VE Day, connecting with the working class and what it says to the church

Tomorrow marks a bank holiday in England. It is VE Day, the 75th anniversary of the day that World War II ended when the Nazi Germany offered its unconditional surrender.

Already, around the estate where we live, Union Jacks are decorating windows. On our walk around our area today, many houses had strung up Union Jack bunting across the street. As I noted on St George’s Day in the below twitter thread, this seems to be a working class phenomenon. In the tiny South Oxfordshire village in which I mainly grew up, St George’s Day and VE Day hardly seemed to raise a peep. But in Oldham, it is everywhere visibly.

I am reminded again how important it is for the Labour Party (or, let’s be honest, some other credible Workers Movement that I hope replaces them), if they are to represent the working classes as they claim to want to do, must reconnect with traditional values of faith and flag. Sadly, as Paul Embery noted in this tweet, that seems unlikely. His tweet expresses how the modern Labour Party are now viewed by many working class people:

But seeing the flags, bunting and community spirit present on our estate in the runup to VE Day, this twitter thread that I wrote on St George’s Day is reinforced.

Whilst that thread addresses St George’s Day and the English flag, the same sneering comments about jingoism, ‘Little Englanders’ and smears of ‘far-right’ will be levelled at those who dare to fly a Union Jack. It is this contempt in which the Labour Party holds large swathes of society that means the issues to which it speaks say very little to the experience of many working class people and the sneering attitude many sense is aimed towards them mean they have drifted away from the party in droves.

It is amazing to me that anybody would think throwing the label ‘fascist’ at people and sneering at their culture, lifestyle and values would still lead you to expect them to vote for you. Living in a working class area, and being an Evangelical Christian, I feel this hard. It is difficult to vote for people who appear to hold you, your family, friends and values in utter contempt. It is, interestingly, also why many of my South Asian Muslim friends cannot bring themselves to vote Conservative despite many of their traditional values appearing to be a clearer fit for them than what is offered by the Labour Party. Much like many white working classes, they quite understandably can’t bring themselves to vote for people who otherwise appear to hold them and their values in contempt.

Of course, you may disagree that either of these parties view those groups with disdain. You may (or may not) be right about that. But it is immaterial. That many within these groups feel these parties want their vote but don’t actually respect anything about them is what really tells. It is why, in recent times, I have come to find myself politically homeless. It is hard to vote for those who want your support but are unwilling to even thinly veil their contempt for you. In the end, people tire of being presumed upon. It is why, sadly, I foresee a lengthy period of wilderness wandering for Labour.

But I am minded to think that we need to take this seriously in the church as well. We talk a good game about wanting to see the nation reached for Christ, but where we plough our resources and the overwhelming majority of our efforts are based, some also perceive thinly veiled contempt. We may protest and say that we don’t think that. But it is immaterial. If those we are trying to reach perceive it, and feel it strongly, we may say it isn’t so, but our gospel isn’t going to get a hearing. And the absence of such people from our churches tell us, much like the Labour Party, they have voted with their feet. Either they don’t like what we’ve got to offer or they perceive that what we’re offering isn’t for them. Even if we say it is, our culture, our dress sense, our homogenous makeup and our holding any who are different at arms length so often belies our claim.

We may speak about wanting to reach the poor and deprived, and yet few of us are actually willing to go and live amongst them. We will ‘do our bit’, but only from a distance. We want to reach the working classes, but not in such a way as I actually have to mix with them or engage with them on their own terms, in their own culture. We’re fine doing that on overseas missions (for some reason) but not so much on the council estates or in deprived industrial areas within our own country. We may say the gospel is for all, but then the way we setup our churches appears to many as though it is more for some than others.