I have pointed out the continued decline in attendance, the greater decline in youth attendance, the collapse of vocations, and paralleled with that the very poor decisions at the top which have created the loss of confidence. Chief amongst these was the order from Justin banning clergy from churches for no good reason, which was then denied (bizarrely); the catastrophic leadership on the sexuality debate; within that, the plain dishonesty of the HoB; Justin’s contradictory statements on safeguarding; and now the fiasco on the question of slavery reparations.

            This is not whingeing; this is highlighting actual issues.

          • Andrew: I never thought you would be nostalgic for the days of Margaret Thatcher!
            Ian is right: the chief problem for the C of E right now is the poor quality of the ‘senior’ leadership, who are pusillanimous ‘company men and women’. This is the stamp that Justin Welby has put on the Church, using his power of patronage. And it doesn’t help that Welby sounds depressed all the time. You never see joy and confidence in the Risen Saviour in his face and words. The decisions he made during covid were disastrous, and his handling of sexuality issues confused and probably illegal. That he tried to impose Paula Vennells as Bishop of London shows you how poor his judgment is. And I know what they think down in Canterbury diocese about his choice of ‘Maxine Waters’ to bully evangelicals there!
            An additional factor has been the decline and aging in membership, while the number and visibility of Muslims in Britain have continued to grow. The flag of Pakistan flying over Westminster Abbey the other day was widely mocked on social media as revealing the real state of the C of E. If you and I are still around in ten years’ time, Andrew, we may be shaking our heads in disbelief. But I suspect something will break first.

          • Ha! I’m nostalgic for the days when the CofE was known as the unofficial opposition to Maggie. Do you think she approved of Faith in the City?

            The CofE is a total mess.

          • I am sure that Jarel’s poem is helpful in assisting the decisions of his parishioners which congregation to worship in.

  9. Back in 2021, the Education Select Committee issued the report: “The forgotten: how white working-class pupils have been let down, and how to change it”. That report provides several key reasons that White British pupils eligible for free school meals persistently underperform compared with peers in other ethnic groups, from early years through to higher education.

    Those reasons include:
    1. Persistent and multigenerational disadvantage
    2. Placed-based factors, including regional economics and underinvestment
    3. Family experience of education
    4. A lack of social capital (for example the absence of community organisations and youth groups)
    5. Disengagement from the curriculum
    6. A failure to address low participation in higher education.”

    In contrast with this range of broader social factors that don’t fix blame on the family ethos of the white working class and that have resulted in their educational underperformance, it does seem strange that Sewell emphasises just one overall culprit behind educational underperformance among black Caribbean people: collapse of the traditional family (“the upstream reasons why the Caribbean Community couldn’t build on the success of the early Caribbean pioneers. This had everything to do with the collapse of the family”; “African Caribbean boys did suffer a particular trauma. Because the male authority figures in their lives were problematic”; “priority council housing, which incentivized single motherhood and spelled the end for reliable fatherhood”).

    While I’m fully aware of the studies that demonstrate a link between the traditional family and educational outcomes, it is not clear why correlation would not be a similarly determinative factor in the significantly greater educational underperformance of white working-class children.

    Reply
    • David – it would probably be useful to bring Jesus into this – something which an Education Select Committee would be guaranteed not to do. I know something about it from the dim and distant past (which I’ve repeated ad nauseaum here – but it’s worth noting). My grandfather came to faith and it turned his life around. He gave up smoking and drinking, had a sound Christian work-ethic and all his children did reasonably well. So I’d say that the key reason that white British pupils eligible for free school meals persistently underperform is that their parents haven’t been gripped and mastered by the gospel message and haven’t put their faith in Christ. I’d say that the same principle extends to all (and not just white working-class pupils).

      Reply
      • Jock – I wrote my comment before reading yours but my thinking chimes in closely with yours. Most of two whole generations of white working class (and non-working) have grown up with virtually no Christian presence in their lives. Alcohol, weed, TV and now their phones play a large part in the lives of the working class. Not very inspiring but the truth.
        The current epidemic of poor mental health among the young is not hard to source.

