Voting and the Role of the State

By Joe Boot / April 22, 2016

Topic Politics

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Navigating Britain’s EU Referendum Decision

Those in any way engaged with political life in Britain will know that bearing down upon the British people this summer is a big decision – should the United Kingdom leave the European Union or remain embedded within it? The government has made its official position clear, forcefully arguing that it wants Britain to remain in the EU under slightly revised terms negotiated by Prime Minister David Cameron, but with the essential structures and treaties unchanged. Those for and against what has been dubbed ‘Brexit’ are currently lining up the polemical artillery to make their case. The official campaigns have just begun and will gain pace in the coming weeks.

The government is using every stratagem at its disposal, both the carrot and the cane, to persuade the British public of the merits of its position. International help is being marshalled as US President Barack Obama has not only made a special point of making his opposition to a British exit known, but is visiting the UK with ‘soft power’ diplomacy to help the government convince the British people to stay in the EU. At the same time other international bodies like the IMF (which is closely aligned with EU institutions) are suitably obliging with predictions of potentially negative economic consequences if Britain leaves the European Union. So in light of the government’s political weight, considerable resources, and allies, the deck has been heavily stacked against those who support an exit. In other words, this match-up is somewhat David versus Goliath, and we should all keep that in mind as we consider and weigh what we hear in the media.

In the midst of this big decision it is also important to notice that most of the reasons being marshalled against exiting the European Union concern highly emotive pronouncements about possible economic ramifications for the U.K, with some rather strained arguments regarding exit as a threat to our ‘national security’ and ‘global influence’ being deployed here and there. For the most part, then, appeal is being made to a perceived threat to people’s wallets. The renegotiation of trade deals (that would be required if Britain exits the EU), we are told, means a foreboding uncertainty; jobs may be put at risk; London’s dominance as a world financial centre be threatened. In other words, leaving is a step into the financial unknown.

Remarkably, then, the popular case being put forward for remaining in the EU is conspicuously missing any substantive appeal to a sense of shared European values, the public good of European institutions for Britain, of a shared European identity, or the importance of an ‘ever closer union’ that has actuated the expanding European dream for decades. Instead we are essentially hearing appeals to people’s immediate fears of potential economic problems rather than a more robust defense of and advocacy for the European vision and its institutions, in which Britain is currently embedded and continuously funds with tax-payer money.

The government is presently leading people to believe that remaining “in” means almost guaranteed prosperity whilst “out” means uncertainty and economic challenges. But is the economic aspect really as simple as that? Clearly not. The dire warnings are grossly exaggerated. The reality is that both Norway and Switzerland prosper in Europe outside of the EU, enjoying excellent trade agreements with member states, and all that without contributing 13 billion to the EU – which is what the U.K contributed in 2015.

Moreover, Christians should be particularly sensitive to the fact that the future is always uncertain in or out of the EU; similar predictions were heard during the mid-1970s. No political organisation (transnational or otherwise) can offer guarantees of economic or national security. Greece, Ireland and Portugal are all member states of the EU, but that has not meant financial security or prosperity in the midst of massive debt levels and financial bailouts. France and Belgium are leading nations in the EU, but that has not meant solid national security and immunity from Islamic terrorism. As a result, it seems clear that if the argument for remaining in the EU is to be coherent and compelling it must involve a serious appeal and commitment to values and institutions championed by the EU that transcend merely immediate financial fears and uncertainties about leaving, since deep financial problems are dogging the EU itself.

With all the argument and counterargument, then, as well as the spin and fear-mongering which create a great deal of cognitive dissonance for people –distracting them from the core issues that need to be considered – how are we to responsibly navigate this question as Christians beyond merely trotting out platitudes concerning the civic duty of voting and participating prayerfully in the political process?

The Nature and Responsibility of Government

A good place to begin is to look briefly at the nature and responsibility of government from a distinctly Christian standpoint. In these debates it is easy to overlook the most important and foundational questions that critically inform such a decision. If we don’t do this our decision-making will be merely reactionary and pragmatic, not principled, which is at best short-sighted and at worst dangerous. The EU is, after all, an important layer of civil government that those who wish to remain in Europe are seeking to retain as important for Britain. EU treaties and institutions have a binding effect upon Britain, so knowing what government is meant to be about will help us set up a responsible answer to the question of ‘Brexit.’

