Reader Writes - October 2019
Outrage and Optimism is the cri de guerre at the moment. I’ll try and minimise the outrage by keeping off prorogation but we have to talk about Brexit. A couple of riders: first, I voted Remain and have become increasingly convinced of the damage Brexit, especially a hard Brexit, will cause the nation, and I’ll be marching in London on 19 Oct to say so. Secondly, it is absolutely OK for Christians to express political views; God cares about justice and truth and those who are victims when either are abused. But to be even-handed I’ll mention just 2 under-discussed issues; one opposes Brexit and one conceivably could be helped by Brexit.
First, history! It’s been famously said that WW1 became inevitable according to the train timetables of Europe. Familiar and much rehearsed antagonisms between nations created the tensions and the awful stockpiles of munitions to start the blaze. A nationalist’s pistol shot in Sarajevo was then fuelled by spite and folly, and no doubt train timetables, into a war that laid the foundations for the rise of fascism and the even greater catastrophe of WW2. European post-war determination never to allow such a thing again has brought reconciliation and an infrastructure of peace and prosperity. We in Europe should stick together in an unscrupulous world, and beware of populists banging drums or waving flags.
Secondly, some of us, especially those on the Left, hoped that Brexit could solve an even bigger problem than the threats to our security. To put it starkly, neoliberal capitalism is dangerously hollowing out civil society and driving communities into poverty. Even more disastrously for our children, it is also fuelling climate breakdown with unimaginably serious consequences. The Amazon wild fires are accelerated by land greedy soya barons and ranchers (we are their market) who are appropriating and laying waste to a priceless carbon sink and irreplaceable treasury of biodiversity, and of course the homes of native peoples. In theory Brexit might get us off this elite economic treadmill and forge a more sustainable ethical and inclusive economy. In the present hiatus, however, we are instead facing a turbo-charged free market low-tax economy that offers little help to struggling communities or moving to zero carbon.
When Jesus arrived at the temple after his triumphant entrance to Jerusalem he overturned a whole corrupted temple system. He “drove out all who were buying and selling there; he overturned the tables of the money changers ….….. and the blind and the lame came to him.” We see here in a couple of lines what all of us must feel instinctively to be right. Jesus saw his temple corrupted; and ordinary people were being exploited by those with power. I find our Lord’s passion very encouraging in a political environment stifled by fatalism. Not only should we share God’s passion for justice and truth but should speak up and even march! XR, for example, will be doing just that in October for the climate emergency, and they deserve our support.
When at last the horrors of the political night are over and we find ourselves together as a community facing a new economic and constitutional dawn, our creed, obligation to neighbour, God’s power and love must form the foundations of new beginnings. I spotted this, which seems helpful: Audite et alteram partem (listen even to the other side).