The Feeble Christian Case For Remaining In The European Union

Christians for Britain

Nobody has yet made a convincing Christian case for the EU. That should tell us something.

If nothing else, the Church of England’s Reimagining Europe blog has served to highlight – with a few very worthy exceptions – the exceedingly low quality of Christian thinking when it comes to the EU referendum question, and Britain’s place in the world more broadly.

The latest dismal example is a case in point, in which Andrew Gready (chaplain to the Anglican Church in the Hague) bemoans the fact that nobody is making a more positive case for staying in the EU:

Although there are certainly problems with the European Union (no one is seeking to gloss over these), the Dutch are at least able to see some of the positive benefits that belonging to a bigger whole has brought. It seems that they hoped that the debate in the UK would be more positive, more constructive than it has been. A number of people have said ‘Surely they can talk about the benefits of belonging, rather than just saying we are not sure what is going to happen, so let’s stay where we are!’

I think there is a real hope that the vote to Remain will actually be a positive statement of intent, rather than a negative one of fear and uncertainty. We will have to wait and see!

Newsflash, Gready – Britain is and will always remain part of a “bigger whole” whether we remain in the European Union or not. The European Union is a political construct, and a very recent and unproven one at that. It is not interchangeable with the continent of Europe, and it has no democratic legitimacy when it arrogantly claims to speak and act on behalf of the many diverse European peoples. There is a positive case for Brexit based on leaving euro-parochialism behind and engaging more fully in the world, and pro-EU Christians participating in the debate should at least acknowledge this fact rather than arguing against the two-dimensional cartoon Ukipper they hold in their minds.

But this is the very low standard of debate we have sadly come to see from those who claim to represent the Christian perspective. At its core, their argument amounts to little more than “the EU is about friendship and peace and cooperation, and Jesus was in favour of all those things, so what’s not to like?”

Or as the founder of Christians for the EU, the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, puts it:

“I think life is meant to be lived together in partnerships and collaboration. To walk away from an institution that was set up to pursue those ideals is a big mistake.

“Link that with the Genesis principle that it is not good for a man or a woman to be alone. The EU is very much not perfect, but the essential ideal and aim is still valuable. The world needs nation states to be grouped together in alliances that will be good for the human race.”

Because partnership and collaboration is only possible through political union, of course. The sheer superficiality of this thinking is mind-boggling.

Seriously – boil down most of the pro EU articles over at Reimagining Europe and they amount to little more than that. You’ll hear endless variations on the theme that because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, somehow it naturally follows that we should be united under the same supranational political umbrella – though curiously the Church of England never wastes its time clamouring for Asian countries to merge together, or for Canada, Mexico and the United States to institute a shared parliament.

Ben Ryan of Theos does a good job of summarising the many-layered complexity of Europe:

Yes, Europe is a Christian continent. But it’s not only a Christian continent, and that’s important to note. It’s a Christian continent, but it is also a ‘Greek’ continent, it is also a democratic continent; which is to say that the space that we call ‘Europe’ is not really a geographical thing. There is no border of Europe, geographically speaking. There are islands off the coast, there is no clear Eastern border.

Instead, what defines the border of the space that we call Europe is a cultural and intellectual thing. It is a space which is defined by what has come before; it is defined by Christianity, and by Greek philosophy, and by a number of other cultural and intellectual movements. So, it’s a mistake to think we are actually a real continent. There is no such thing as a ‘geographical Europe’, it can only really be seen as an intellectual space.

Sadly, many within the Church deliberately ignore these awkward facts, and have convinced themselves that pressing ahead with a uniquely 20th century vision of uniting the diverse under a single supranational government is a wise and moral thing to do – democracy be damned. And they do damn democracy through their actions, because what little organic desire and impetus for European political union there is always comes from the political elites, and not the ordinary people.

As a Catholic eurosceptic, it is frustrating to witness so many fellow Christians accepting the pro-EU, pro-Remain position almost by default, without actually engaging their brains or making considered reference to their faith. I’m no theologian myself, but I’ve read my Bible and I know that the New Testament offers little by way of clear instruction or even guidance as to how any entities larger than individuals and faith groups should organise or govern themselves, while much of the Old Testament reads as a “how not to do statecraft” manual.