Firstly, then, as Christians, our view of all human institutions must be controlled by Scripture – God’s revelation to us about who God is, who we are (our creation, fall and redemption), and how we are to live. We see in Scripture that God has established what we might call creational structures (or ordinances) that provide government and authority in our lives for our blessing and for his purposes to be established. The four basic institutions that God has clearly established are marriage (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:31), the family (Ps. 68:6; Eph. 3:14-15; Eph. 6:1-4), the church (Gen. 12:1-3; Matt. 6:18; Acts 2; Eph. 1:22-23) and the state (Gen. 9:1-10; Dan. 2:20-21; Rom. 13:1-7). These are all legitimate areas of government in human life. All of them are ordained by God in Scripture and are clearly accountable to God and his moral law (Ps. 2; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 1:8-11). They are inter-dependent spheres of life that impact us all daily as Christians.

This means that political matters are of a real concern to us as Christians, first because what civil government does dramatically affects the other areas of human government (family, church, company etc…), and second because those entrusted with civil government are accountable both to God and to those whom they govern by consent in our Western society. The state as it developed in Christendom is a differentiated public literally ‘called out’ as public servants to minister to society through the oversight and direction of certain affairs of the people – in particular, law and justice. Moreover as Christians we recognise that God does not just rule through marriage, family, church and state, he rules over them and so they are to function as his servants (Rom. 13:1-7). This means that the state is to function within a role delimited by God.

Structure and Direction

An important distinction to make in this regard concerns the difference between ‘structure’ and ‘direction’ in these governmental spheres of life ordained by God. The structure of something concerns God’s laws and ordained pattern – for example, for the family, church, and state. The direction of these spheres concerns the orientation that they have. There are various structures in God’s creation but only two directions. We are either oriented toward God or toward idolatry in marriage, family, church, and state. We either seek to serve and glorify God in each area of life or we have an apostate direction that rejects God and his revelation.

I note this important distinction because as Christians we recognise the reality of the Fall and so the problem of sin in all human institutions – including the nation state and wider political arrangements. Regarding marriage for example, God’s ordained structure for marriage is still the same as at creation, but the direction of the hearts of those in the marriage relationship is, when unregenerate, turned in an apostate direction. Likewise the essential challenge of political life (as with family and church life), is not that God’s ordained structure of the state is broken, but that many of those involved in politics have hearts, and thereby convictions, that are hostile to God and apostate from him. To put this another way, when people opine that their ‘marriage failed’ as Christians we recognise that it was not the God-given structure of marriage that failed, but rather the problem lay in the hearts of the couple concerned so that their relationship broke down. So in respect to the state, failed states do not lead us to conclude that God’s ordination of the state is at fault, but that the various actors involved in its collapse failed. In short, political challenges are at root fundamentally religious and moral challenges.

The relevance of this scriptural fact to political life and the question of ‘Brexit’ is multi-faceted. First, the inescapable reality of sin means that the close accountability of civil government and its public officials to the people being governed is central to a Christian understanding of statecraft. The more distant and removed from direct accountability governments and their bureaucracies are, the greater the threat to people’s freedom and self-determination under God. Whilst the European Parliament is elected (though most of us can’t name our members because of a sense of distance and irrelevance), the European Commission is not, even though it wields great power and influence. This reality clearly undermines U.K sovereignty and Parliamentary supremacy.

Second, what especially arises from the Christian understanding of the state, that is peculiarly relevant here, is the importance of maintaining realistic expectations of political institutions and so limiting institutional political power in the light of sin. We are going to see that at the very founding of the EU, in its earliest iterations and since, it set out almost utopian expectations for itself that would require far-reaching powers. In fact its framers placed central hope for Europe in its transnational forms of government and so laid upon political technocracy a shepherding role and responsibility that belongs to God – and under him, the sovereign state, the family and the church – not to transnational political institutions. When this happens, stifling regulations, controls and political coercion quickly erode freedom because the vain goal of moral and spiritual reformation of people through a planned society, created by political engineering, of necessity radically limits local independence and freedom.