        Reply
    • Neither do I. It may have something to do with the composition of the Select Committee and its possible dominant social secular presumptions which downgrade the influence of “family” or even the reality of disfunctional families, or lack of agreement of what a family is. Or the committee taking little to no account of the studies to which you refer. Do you have any knowledge? Are the studies referrenced?

      Reply
      • Are there any studies on the similarities and differences and disparities between the white working class and racial and ethnic groups in the areas of
        1 Building social capital
        2 Bridging social capital
        3 Linking social capital?

        Reply
    • David: I suspect it is because when British Caribbean fathers fail or drop out, the mothers and even more the grandmothers step into the breach and become fierce defenders. Many years ago when I taught in inner London, I discovered that black grandmothers were formidable presences and often the main carers of their grandsons – and the influence of the black church was still in the background. Single black mothers may still be a bit more ‘together’ than their white working class counterparts, for whom there is no generational memory of Christianity.
      Not enough, though, to keep boys away from drugs and the music scene.

      Reply
    • David S, thanks for this. If that is the reasoning by the Select Committee, then it is missing something very obvious, and very well established in research: that a lack of two birth parents disadvantages children.

      I am uncertain how prevalent this is in white working class areas compared with Caribbean. In St Annes, an inner urban part of Nottingham, Caribbean men are so transient that some sociologists did a study of the area to understand the dynamics.

      Reply
      • Ian,

        The evidence that you’ve described as: “very obvious, and very well established in research: that a lack of two birth parents disadvantages children” is applicable to all races.

        In fact, in his evidence before the Education Select Committee, Edward Davies, director of policy at the think-tank Centre for Social Justice, indicated that a lack of family stability is similarly implicated for the educational underperformance of white working-class children:
        “If you want the home environment to be set right in our poorest communities, the bottom 30%, half of children starting primary school have already seen their parents separate. It is going right back to prenatal care, to saying are we engaging dads at day one. We have seen during coronavirus that dads have been pushed out of hospitals screaming; they are not allowed to go to births and are seen as an additional extra. They are never referred to as dads; they are referred to as partners. The reality is that the vast majority of family breakdowns in our poorest communities—it is a generalisation—is dad leaving the family home in the first five years of a child’s life. Engaging dads on day one will be absolutely crucial..” https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1311/pdf/

        What doesn’t stand to reason is the idea that (in contrast with the notion of the educational underperformance of black children being mostly determined by (as you say) “a lack of two birth parents disadvantages children” and “missing men”) the significantly greater underperformance of white working-class children is somehow mostly determined by some factor (e.g., a lack of Christian presence) other than feckless fathers and “missing men”.

        Reply
        • Who said it wasn’t? The white working class have high levels of family break up and illegitimacy as well as domestic violence – as well as school failure. Google the Ofsted accounts and news stories about the Oasis Academy on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. Steve Chalke’s Oasis Trust took over the schools there hoping to turn them around – and the result was a heartbreaking catastrophe. The school is overwhelmingly white. The same in the Red Wall.

          Reply
          • “Who said it wasn’t?” Well, here are a few quotes from the comments thread:

            Jock: “I’d say that the key reason that white British pupils eligible for free school meals persistently underperform is that their parents haven’t been gripped and mastered by the gospel message and haven’t put their faith in Christ.”

            In reply to Jock, you wrote: “my thinking chimes in closely with yours. Most of two whole generations of white working class (and non-working) have grown up with virtually no Christian presence in their lives.”

            That emphasis on the lack of Christian presence is in stark contrast with chiming in with Sewell laying blaming for educational underperformance among black children on the lack of fathering “as a determinative outcome” and Ian Paul highlighting transient male presence (“missing men”) in black communities.