If we restrict ourselves then to the teachings of Jesus, from where do Christian EU apologists draw their inspiration? The EU is not a democratic entity, nor is it likely to become one any time soon. What is so Christian about defending an organisation which insulates a continent’s leaders from the practical and political consequences of their rule? What is so Christian about sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and loudly repeating the mantra “the EU is about peace and cooperation, the EU is about peace and cooperation”, while ignoring the known history of European political union and disregarding the fact that fruitful inter-governmental cooperation could take place just as well outside the EU’s supra-national structure?

Canon Giles Fraser, founder of Christians for Britain, gets it:

“If the Tower of Babel teaches us anything, it is, when man tries to control too much and usurp the power of God then God disperses them,” he said. “Government that is centralised tends towards corruption: that is the history of human nature.

“The biblical pattern is not always for agglomeration of power. God also divides in order that powers would be controlled.”

As I say, I’m no theologian. But I’ve been on the lookout for a more substantial Christian case for the European Union which is not based on wilful ignorance or wishful thinking about the EU’s true nature, and so far I have come up short. Meanwhile, Brexit offers at least the chance of democratic renewal in Britain, potentially giving people (including the faithful) greater control over their lives and communities.

Regrettably, I have come to the conclusion that much of the Christian case for Remain rests either on a lazy “agree with the Left by default” mindset, or the desire to virtue-signal generally “progressive” values across the board. I will be happy to be proven wrong, and to be presented with a serious Christian case for the EU based on the argument that staying part of a supranational political union unreplicated in any other part of the world is 1) what Jesus would do, or 2) what is best for Christians in Europe. But I’m not holding out much hope.

And if that’s what this is really about – cheering on the EU because it signals that one holds the “correct” progressive opinions in other areas – then they picked a really lousy time to do it. Our politics is suffering a crisis of legitimacy, and yet many in the Church have taken the decision to cheer on the one entity which best represents the interests of a narrow European elite overriding the interests of ordinary people.

For the Church as a whole, the consequences of coming down on the wrong side of this issue – or at least failing to come down convincingly on the right side – could be profound. One way or another, now or twenty years down the line, Brexit is coming. And when it does, many leading authority figures within the church will have placed themselves firmly on the side of governing elites rather than the people who fill their emptying pews.

This should be provoking a great degree introspection and self-reflection from Britain’s most high profile Christian leaders. So far, one gets the distinct impression that it is not.

 

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On Brexit, Nigel Lawson Should Stick To Being A History Professor

Nigel Lawson - Brexit - EU Referendum

When it comes to the history of the EU, Nigel Lawson actually has his facts straight. It’s a shame he also feels the need to weigh in on the political and economic aspects of Brexit

When he isn’t single-handedly torpedoeing the thinking Brexiteer’s case for leaving the European Union with fatuous and cavalier pronouncements on the economic aspect – or wrongly whipping up fears that Brexit would mean border controls with Ireland – Nigel Lawson can sing quite a nice tune on the issue of democracy and the unabashedly federalist imperative of the EU.

From Lawson’s OpEd in yesterday’s Telegraph:

On the European mainland it has always been well understood that the whole purpose of European integration was political, and that economic integration was simply a means to a political end.

In Britain, and perhaps also in the US, that has been much less well understood, particularly within the business community, who sometimes find it hard to grasp that politics can trump economics.

The fact that the objective has always been political does not mean that it is in any way disreputable. Indeed, the most compelling original objective was highly commendable.

It was, bluntly, to eliminate the threat to Europe and the wider world from a recrudescence of German militarism, by placing the German tiger in a European cage.

Whether or not membership of the EU has had much to do with it, that objective has been achieved: there is no longer a threat from German militarism.

But in the background there has always been another political objective behind European economic integration, one which is now firmly in the foreground.

That is the creation of a federal European superstate, a United States of Europe. Despite the resonance of the phrase, not one of the conditions that contributed to making a success of the United States of America exists in the case of the EU.

But that is what the EU is all about. That is its sole raison d’être.