The structures (even if we get those right), which we can call ‘horizontal’ aspects of social and political life, in themselves cannot alter the direction of the human heart which is the vertical aspect of our lives. Because of the fallen, idolatrous heart of man, the state is tempted to step outside its ordained sphere in an apostate direction and absolutize itself so that rather than serve God and the community, political power starts to serve itself. The direction of the hearts of people will naturally determine the kind of government they want. From a Christian standpoint, when human government is absolutized, various forms of statism emerge. Socialism deifies the state itself; communism deifies the party as the essence or embodiment of the state; national-socialism deifies the nation-state; and globalism deifies a concept of global government embodied in an elite group of planners, contriving human salvation by politics.

In light of these errors, the Christian must start by acknowledging that no form of government can overcome the problem of sin in order to fix man and society. Human beings are not essentially good and simply in need of the right socio-political environment to flourish and embody an ideal order. Rather our hearts are deceitful and sin is pervasive (Jer. 17:9). This means that in the Christian view, the primary role of the state is the restraint of evil and the commending of righteousness, not providing socio-political salvation through technocratic means. Political institutions that profess to be able to do more than the structure of the state was ordained by God to do are dangerous and pretentious.

Britain cannot be finally ‘improved’ and given a brighter, safer, more prosperous future by remaining within the EU, nor can it be ‘saved’ simply by exiting the EU, because true government and authority are essentially moral realities that cannot acquire legitimacy by simple rearrangements in formal polity. In sum, political structures and bureaucracies can become a great threat to citizens whenever they are separated from the living God and his concrete revelation; they cease thereby to function as servants and become coercive task-masters in a vain quest to realise the ideal order. Even the state’s function in the punishment of criminals is to be a ministry of correction for God and to the people governed, not a tyrannical or arbitrary power.

In light of the aforementioned Christian starting point – given the direction of people’s hearts in our culture and the abiding fact of sin – critical questions emerge. What kind of political arrangement for Britain best guards against the proneness of governments and their bureaucracies to overreach themselves and deify (absolutize) some aspect of the socio-political life of humanity? Which arrangements can place the best check on fallen political power? Which structure most reflects God’s intention for the state? Which arrangement best protects our liberty? Which context provides the best opportunity for our Christian faith to flourish and work like leaven through the loaf of British society? And is leaving the EU or staying in the EU likely to provide the greatest degree of accountability of leaders to their people?

In answering these questions adequately we need to briefly examine two important things. First the unique political inheritance of freedom and justice in Britain and the values and virtues upon which it has been historically based. And second, the European project and the values and virtues upon which it was and is being constructed. Whether these are compatible lies at the heart of the question of ‘Brexit.’

 

The British Inheritance

Prime Minister David Cameron, in a 2013 speech, acknowledged one factor shaping British identity, important in light of the current question of ‘Brexit:’

 

Our geography has shaped our psychology. We have the character of an island nation – independent, forthright, passionate in defense of our sovereignty. We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel.[1]

 

It is certainly true that our geographical situation as an island helped shape specific aspects of the modern British temper, and from the 1650s, also helped to foster the growth of a strong navy and later the vision of a large empire impossible to envision without a powerful navy force – the island factor throughout our history has certainly been significant. But clearly being an island isn’t sufficient to account for British freedoms and our sense of independence and national identity as we wrestle with the question of European Union. Sri Lanka is an island and a very beautiful one, but it takes more than being an island to develop the institutions and political freedoms that Britain developed. The critical factors that really underlay the development of British institutions (later exported to create the English-speaking world), were primarily the result of Reformed or Protestant Christianity as it emerged powerfully in sixteenth-century Britain.