          • David writes: “That emphasis on the lack of Christian presence is in stark contrast with chiming in with Sewell laying blaming for educational underperformance among black children on the lack of fathering “as a determinative outcome” and Ian Paul highlighting transient male presence (“missing men”) in black communities.”

            Once again you get the wrong end of the stick. It isn’t ‘stark contrast’ at all. A lack of vital Christian religion and a lack of fathering (failing one’s duties) go hand in hand because religiously serious young men have instilled into them a sense of parental responsibility. The sexual revolution that kicked off in the 1960s with the pill and quickly morphed into demands for abortion has been disastrous for everyone, but especially for the poor who have the least resources to deal with consequences of sexual licence. (You may know that while black women are about 13% of the US female population, they account for about 38% of abortions. That is why black women are among the most vociferous supporters of the Democratic Party.) Sexual activity before and outside marriage is one of the most important indicators of how successful a marriage relationship may be, and the contrast with people of Indian subcontintent heritage is very stark.

          • “A lack of vital Christian religion and a lack of fathering (failing one’s duties) go hand in hand”.

            Indeed, they are of a piece and not peculiar to Caribbean communities. However, the comment thread reveals a distinct emphasis of blaming the educational underperformance of Caribbean children on delinquent menfolk, while it’s hardly blameworthy to highlighting a lack of “Christian presence” as the key factor in the far greater educational underperformance of white working class children.

          • David, once again you keep misreading things. The lack of ‘Christian presence’ is *one factor (not necessarily the ‘key’ one) in the educational underperformance of the white underclass/working class – which statistically includes Irish, Irish Traveller and Gypsy, who have always struggled in British education and have high absence rates:
            https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmeduc/142/142.pdf#:~:text=White%20working%20class%20underachievement%20in%20education%20is%20real,is%20larger%20than%20for%20any%20other%20ethnic%20group.
            Church involvement is virtually unknown in the white underclass; but along with this, there is a home culture that is rather sceptical or negative about schooling, which is often intergenerational. The decline in manufacturing and mining in the past generation has probably hurt this demographic the most.

          • James,

            “The lack of ‘Christian presence’ is *one factor (not necessarily the ‘key’ one) in the educational underperformance of the white underclass/working class.”

            Yet, you mentioned that factor while concurring with Jock’s overall assessment that “the key reason that white British pupils eligible for free school meals persistently underperform is that their parents haven’t been gripped and mastered by the gospel message and haven’t put their faith in Christ”.

            So, perhaps, you can clarify whether you truly agree with his statement about this key reason, viz.: “the same principle extends to all (and not just white working-class pupils).”

        • David, yes, of course it is applicable to all ethnic groups (there is only one ‘race’!). But as James points out, this is affecting some groups more than others because different ethnic groups, with their different cultures, experience differential races of family breakdown and instability.

          Reply
          • “there is only one ‘race’!” – Mea culpa. Clearly, I need to attend unconscious bias training.

    • Here is one person’s experience of research in the area: https://archive.discoversociety.org/2013/10/01/on-the-frontline-passing-by-insecure-neighbourhoods-and-people/

      ‘Initially I was unsure as to where I might find the ‘missing men’ I knew they were not in the same places on the estate as the women, the community centres, and at community projects such as youth clubs, community cafes, and at the local schools. The men were rarely present in the spaces on the estate the women occupied, but they often ‘passed by’. To ‘pass by’ is a term which is used by men to describe their plans for the day and has its origins within the Jamaican community, ‘pass-by’ meaning to visit. However ‘passing by’ described a lifestyle and a transient identity on the estate for men.’