This is a condensed and fairly accurate restatement of the EU’s underlying purpose, more fully laid out in “The Great Deception” by Dr. Richard North and Christopher Booker – though this essential book makes the additional important point about just how much of the EU’s evolution has taken place by stealth, cloaked in deliberate secrecy.

Anyone still labouring under the illusion (or burying their heads in their sand to convince themselves) that the EU is nothing but a happy-go-lucky club of countries coming together voluntarily to “cooperate” and solve common difficulties together should read “The Great Deception” and let the scales fall from their eyes. For all his other faults, Lawson does at least have a firmer grasp of history than most starry-eyed EU apologists.

Does this OpEd make up for everything else that Lawson has unfortunately done to retard the case for Brexit? No. But it does show quite starkly the positive case for Brexit which the main Leave campaign is throwing away by refusing to commit to an anxiety-soothing EEA-based exit plan and then, once the public’s understandable economic concerns are neutralised, letting the case for democracy speak for itself.

 

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Traditions Are The Foundation Of Our Future – We Destroy Them At Our Peril

State Opening Of Parliament - Queens Speech

 

By Ben Kelly, blogger and editor of The Sceptic Isle.

A healthy respect for tradition and custom is a guarantor of stability and a means of conserving what is good and worth preserving about our country, its culture and its political system. I therefore find it regrettable that so many people pour scorn on tradition or are utterly baffled as to why it is so important. It is of particular concern when these sentiments are expressed by members of the ruling class.

Whenever I hear self-proclaimed “modernisers” lamenting the traditions of parliament such as the rituals and dress I get very nervous. It seems peculiar to me for them to join an institution with such a strong intent to transform it, to tear up its very roots. It isn’t that I fear change or that i’m against reform and refreshment when it is necessary, but I am very much against change for the sake of change. The same resentment of tradition can be seen in all walks of like but it is particularly troubling to see amongst modern politicians tinkering with centuries old traditions without the appropriate reverence.

Nothing pains them more than the awesome historicity of ceremonies such as the opening of parliament and the Queen’s speech. They look around the Palace of Westminster and see too many humbling echoes of the past and the last thing self-aggrandising “modernisers” want is to be humbled. They hate the ceremonial dress, the pomp and circumstance, the rituals that act as stark reminders of what has gone before, from the searching of the cellars to the slamming of the Commons door in the black rod’s face.

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What Comes After Britain?

What comes after Britain broken union flag

Those who are eager to undermine the nation state should explain how they intend to preserve democracy once it is gone

I’m on the losing side of history.

I still believe that the nation state is a force for good, and that it remains the best repository and defender of our most fundamental rights and liberties. But I’m in a dwindling minority, and others have different ideas. Most things to do with the nation state are either being replaced, deconstructed or just becoming passé. I get funny looks if I say wouldn’t it be nice if we brought back the national anthem before sporting and other events, or if I write anything about “British exceptionalism”.

I know that all of these things are fading into the past, and I can make my peace with that. But for those who call themselves “progressive” and heartily embrace conceptions and institutions such as today’s vast European Union or total, unmanaged multiculturalism*, I have a question: do you really know what you are letting yourselves – and all of us – in for?

At the moment almost all of our rights are vested in and guarded by the nation state. But the nation state is under attack on all fronts – unlimited immigration within the EU, free trade, global capital flows, multinational corporations. I broadly agree with some of these trends, I often like them in principle and even personally benefit from most of them; but they are all gradually undermining the nation state.

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Cityscapes – 11 February, 2014

benedictarnold

The final home of American Continental Army defector Benedict Arnold, at 62 Gloucester Place, Marylebone, London.

I have been meaning to photograph this building since realising that the historic residence casually sits on a frequently-taken bus route of mine. And so, when the opportunity arose, I could not let it go to waste:

Semi-Partisan Sam sometimes faces similarly torn loyalties.
Semi-Partisan Sam sometimes faces similarly torn loyalties.

The description of Benedict Arnold as an “American Patriot” is likely to cause raised eyebrows among American visitors, who naturally view Arnold’s actions somewhat differently. This, of course, only makes the commemorative plaque all the more amusing.