Tommy Robinson has been released from Belmarsh Prison and whilst the story has predictably been portrayed as a victory for his supporters and a chance for his detractors to restate their views on the controversial figure, one thing that he said upon his release should be listened to by those who love, loath and are indifferent to Robinson.
When speaking to the press outside of the prison, he stated that a Muslim imam visited him daily and that in spite of his infamous anti-Islamic views, he had a generally genial relationship with the Islamic clerics. By contrast, he stated that it was sixteen days before a single Christian minister visited him. This should trouble anyone who thinks that society has become coarsened and morally debased by the suppression of Christianity in a country which still legally has an established Church – one whose head of state also serves as the Church’s Supreme Governor.
By definition, prisons are places where those who have broken their moral contract with society (as enshrined in the letter of the law) have been placed in order to both protect society from further maleficence and also to punish those who commit wicked deeds….(this article incidentally has nothing to do with whether Robinson’s imprisonment was just or unjust).
Prisons are also places where for centuries, ministers of religion have visited criminals as part of the process that attempts to shame the guilty for their wicked acts whilst preparing them to seek forgiveness from God and in a worldly sense, to beg forgiveness from normal society through good acts that are often inspired by faith.
As such, it is proper and correct that Muslim imams visit convicts and it is in a practical sense, incredibly noble that they should visit a man like Robinson whose public career is built around opposing and often insulting Islamic teachings.
But in a country that is still Christian insofar as its established Church and long history is a signpost of such things, it is wrong that a prisoner like Robinson who was not even in Belmarsh for a violent offence, was abandoned by Christian ministers whose very job on earth is to save the souls of sinners from sin.
The 7th Earl of Longford (1905-2001) was perhaps emblematic of someone who viewed prisons as a place where Christian redemption should be an overriding force. Lord Longford was a liberal Christian in terms of his vision of prison as a place of reform rather than a place of punishment which can only later lead to the potential for reform. Whilst Lord Longford was deeply controversial in his time for his seemingly intimate relationship with some of the most wicked prisoners in modern English history, no one could deny his sincerity as a Christian, although many rightly criticised his extremely liberal interpretations of how the message of Christ ought to be delivered to those behind bars who had committed the most appalling violent crimes fathomable.
In his day, Lord Longford was ridiculed from the right for his extreme views on liberal penal reformism, whist he was equally ridiculed by those on the left for his views on sexual relations in general as well as his specific opposition to homosexuality. But whilst Longford was seen as something of an eccentric by all sides of the political and social divides, no one tried to overtly suppress him or his message.
Today, both the conservative practices of Christianity that Longford sought to replace with a liberal reformist view as well as Longford’s style of Christianity have been driven out of mainstream society and apparently also driven out of the prisons. If Lord Longford was alive in 2019, one could be sure that like the Islamic Imams who visited Tommy Robinson, Longford would have also visited Robinson, carrying with him a Bible and conducting himself as a lay preacher of a seemingly forgotten variety of liberal Christianity – one that is no longer tolerated among the almost exclusively secular if not overtly atheistic liberalism of the 21st century west.
Tommy Robinson’s style of journalism has earned him many critics and two prison sentences. But this week, Robinson has inadvertently conducted an important act of journalism. In an off the cuff remark, he has exposed how Christianity in 21st century Britain is afraid of itself and its ministers afraid of their own shadows.
By contrast, Islam remains more comfortable in its own proverbial skin, even in a country that is home to Robinson. It is only a matter of time before secular liberals turn on Islam as they have already turned on Christianity. When the secular liberals turn on Islam, they will do so in the same way and for the same reasons as their war on Christianity. For exposing this fact in a very plain way, Tommy Robinson has actually made an important contribution to journalism- even though it is almost certain that this was not his intent in that particular instance. Perhaps even more unexpectedly, Robinson has also proved an important point about how Christianity and Islam have a great deal in common – both in their virtues and in their perilous position in a society dominated by a liberalism that no longer embraces, let alone tolerates faith.