      Reply
  10. In 2022, 57% of Caribbean families were headed by lone parents (nearly always mothers), compared to 22% of white families. 11% of Indian families were headed by lone parents.
    44% of persons born around 2000 didn’t live with their biological parents their entire childhood, compared with 21% born around 1970.
    There are very well known correlations between having two paxrdnts and: wealth; school success; entry into the professions; staying out of trouble with the law. This is particularly so for boys, who mature 2 or 3 years later than girls and need a lot more control and direction to channel their aggression in constructive ways. Family breakup is usually harder on boys than on girls.
    There are higher reported levels of happiness among people who have dinner as a family six nights a week.
    Children who are socially connected through youth groups and church groups as well as other groups such as sport usually have higher self-esteem and sense of purpose.
    White working class boys from broken homes are often at the bottom of the pile and can easily end up in anti-social behaviour.

    Reply
  11. James you wrote above that ‘The flag of Pakistan flying over Westminster Abbey the other day was widely mocked on social media as revealing the real state of the C of E.’

    I am afraid that says a lot more about the racist attitude of those doing the mocking than it does about the CofE. Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar and the King is head of the Commonwealth. Pakistan is part of the Commonwealth and the flags are flown when appropriate for visits of or celebrations concerning members of the Commonwealth. Nothing new about that. If you object then it’s a matter for the King and not for Westminster Abbey or the CofE. I didn’t have you down as an anti-monarchist!

    Reply
    • Andrew, I know why the flag was flying – and those laughing at it were not so much “racist” (what a tired, throwaway word that is) as anti-Pakistan, as well as anti-Muslim – which I certainly am. Have you ever been to Pakistan and know what fear the tiny Christian community lives in? It must be horrendous to be a Christian there, where Muslims accuse Christians of ‘blasphemy’ and Christians are regularly discriminated against. I have often though the creation of Pakistan was one of the worst ideas of the 20th century, but I suppose the British had a gun to their head, the hatred between Muslims and Hindus being so great.
      I no longer live in London and find it dismaying and frightening seeing Muslim men filling the streets to hold ‘prayer meetings’.
      The flag of Pakistan is nothing other than the affirmation of Islam.
      Personally I think the idea of flying flags over churches is a little weird and probably blasphemous. But Charles has some weird ideas himself.
      I am fairly indifferent to the British royal family and not really sure of its purpose. I don’t think they are, either.

      Reply
      • You entirely miss the point that it has nothing to do with the CofE and everything to do with the Commonwealth. The late Queen was a huge supporter so it had nothing to do with King Charles either.

        Reply
          • Not sure where you get that from. Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar and the King is Supreme Governor of the CofE. If you don’t think the CofE is Christian then that’s a different matter.

        • No, I haven’t missed the point, I know why the flag was flying – it was a PR disaster. I am anti-Muslim. Are you? Current projections are that by 2050, about 20% of Britain will be Muslim, while Christianity continues to disappear.
          Are you happy or indifferent about that?
          We will be dead then, but the prospect of Britain turning into a kind of Bosnia is not a happy one for our children and grandchildren.
          Are you opposed to the Islamicisation of Britain, Andrew?

          Reply
          • I’m opposed to the scaremongering and the kind of stuff GB news clearly feeds you with.

            “No, I haven’t missed the point, I know why the flag was flying – it was a PR disaster.”

            You have missed the point. Do you think the Commonwealth should be dissolved? Have you objected to the flag flying in previous years? Do you object to the flags of other Commonwealth nations?

      • James, “racist” may be a tired throwaway word, but as a modifier of “attitude” it seems fairly useful. A bit like “ethnocentric” — an attitude that we can even observe sometimes in ourselves, yes?

        Reply
        • Bruce, it is useful as a pejorative putdown word and for silencing criticism but not particularly useful for getting at the truth of an issue. Problems like school failure, crime, poverty, high levels of imprisonment, out of wedlock births, family breakdown, drug use and the like don’t go away by ascribing an “attitude” to people who point them out and ask why. It is also interesting to consider why some countries or places like South Korea and Singapore were poor and war-devastated in 1950 and are now among the wealthiest countries in the world, while places in Africa with greater GDP in 1950 have stagnated and even declined.
          These are the cultural and economic questions that Thomas Sowell examines. Have a look at his YouTube talks, they’re very interesting. Then have a look at his books. I also recommend Harvard historian David Landes’ “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations”, which has been a major influence on my thinking. Have a read of Landes snd tell me what you think.

