The Church Of England’s Tantrum Over The EU Referendum Result Is Insulting To Brexit-Supporting Christians

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Nearly a month after Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union, swathes of the Church’s leadership are stuck in furious denial

This blog had very little time for the Revd. Dr. Robert Innes, the Church of England’s Bishop of Europe, before the EU referendum and Britain’s shocking, wonderful decision to leave the EU. But it has even less time for his incessant, self-pitying (and democracy-loathing) moaning in the weeks since that historic vote.

The Archbishop Cranmer blog reports:

“Let me be clear,” said the Rt Rev’d Dr Robert Innes, Bishop of Europe, as he addressed the General Synod of the Church of England. “From my European perspective, this Referendum and its result represent a sad loss of national vocation; an abject failure of political leadership; and a squandering of the birthright of our young people.” And Synod applauded their Euro-prophet for a full 10 seconds, seemingly oblivious to the fact that lay Anglicans voted for Brexit in their droves (and by a majority). “Britain seems to be a country anxious to build fences,” he added, before reminding the people of God that his task as a bishop is to build bridges. Not to the wider world, it seems. Or even to the 22 nations of Europe which aren’t in the European Union, which includes the supremest bridge Pontifex himself, all neatly fenced off in Vatican City State. But Dr Innes’ task as a bishop is to build bridges to the other nations of the European Union, and without political union he is seemingly bereft and hindered from doing so.

Cranmer goes on to highlight Bishop Innes’ complete and utter disregard and disdain for the pro-Brexit opinions of many lay Christians:

The Bishop of Europe acknowledges that some in his Diocese were pleased with the Referendum result, but he doesn’t tell their stories. They are sidelined, disdained and ignored: they don’t quite fit the Bishop’s narrative of shame, anger and deep sadness. “One older man in Paris said to me: ‘I have never been so ashamed of my country.’ A lady in Geneva said to me: ‘I have found it hard to stop being angry.’” There’s no apprehension of joy, liberty, hope or optimism: no awareness of the abundance of bridges we can now build into the whole world. For the Bishop of Europe, British identity and national vocation were wrapped up in ever closer political union: there is no refuge or strength to be found in Brexit.

Christians who voted to leave the EU did so for a variety of reasons, and none of them is worthy of less consideration than the shame of the old man in Paris or the anger of the lady in Geneva. Do we not also seek to cooperate and fellowship with other churches in Europe? Do we not pray to avoid harm and relieve suffering? Are we any less concerned with human rights, the common good or injustice? Are we incapable of loyalty to brotherhood and respect for authority? Is our ethic simply one of nationalistic purity, individualism and xenophobia?

[..] Is there not an echo in our historic national vocation of looking out to the seas and saving Europe from herself? Rather than being an abject failure of political leadership, might Brexit not represent a noble and commendable success? Instead of squandering the birthright of our young people, might we not just have preserved their ancient rights and liberties as freeborn Britons?

One wonders exactly how long the British political and cultural establishment – of which the Church of England is a firm member – can go on being openly, seethingly contemptuous and angry at the British people without finding themselves on the receiving end of an eventual backlash which will make Donald Trump seem the epitome of polite restraint.

The way which those people of privilege and wealth (such as bishops, newspaper columnists and politicians) have conducted themselves since the EU referendum, staggering around the political landscape rending their garments and gnashing their teeth in despair at the prospect of being separated even an inch from their beloved European Union, is enough to induce nausea. It is particularly offensive when such arrogant and self-pitying emotions burst forth from people who fatuously claim to care about the whole of society while reserving a particular duty of care to exactly the type of disenfranchised, economically suffering people who voted for Brexit in their droves.

It is almost enough to make one pine for the days when the establishment merely ignored the concerns, priorities, hopes and dreams of ordinary people as the elite ravenously pursued their own interests. To a poor Christian, it was likely enough of an insult and stretching of Christ’s teaching to be ministered to by a disinterested bishop who lives in a mansion and sits in the House of Lords while they have to trudge five miles to the food bank. Now, as punishment for daring to vote for Brexit, now they must endure the same gulf in circumstances while also being harangued and accused of small-minded racism by some pampered upper middle class oik who uses the collection plate offerings of thousands of other economically struggling Christians to ride the Eurostar first class to “build bridges” with Europe while the social fabric of his own country continues to crumble.

How, one wonders, does the Church of England expect to survive when too few of its bishops follow the example set by Mark Rylands, Bishop of Shrewsbury, who approached the EU question fairly and with the interests of the world’s poorest at heart rather than the interests of Britain’s ruling elites, and determined that Brexit was best for British democracy and for the world’s poor?

How does the Church of England expect to survive when the face it presents to the nation (and its own congregations) too often resembles the contemptuous face of Bishop Robert Innes, horrified by the great unwashed in all their uneducated xenophobia, and the democratic decision they made to leave the European Union?