 

Many will remember that recently we celebrated the 800 year anniversary of Magna Carta, widely regarded as the foundational text of the British constitution, guaranteeing basic freedoms that reflected the Christian customs of the people. The legal codes of Saxon England which prepared the way for the Charter had made it clear that because all people are subject to God, even kings were subject to the law – something church leaders pointed out to rulers whenever they felt it necessary. At the foundations of English law and government were the laws of King Alfred, which began by citing the Ten Commandments and various other Old Testament laws. This understanding helped to form a particularly English tradition of kingship. As Philip Quenby has put it:
 

From the moment it was granted, Magna Carta held out the promise of freedom – freedom from arbitrary rule, freedom from oppression, freedom from tyranny. That was the clear implication of clause 39, which spoke of no free man being imprisoned except by the judgment of his peers or due process of law. Those provisions in their turn opened the door to other freedoms such as freedom of conscience; for what greater tyranny could there be than trying to dictate what men and women should think, of seeking to rule the inner life as well as the outer? As soon as the Great Charter set about curtailing arbitrary or disproportionate exercise of royal power, the logic of a society which was not only formed by Christian values but had these embedded at the very heart of its laws, and as a central determinant of the relationship between citizen and state, made a compelling case for the Charter’s original liberties to be extended and then extended again.[2]
 

The fact is that by the time of the Norman Conquest the Christian faith had taken firm root in Britain and had for over 500 years developed very much a mind of its own. This meant 500 years of a testy relationship with the Roman Catholic Church as both church and state developed distinctly English notions of freedom – until all ties were broken in the 1530s and an independent national English church emerged, whilst the major European powers remained within the Roman church.

 

What proved to be the decisive factor upon which modern Britain was based, however, is what we now call the English Revolution (1640-1689). It realized, during the Cromwellian period and beyond, a struggle at the popular level that had been going on for centuries. During this period, the absolute power of the monarchy was decisively broken, the rule of law affirmed, and a free English Parliament steadily established. Many of those who had fled to Protestant Holland from crown oppression returned in 1688 with William of Orange. As John Bradley puts it:

 

The colours of English Protestantism were finally nailed to the mast in the 1689 Bill of Rights, not only for our constitution, but also for our culture … from 1688 onwards, Protestantism was the required faith of monarchs, and Parliaments as the supreme legislators, while the Church of England remained the nation’s church, increasingly tolerant of dissenters.[3]

 

The Bill of Rights was the critical legislation of this period with the accession of William and Mary in 1689 because it was bound up with the idea of Parliamentary supremacy as the essence of our island nation. These rights established foundational principles like the free election of MPs with their freedom of speech in the House and the prohibition of the suspension of laws (by the crown) without Parliament’s consent. In short, the prime authority of Parliament in England had been clearly defined and its course for development was set. These facts are critical because the ‘British psychology’ is incomprehensible without an appreciation, not simply for the body of water we call the English Channel, but the religiously rooted, historic development of freedom that defined our nation.

 

This historical reality is pertinent to the core questions at the heart of the forthcoming referendum because there can be no doubt that the final sovereignty of our Houses of Parliament (the Lords being our highest court of law until 2009)[4] have been undermined by the European Union, where unelected officials and Commissions are directly shaping British law, institutions and economic realities without the consent of the British people and Parliament. The U.K certainly votes in the council of ministers, but the record shows that this vote is essentially ignored. This is a clear violation of historic British freedoms and sovereignty.

 

The determined national sense of British independence, English liberties and the related demand for governmental accountability is something that many of the European political elites find difficult to understand. Angela Merkel and her European partners are evidently baffled at times by the British attitude because they do not share the unique history of the English speaking peoples, nor did other European nations’ political institutions develop in the same way. The English journalist and historian Daniel Hannan has shed light on this by pointing out, as far as continental European thought is concerned, ‘The idea that the individual should be as free as possible from state coercion…is regarded as the ultimate Anglophone fetish.’[5] For much of the non-Anglosphere, the idea that small, local, accountable government and the absence of state regulation in most areas of life might be the right and just state of affairs is largely seen as ridiculous. Hannan goes on to observe:

 

