The Rev Jarel Robinson-Brown has recently been appointed as curate at All Hallows By The Tower in London. Given the news today, one can only ask questions of those who approved him for training as a priest in the first place and those who later opened a curacy place for him. Call me naive, but I was under the impression that being a priest calls for wisdom, humility, kindness, the willingness to see the good in people with whom you disagree. Plus, in these fractious times, the ability to engage in ‘good disagreement’. No?
Our brother Jarel has tweeted that the nationwide ‘Clap for Captain Tom’ event last night was part of a ‘cult of white British nationalism’. For non-UK readers, just Google ‘Captain Tom’ and you will see what this amazing elderly man achieved in his life before dying this week at the age of 100.
A quick look at Brother Jarel’s Twitter account shows that he identifies himself as the following:
‘Human, cleric, writer, aspiring scholar in Late Antiquity, Justice, Freedom, Liberation, Equality: By Any Means Necessary’….He/Him, #BLM.
Leaving aside the obvious fact that ‘By Any Means Necessary’ could quite reasonably be interpreted as a call to violence – indeed, see below in some of his tweets – I am unclear about how this chap has got away with his problematic speech for so long.
Other tweets reveal that he is encouraged by a crowd of followers who seem to hang on his every word – indeed, he could be said to be something of a cult leader-figure himself. Here is a selection of tweets fairly typical of his output:
The ‘Roscoe’ to whom he refers is a character in the Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin, which looks at the 1980s AIDS outbreaks. Aside from the poor theology of likening a fictional character to a Biblical scapegoat – which is questionable to say the least – it ought to be remembered that It’s A Sin is a drama – not a documentary. Like many screenwriters have done before – the production of ‘drama’ about a historical situation is typically used to rewrite history or at least to tell it from only one perspective – the author’s. In other contexts this would be called propaganda.
Not content with promoting ‘Black Prophetic Fire’ and Black Lives Matter, Brother Jarel is also keen on promoting ‘Prophetic Rage’:
Ably egged on by a range of ‘useful idiots’ including:
Let’s take a quick look at Brother Jarel’s talk last week, Prophetic Rage: Fire Shut Up In My Bones. Here are a few quotes:
‘My location in the world, as someone who is Black, gay, and Christian has meant that there has been little refuge from the violence and injustice that brings an emotion like rage to birth in a person’s life. This location has rendered rage not only necessary, but means that it comes to me endowed with a certain utility – survival…
I say that, to say that rage is an old friend – certainly no stranger – and those of us who are keen to condemn rage as inherently un-Christian I suspect do so because life: present and past, has not (yet) necessitated rage either as a form of expression, or more essentially as a weapon of survival. To those who know what it means to be human in the face of death, rage is no foe…
Jeremiah finds that the Word of God restlessly inhabited him – we could say that for the prophet, ‘the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow…’ (Heb 4:12). But Jeremiah doesn’t entirely embrace this feeling – in fact he hates it and who can blame him?…
The only prophetic rage appears now, as that which has the capacity to become action…‘good trouble’ we might say, even violence…!
We could say that rage is prophetic when you can do nothing about it, and when being able to do nothing about it, is evidently the work of the Spirit…
If prophetic rage exists at all, we must ask ourselves what it is that gives rage its prophetic quality…what it is that pushes rage so that it becomes something more than just noise. The prophetic quality of rage causes you to realise that your silence, your complacency, your lack of anger – is actually not a virtue, but sin….
Sometimes, rage is the only thing that gets the rich to notice the poor, the White to notice the Black, the straight to notice the gay – and to stop and think: why are they so angry, and why does this rage appear to involve me? You see the difference between the prophet and the king, is that kings are guaranteed to have no interior life within which they are not the centre. They cannot hear the voice of God, nor the voice of the poor.
Get the drift? I’m trying to find evidence of the fruits of the Spirit here and seem to be drawing a blank.
Brother Jarel is an activist. Nothing less. Is this compatible with the priesthood? I’m not sure. Apart from anything else, he seems to have no qualms about pursuing a route of ‘By Any Means Necessary’ to promote his own views. What does that say about his own views of those who do not agree with him? How can he be an effective pastor to them?
He has issued the standard weasel-worded ‘apology’:
So that’s ok then. Sign the charter and all is fine. But I am not convinced of the merits of the apology. The wording is clever – ‘for the insensitive timing and content of my tweet’. Is that an apology for ‘the insensitivity of the timing, and the insensitivity of the content’ or simply ‘the insensitivity of having said what I said now when I could have said it without criticism on another day’? Answers on a postcard, please.
Just imagine, for a moment, that Brother Jarel were white and had criticised the ‘cult of Captain Tom’, had Captain Tom been a Black man.
The Diocese of London has now issued the following:
Yet even this refers specifically to the racist abuse that he is receiving (which is of course appalling itself), while only referring to his own abusive words as ‘unacceptable, insensitive and ill-judged’. In any other context his words would be called out as hate speech and abuse rather than as ‘ill-judged’ comments.
You do wonder how much more the CofE can dig itself into a hole. How has this brother got through ordination selection and the first stage of actual ordination?
In regard to his Twitter account, it seems to have been taken down – but in anticipation of this, I managed to screenshot a substantial amount of it earlier today. Plenty of evidence of a man with problems, not least rage and a willingness to achieve his aims by any means possible. And this is a chap deemed suitable to lead in the Church.