Monday, 20 June 2016

AN OPEN DOOR?



                                           
 
I’ve been struck recently by the number of Christians stating that they are either undecided about the coming EU Referendum or else are opting for Remain.

 Not that the numbers of such I am encountering is large but it is still surprising that there are any at all since I have always taken it as a given that Evangelicals in this country were opposed to the EU on many grounds.

One thing that is strikingly absent from the argumentation I hear from these Christian “inners” is any reference to biblical or spiritual matters, as though this were just another socio-economic issue like any other. Do we think that there are no spiritual issues involved here?

Below is a summarised version of a brief talk I gave at our church last week giving just one of the issues we ought to consider:

Freedom of Movement across open borders is one of the foundational principles of the EU.  From an official EU website: “an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers

 "Internal frontiers" here is, of course, a euphemism for national borders. In essence the vision is of a borderless Europe as a step towards a borderless world. 

 A borderless world is one of the most terrifying ideas there is. I want to show us why


 Acts 17:26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.


The boundaries of their dwelling place is usually taken as a reference to national borders: the scriptures assure us that these are established by God.

 That doesn't mean they never change- though some nations like the Chinese seem to have occupied pretty much the same piece of real estate since the dawn of time. 

 Other people-groups however have migrated from time to time- think of how the Canaanites were evicted before Joshua.

But the point is that the boundaries of their dwelling place & the times that they will occupy a given space are determined by God (Gen 15:16). 

The great benefit of national borders is to create identifiable spaces where those of like mind can form their own communities & maintain their own identities safe from outside interferences.

How could OT Israel have maintained a theocratic state with its commitment to the Law of God if there was no recognisable nation as Israel? There was no nation if there were no borders, and Israel’s existential threat was always absorption by the surrounding nations. 

 That was why when immigrants came in OT times, (think Ruth) they were welcome, provided they left their own nation’s pagan ways at the border. 

 It isn’t that migration per se is a problem providing that the migrants come ready to adapt to the existing national culture. The best migrants in history have always done this & I know of many fine examples of them in this country today. 

 But we do well to remember that all immigration is not equal, simply because despite protestations to the contrary, not all cultures are equal.

“Borders create division” says the EU’s adherents. They are correct- they’re meant to!


"Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth." (Gen 11:1-9 ESV). 


 Never forget that whilst God's plan for redeemed humanity is union in Christ, His plan for unredeemed humanity based on the Babel episode has always been division.

Dividing their languages necessitated the formation of people-groups, this, and their scattering them over the earth was what created the separate nations. This was an act of judgement, as well as an act of restraint so that they could not gather together again as they had done at Babel.

But it was also an act of mercy. Separating nations & erecting borders between them helps guard Mankind against universal tyranny

Think Mary & Joseph in the Nativity story: faced with a murderous tyrant governing Judea they fled to Egypt, outside the area of his control, The borders of that nation provided a safe haven where Herod could not reach them or their Child.   

 However bad any national dictator might get at least his baneful influence is limited if he cannot pass beyond his own country's borders.  

But what if there are no borders? What if a tyrant could gain control over all nations? What if there were no safe place to flee to because he controlled all lands?

Going back to that EU website, “freedom, security & justice” are flexible terms these days- one man’s “justice” can be another man’s tyranny. 

 If I disagree with a nation’s definitions of justice I can currently move elsewhere – and many do -but what if the same people control elsewhere as well?

The Enemy ever since Babel has sought to tear down national borders & to create supranational entities with power that transcends national borders & governments.

Those biblical empires which ruled over many countries need to be understood in this light; Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece. But the one that dwarfed all of them in terms of power & longevity was the Roman Empire (Dan 7:7).

This was a vast empire spreading from the Atlantic in the West to Persia in the East & lasting for many hundreds of years. The 2nd-century Roman Emperor Hadrian suggested that the spirit of Rome itself was eternal and that it would be reborn all over Europe.

Indeed in some respects you could say that the Roman Empire never really fell.

For example the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages (which according to Voltaire was neither Holy, nor Roman nor an Empire) was a multi-ethnic conglomeration of nations led by an Emperor but effectively controlled by the pope who governed nations far beyond its recognised borders. 

Papal power was the real issue in the Middle Ages- once again we had a dictator who controlled many nations & could enforce his rule over them all.

It is no coincidence that Protestantism emerged in the form of a series of national movements, taking different shapes in England, Scotland, & Holland etc.

  It was the growing power of autonomous nations like England & Holland that put up borders against the pope and enabled us to keep his nose out of our business.

The sovereign nation-state with defensible borders is therefore an indispensable requirement for true freedom & civil rights & especially for religious liberty.

 What would become the European Union began in 1956 with the Treaty of Rome (if you’ve been paying attention then alarm bells ought to be ringing at this point)

 It was signed on the Capittoline Hill, the most important of Rome's Seven Hills, and on the site of the Roman Senate Building and the seat of Jupiter's Temple. This place was chosen deliberately because of those associations. (are we sure that there are no spiritual issues to do with the EU?)

 One of the founders stated,

“we have re-established the Roman Empire without a single shot being fired.’
(Paul-Henri Spaak)

 The brazenness of the declaration to reverse Babel has always been there: note the Strasbourg Parliament Building (above) designed in the style of the famous painting by Pieter Brueghal of the Tower of Babel.

Jean Monnet is generally given the primary credit for the European project. The most famous quote usually attributed to him is this.   


“Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation.”


 In truth this is one of those quotes that bounce around the internet & nobody can ever find the source. Perhaps he never said it at all: as Abraham Lincoln said “Be wary of quotes on the internet!”

Genuine quote or not, I reference it because it does well describe the strategy that has been adopted over the decades.

The end result is an EU as a borderless state, the first step towards a borderless world.

Not only borderless in the sense that people have the freedom to move from place to place, it also means that you can be moved from country to country at the behest of the European Arrest Warrant with no UK magistrate able to intervene. 

So be careful who you upset on your holidays!

A borderless world is to me one of the most terrifying ideas there is. No where to run to. No asylum because there are no national entities that could protect you.

This is to me the foundational argument against any supranational bodies like the EU.

I must admit that when this referendum began I saw no real hope of an escape from this organisation. As Peter Hitchens once observed, the EU seemed to be our Hotel California- we can check out anytime we like but we can never leave!

I also recall him saying years ago that our entry into the system was like someone putting you in a prison cell & closing the door so quietly that you did not realise you  were locked in.

I had a sense that the seeming opportunity to open that cell door was actually illusory, or else - like it were in an ill-fitting door frame - the door is only being opened slightly in order to facilitate slamming it firmly shut forever.

Recently I have become more hopeful though. The Remain camp has clearly overplayed its hand with scares stories to a ridiculous extent & wheeled out everybody from President Obama to Jeremy Clarkson to try & bludgeon us into submission.

But the British people are not so stupid & I am pleased that sometimes at least we can still tell a stitch-up when we see one.

Perhaps there really is an opportunity, then.

Certainly Brexit would still leave us with many deep spiritual problems as a nation. There are certainly no magic wands here for all of our problems. 

But being unable to resolve all of our spiritual problems is no argument for our at least dealing with one of them.  
  

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