[T]he development of Parliament in Anglo-Saxon England – and in a handful of related, homogenous states, notably Denmark and Iceland – anticipated representative government in Europe by several centuries. This remarkable head start owed a great deal to the precocious emergence of a recognizable nation-state in England … Germans had to wait until 1871 … Farther east, many European nations were under one form or another of foreign rule until 1918.[6]

 

The tragedy that Hannan rightly points out in all of this as it relates to Europe is that, ‘Having developed and exported the most successful system of government known to the human race, the English-speaking peoples are tiptoeing away from their own creation. Britain’s intellectual elites see Anglosphere values as an impediment to assimilation into a European polity.’[7] Perhaps William Wordsworth summed up the historic British temper best when he said, “We must be free or die, who speak the tongue / That Shakespeare spake, the faith and morals hold / Which Milton held.”

 

The European Dream

Having noted, in the brief sketch above, the prevailing Protestant political motive of freedom and rights under God – an accountable Christian constitutional monarchy with Parliamentary supremacy – how does this British inheritance of freedom stack up against the original dream and vision of the European Union? How does the ambitious European experiment to ‘pool sovereignty,’ break down borders, and synchronise regulation across Europe, meet the historic British inheritance and values of liberty and justice?

Clearly several things are important to notice. First, the founding fathers of the European project were dominated by concerned Catholic Christian Democrats connected with Pope Pius XII (which is why it is no surprise to see the Catholic Church officially come out in support of Britain remaining in the EU because of the expansive role and ambitions for Roman Catholicism in the original project) who, in the aftermath of World War II, believed that Nazism was an outgrowth of nationalism and so were seeking a form of political organisation that would contain nation states. In 1951 the French proposal realized in the Treaty of Paris began the European Coal and Steel Community (Belgium, Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, Italy and West Germany). In 1958 it was updated by the Treaty of Rome to become the EEC (European Economic Community) and the project grew from there. Britain joined in 1973 and with the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 the European Union and European Monetary Union were established. Massive expansion followed as countries from Northern, central and Eastern Europe joined. Today even Turkey (an essentially Islamic country just barely on the edge of Europe), is negotiating entry as a recognized applicant candidate.

The original vision, it appears, was well-intentioned, with an overall goal of maintaining peace after years of war, and carried with it a broadly Christian moral substance of concern for people’s welfare. The signatories on the first two treaties for European integration show that the social vision was to be an essentially Roman Catholic one that emphasized soft socialism and top-down hierarchical government. The great majority of these early European lights then were socialists, Catholic politicians and Thomistic intellectuals.[8] It is therefore no real surprise that the EU has developed to become elitist, highly bureaucratic, and out of touch with people, with about as much transparency as the Vatican.

Its substantive cultural connection with the United Kingdom from the beginning was especially remote within this religious and socio-political milieu because, as we have seen, England has had an established Protestant church and monarch for nearly 500 years, and an historic emphasis on national sovereignty, the rule of law, free enterprise, individual responsibility, and local government, not state dependence and the delegation of our freedoms to unelected bureaucrats. In other words the intellectual and cultural inheritance of Britain is distinct from much of Europe.

Moreover, if one were to ask the average person in Britain about the EU founders, Alcide De Gasperi, Paul-Henri Spaak, Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, Jean Monet, most would think you were talking about European painters, not twentieth-century Catholic Prime Ministers and Chancellors. Yet these relationally interconnected political founders who championed a common ideology, in the wake of the war found themselves in positions of remarkable, even unprecedented power, with the opportunity to apply their ideology into new political structures of integration as a model for even wider global governance.

Second, the foundational content of the European dream of integration was built around the ideas of solidarity, subsidiarity and social morality. Solidarity (unity of agreement or action) was to be created, first, through political harmony. Harmony was to be achieved by limiting the power of national politicians and nation-states through regulatory European institutions. It was precisely for this reason that Britain’s postwar government did not sign the early treaties. Moreover solidarity of action was then to be expanded especially for (and in the name of) the ‘workers,’ – presupposing the Marxist ideology of class struggle. This was to be done through a utopian-like commitment to the development of vast welfare states throughout Europe – a plan that has succeeded in engineering its own predictable demise. Some of these member states, which are now essentially bankrupt, have faced desperate attempts by European leaders to keep them ‘Eurozone viable’ by extensive trimming of their sovereign debt levels, clawing back the expansive entitlements of the welfare state.