Quo usque tandem abutere, episcopus, fides nostra?

 

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The European Union Does Not Promote The Neighbourliness Preached By Jesus

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As yet another bishop declares his support for keeping Britain in the EU, the last gasp strategy of the intellectually and morally defeated Remain campaign starts to become clear

More hand-wringing, wheedling declarations that Britain should sacrifice our own democracy and national interests in order to “save Europe from itself”, over at the Reimagining Europe blog.

Robert Innes, bishop of the Diocese in Europe writes:

At the heart of Jesus’ teaching is an ethic of neighbourliness. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, he says. And in the parable of the Good Samaritan he stretches the idea of the neighbour to include even those in close by regions with whom we have traditional rivalries.

Ah, so we are going to be treated to another rendition of that glib assertion that because “friendship” and “co-operation” sound like nice Christian things, it automatically follows that Britain should sacrifice our democracy and dissolve ourselves into the embryonic common European state.

This is based on the blinkered view that co-operation between friendly democracies is only possible when coordinated by a powerful supranational regional government, something which would come as a great surprise to Christians in Africa, Asia and the Americas, whose countries seem to be able to co-operate with one another on environmental, energy, economic, defence and intelligence matters without becoming vassals of a large regional organisation with slobbering aspirations of statehood.

Bishop Innes continues:

Being a good neighbour has costs. We may be expected to come to our neighbour’s aid. Frankly, at the moment Europe needs British help. The whole continent is struggling with migration. Debt and unemployment afflict the southern states. And these are generating populist sentiments which threaten us all. The European Institutions in Brussels have benefited from a good deal of British administrative and political expertise in the past. In order for them to work well and to promote the good of the whole continent, they need that expertise now. We have contributed democratic principles, a sense of humanity, tolerance and practical common sense over many decades. These are loved and valued by our European neighbours.

From where I sit, there is an awful lot riding on the Referendum Vote. It feels, from Brussels, like a vote that could determine not just the future of Britain but the future of the European continent, for decades to come. I have already posted my vote. There’s no secret that it was for ‘Remain’. Not everyone in my diocese will agree with me, and I respect that. But I hope that the remaining days of the campaign will be marked by high quality information and truly informed debate. I hope there will be a massive voting turnout. And, yes, I hope that Britain will stay in the European Union and help our whole continent find its way through difficult times and into a new future.

Having been comprehensively routed in the argument about democracy (though to be fair, the EU apologists, knowing their weak position, barely put up a fight) and seen the polls gradually turn towards Brexit as people tire of the scaremongering and pessimism of the Remain campaign, we seem to be moving into a new phase of the referendum.

It now seems to be the contention of some Remainers that the EU may well do us little or no good whatsoever, but that it is our duty to remain lashed to the mast nonetheless out of blind solidarity with our European allies. We saw Jonathan Freedland advancing just such a case in the Guardian this week, essentially arguing that British democracy is a small and trivial thing, a worthless trinket and a small price to pay to stop the squabbling countries of Europe from going at each others’ throats.

Of course, this is insidious nonsense. The European Union undermines democracy in all of its member states, not just Britain. That’s what it was designed to do – become an increasingly powerful supranational government of Europe by slowly and steadily accumulating more powers and hollowing out the democracy and decision-making competencies of the member states. And we see a growing antipathy toward the EU project across Europe, not just in Britain and not just in the traditionally eurosceptic countries, with France now holding a more unfavourable view of the EU than we do.

In this modern context, stubbornly voting to remain in the European Union in defiance of the damage it is doing to our democracies as well as the social and economic harm being wrought by the EU’s single currency and migration policy is the height of irresponsibility. If you see four friends stumbling drunk out of a bar and walking toward their parked car, you don’t hop in the back seat and go along for the ride, you beg them not to drive and call them a taxi instead. And so it is with the EU – there is no good reason why we should march in lockstep with the rest of the EU in a direction which can only lead to more voter apathy, civil unrest and socio-economic misery – least of all because a very superficial interpretation of Christian teaching suggests that it is the right-on, progressive thing to do.

Interestingly, Robert Innes’ article is currently unavailable at Reimagining Europe – perhaps he encountered hostility to his blinkered europhilia from members of his diocese, or perhaps even he realised the fatuous over-simplicity of his article.

But this is an argument which is coming up again and again, the Hail Mary pass of the Remain campaign – that the EU may well be terrible, but that somehow we owe it to the other member states to stick around until the bitter end. It is a weak argument from a campaign based entirely on weak arguments, and if the Remain camp continue to push this defeatist narrative it suggests that they really are in trouble.

 

Postscript: More on the Christian case for Brexit herehereherehere and here.

 

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