          Reply
  12. Andrew, I do not watch GB News or any new programmes.
    I had no idea that flags were flown from Wedtminster Abbey before this week. It’s a dumb idea.
    I bid you good night and a blessed Octave of Easter. Don’t forget to pray for the persecuted Church in Pakistan.

    Reply
    • “I had no idea that flags were flown from Wedtminster Abbey before this week. It’s a dumb idea.”

      So obviously you had missed the point. The Abbey has held a celebration of the Commonwealth on Commonwealth Day for over 50 years. It is broadcast around the world – I produced the 1985 service for the BBC World Service. I think this year it was even televised. Flags have always been flown. What you are objecting to is the idea of the Commonwealth. And trying to pretend it isn’t on grounds of racism.

      And according to Ian it’s the CofE that is declining and not Christianity in Britain. Other Churches are apparently growing and the numbers of Christians therefore growing. (According to Ian).

      Reply
      • Andrew – I seem to remember Jesus indicating that his kingdom was not of this world. I do accept, though, that Westminster Abbey has a role connected with the State (which, following these words of Jesus, can’t be seen as a Christian role). As for the Commonwealth, I can’t really understand why countries sign up to it, because to me it looks like an expression of fealty towards the evil Anglo-Saxon empire.

        James – look – there are two types of people in this world: (a) those who have Jesus in their hearts and minds, have passed from death to life, are in the number of the Saviour’s family. (b) those who don’t. The Muslim creed does not look promising, since it seems to excludes faith in the Redeemer and, specifically in Jesus as Christ who, in the crucifixion and resurrection, conquered sin and death (our sin and our death) on our behalf. And yes – Scripture tells us to expect persecution from group (b) towards group (a). But I don’t really understand the animosity towards Muslims in particular – and what makes them qualitatively different from anybody else in the group (b) category – which (based on discussions we see on this blog) seems to contain huge swathes of the C. of E.. If you’re talking of atrocities against Christians, then the apostle Paul (who was not a Muslim) was responsible for a lot of this before his conversion on the road to Damascus.

        Reply
        • Jock – look – I have no animosity toward Muslims in particular or toward anyone in particular (well, maybe the neighbour who kept throwing his butts into our garden; he stopped when I kept throwing them back). It is Muslims as a collective political unit enforcing the mores of Pakistan and Afghanistan in urban Britain that I find a danger and threat. Look up the battle that Katharine Birbalsingh is facing for the Michaela School. Look at the complete failure to deal with the faux convert asylum seeker. Ask what happened to the RE teacher in Batley Grammar School. Ask why London is so roiled over the Gaza war. And I could add a dozen more cases. I used to teach RE many years ago. Today if I taught the well known and undisputed historical facts about Islam which I taught then and were widely known, I would be sacked and maybe charged with hate speech in Scotland. The truth is, nobody in English schools wants to talk about Islam – real Islam – so they pussyfoot around it. And no wonder.

          Reply
          • James – I don’t want to denigrate anything you say about Islam as a collective political unit. I’d say, though, that it is probably no worse than the political unit represented by the scribes and Pharisees at the time of Jesus (you know, the group that Caiaphas belonged to – John 11:49-53).

          • Jock – denigrate (or not) to your heart’s content. Since I don’t live in first century Judea Romana, I don’t really care (as a matter of daily living) what the Pharisees were like. I do live in 21st century Britain, where there is a growing, politically strident and sometimes combustible Muslim community, and that is a problem that is a problem that neither my parents nor my ancestors ever faced in their lives.

          • James – what you say is probably true – but I don’t live in the UK right now (and the country in which I live does not have a large Muslim population). What I know about it is what I pick up from Main Stream Media, which is not unbiased …….

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