But it all seems too little too late, with such efforts merely being resented by the welfare-entitled populations and dubbed ‘austerity’ by the media, with mass demonstrations and rioting commonplace and the far-left being swept to power with the promise of more welfare, more debt and more ‘solidarity.’ All the while the underlying structural financial problems are unchanged. In the meantime German politicians stand by with the cheque book to prop up these failing economies, to the increasing chagrin of the German people. Solidarity has emphatically not been the result of Eurozone welfarism.

Next, subsidiarity was the concept that was meant to guarantee that the EU would not take action for member states in areas outside its exclusive competence, unless it was deemed more effective in doing so than action taken at the national and regional levels. This of course is all rather arbitrary and subjective – who determines where the EU has exclusive competence? Who decides when EU action is more effective than at the national level? The term subsidiarity first appeared in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, adapted from a Papal Encyclical. The difficulty since has been in the fact that the EU and its elites has tended to see itself as omni-competent, which has meant interference, the proliferation of centralized bodies, and overbearing regulation at the national or local levels.

The third and final plank was the social morality aspect. The general sense of social or religious morality that undergirded the EU project was not intended in any confessional sense, in contrast to the United Kingdom’s monarch and reformed church. Nor does it refer to an independent evangelical heritage so basic to the development of Britain. Rather this moral vision referred to a vague sense of European heritage that had high regard for human dignity and responsibility. This characterization is both vague and inadequate and as such any substantive moral vision to fight for a ‘soul’ of Europe has dissipated into an almost exclusive preoccupation with money, prosperity and welfare. Economics has become the almost lone criterion for shared values.

Today, then, over seventy years after the second world war, the emphasis has emphatically shifted from EU integration as a morally rooted guarantor of peace among the major Western European powers, to the idealized hope of ever closer union and the alleged prosperity, global power and prestige that an essentially European super-state could wield, model and project to the world. The influence of the Christian Democratic Parties has long since waned and the new member-states from central and Eastern Europe bring with them a very different political and cultural history, with the influential legacy of Communism still relevant. For many of these countries the simple question has been whether they will be ‘better off’ in or out of this massive political Eurozone, not whether the EU provides a moral, principled and accountable structure for European political life.

Sadly, this financial criterion seems to be the only question far too many Britons are asking at this critical point of decision, as though being in or out of this political vision of integration were solely a matter of money and trade. Even non-Christian European thinkers like Jürgen Habermas have lamented Europe’s ‘hegemonic technocracy’ imposing its economic model in defiance of democratic legitimacy. Habermas has argued that:

[I]n its current form the European Union owes its existence to the efforts of political elites who could count on the passive consent of their more or less indifferent populations as long as the peoples could regard the Union as being in their economic interests, all things considered.[9]

In regard to this ‘hegemonic technocracy’ it is critical that all British people understand that the EU doesn’t just want to be a free trade area. It appeals to the alleged financial interests of increasingly passive populations to build its sense of legitimacy and support, but what European institutions were established and are actually aiming for, is ever deeper integration and the growth of technocratic power.

 

Waking up from the dream

So what has the EU vision of solidarity via political integration and the pooling of sovereignty really accomplished? Notably it has not prevented war in Europe, for we have seen Bosnia, Kosovo and the Ukraine descend into desperate conflicts in the last 25 years, with Russia successfully annexing Crimea. It has not provided prosperity. Resentments run deep regarding so-called austerity both in terms of the creditor and the borrower as the welfare states of Europe creak under mounting structural pressure and massive debt loads. Neither has it provided security. The free movement of people through open borders is proving a disaster area and a matter of real consternation in the face of a massive migration crisis of mainly Muslim populations from all over the world into the heart of Western Europe. Both the open borders and welfare handouts of Europe have created a huge security threat in the face of Islamic terrorism and economic migration from Afghanistan to Syria and Somalia. Plus the fact that even within Europe the movement of people has been largely that of low-skilled workers into the more prosperous nations, creating resentment.

The European Union now consists of 28 member states with wildly diverse political and religious traditions and complex histories. In a time when the United Kingdom itself is struggling to hold together its historic union (given the powerful movement for independence being led by the SNP with the hope of entering Europe as a member state), is it really plausible to think, never mind pursue the idea, that European nations should or could be ‘held together’ by centralized institutions that pool sovereignty, dilute accountability and threaten people’s freedoms through the destruction of borders, culture and liberty? If Britain is now struggling to hold our own union together despite our common political, religious, and cultural heritage, how can it be accomplished without far-reaching political coercion at the European level?

The pro-Europe response is that Britons should remain ideologically committed to the EU despite all these problems because a flourishing EU could point toward the future of fully international governance and politics. But one is forced to ask, if the EU is unable to create ‘Europeans’ out of a diverse continent without a massive violation of liberty and freedom, why would any Briton desire to pursue the idol of global government and world citizens? Christians in particular should be horrified by such a proposal. The centralized bodies of Europe do not point forward to a hopeful, prosperous and free future but a technocratic utopian delusion of elitist coercion.

At root, the source of any true unity for a people is religious. Lasting political and cultural cohesion depends on a people sharing a common vision of reality, a common cause, a common identity – in short, a common faith. A common faith is the basis of commonwealth. This often requires the sharing of a common language – or is at least greatly aided by it, which is why many Western states require new citizens to have a reasonable proficiency in the language of the nation. But as this common faith breaks down in any society, fault lines appear that coercive political arrangements cannot bridge or mend.

The EU and its elites place their hope in social planning and technical solutions to the world’s problems that for the Christian are not found in such structures and manipulations, but only in Jesus Christ. A sense of collective cultural identity simply cannot be created out of a mechanical political apparatus. And without this moral and cultural consensus rooted in shared beliefs there can be no reliable rule of law which is the historic bedrock of British life and our biblically founded political institutions. The steady Islamization of Europe is proving that the rule of law is almost impossible to maintain where that cultural consensus is broken.

Time to bow out

This all leads to the conclusion that the obvious course for Christians participating in this referendum is to vote to leave the EU as a deeply flawed, failing and hopelessly idealistic utopian institution that can only rely on growing coercion via deeper integration to survive; and these measures in themselves will only forestall its inevitable demise. There are already clear signs of a coming fracture of the EU as a failed project – some nations may be forced to leave soon enough.

The originally strong Roman Catholic influences have given way to a much more authoritarian ideal rooted in secular humanism. Only the U.K, Greece, Denmark and Malta retain an established church and Muslims make up about 7.5% of the French and 15% of the Bulgarian population. Turkey, Kosovo or Albania may soon provide the EU with its first majority Muslim state. Are we then to see more and more sharia law exported around Europe? Britain is already in a life and death struggle with sharia law, a battle it must win for the survival of its institutions and the rule of law. Remaining in the EU will only further expose Britain to the threat of Islamization. True, the cultural space of Europe as a whole could still be characterized as Christian in its inheritance, but that legacy is being squandered and sold down the river across the continent. The likelihood of mandatory redistribution quotas of migrants emanating from new EU Commission proposals further threatens the peace and security of Britain and only reinforces the perception of the dictatorial character of European institutions.

The open borders of the EU also mean that migrants allocated to another nation could move to Britain anyway once established in their Eurozone location. The ongoing non-transparent interventionism of the EU in British national sovereignty needs to be brought to an end. We can no longer allow unelected Presidents of the European Commission who have power to set European policy to determine the course of Britain’s future.

We must also be clear that fears that Britain leaving the EU will undermine national security and defense capability are utterly baseless. The U.K is currently the second largest economy in Europe, and whilst national debt must be a priority, Britain is better placed than most European countries to address that problem. As an economic and military power we have a prominent place in the G8 and NATO; a sophisticated global nuclear capability in our submarines; a seat on the UN Permanent Security Council; a Commonwealth that provides us an influential international leadership role and a globally regarded Army, Navy and Air force and intelligence services. Leaving the EU, Great Britain could not only take back full control of domestic affairs but chart her own course in trade, international relations and diplomacy, recovering her national sovereignty and strengthening military capability without reference to the dangerous plan for an EU military force that would profoundly undermine British power and independence. Simply put, Britain does not need the EU.

None of this is to say that the U.K should neglect or turn our backs on healthy and positive trade, diplomatic, and cultural relations with our European friends and allies and be engaged in the concerns of continental Europe. But to survive as a sovereign nation and retain her cultural, political and national identity, Britain needs to leave the EU.

Leaving will not in itself solve Britain’s own domestic problems, of course. The greater need is to recover the faith that made it Great Britain. But as a British citizen, it is my sincere belief that if who we truly are as a nation is who we were, then hope remains. If we can find the will and the courage to address the underlying cause of our welfare-dependent, sexually promiscuous, irreligious, politically indifferent and morally vacuous popular culture that has left us vulnerable to the threat of not simply pagan nihilism but sharia law and Islamic terror, then Britain may not be facing her last sunset years.

Britain’s core problems have to do with the direction of hearts, not the polity of institutions. Our religious apostasy from the Christian faith has left us with a cultural crisis that the politicians have no idea how to solve because the answer lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ – a gospel our monarch confesses and swore an oath to uphold. And since our core challenge lies in the direction of the heart, not our political structures, the false technocratic solution of the EU to human social relationships cannot be our answer. Our membership in it thus poses a greater threat to our freedom and future than an exit from it. Until we can wrest control of Britain back from the EU we cannot hope as Christians to truly reshape it. But if by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit we are committed again to biblical faith as Christian people, then an exit from the EU may constitute the beginnings of a renewed opportunity for Britain to recapture the gospel truths that shaped her.

 

[1] David Cameron, Cited in, John Bradley, The Mansion House of Liberty: The Untold Story of Christian Britain (RoperPenberthy: Surrey, 2015), 17.

[2] Philip Quenby, ‘The Case for Christian Freedoms: An Historical Perspective,’ John Scriven (ed.) Magna Carta Unravelled: The Case for Christian Freedoms Today (Wilberforce Publications: Exeter, 2015), 56.

[3] John Bradley, The Mansion House of Liberty: The Untold Story of Christian Britain (RoperPenberthy: Surrey, 2015), 32-33.

[4] See https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/the-justice-system/the-supreme-court/ The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 made provision for the creation of a new Supreme Court for the United Kingdom. There had, in recent years, been mounting calls for the creation of a new free-standing Supreme Court separating the highest appeal court from the second house of Parliament, and removing the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary from the legislature. On 12 June 2003 the Government announced its intention to do so. Before the Supreme Court was created, the 12 most senior judges – the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, or Law Lords as they were often called – sat in the House of Lords. The House of Lords was the highest court in the land – the supreme court of appeal. It acted as the final court on points of law for the whole of the United Kingdom in civil cases and for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal cases. Its decisions bound all courts below. As members of the House of Lords, the judges not only heard cases, but were also able to become involved in debating and the subsequent enactment of Government legislation (although, in practice, they rarely did so). The creation of a new Supreme Court means that the most senior judges are now entirely separate from the Parliamentary process.

[5] Daniel Hannan, Inventing Freedom: How The English Speaking Peoples Made the Modern Word (Broadside: New York, 2013), 6.

[6] Hannan, Inventing Freedom 67.

[7] Hannan, Inventing Freedom, 17.

[8] The term ‘Thomistic’ refers here to intellectuals faithful to the philosophical legacy of the medieval thinker St Thomas Aquinas.

[9] Jürgen Habermas, The Lure of Technocracy, trans. Ciaran Cronin (Cambridge, U.K: Polity, 2015).

With referendum looming in the U.K over whether to leave the European Union, how should Christians understand the practice of voting, the role of the state, and the true nature of freedom?