Today citizens of Member States of the European Union are voting for candidates to serve as Members of the European Parliament. I myself, have just come from the polling station.
Voting is an important part of civic life – even in contexts, such as this, where elected members have limited powers (consider the roles of the Council and the Commission in the constitution of the European Union). The vote allows a citizen to send a message to those in power. Leaving aside the particular politics of a given ballot, the message is this: “You rule by the consent of the governed!”
Even in Christian political theology, which stands independently from Greco-Roman thought, rulers are supposed to serve those they rule, not “lord it over them”. We have only intimations in the Scriptures about how the millennial rule of Christ will function, but His teachings in the Gospels give us some starting points. Christ, the greatest King of all, came to serve, not to be served, and He commands His followers to do the same.
The rod of iron (Psalm 2) is not meant to be a rod of tyranny (though it will seem as such in the twisted minds of the wicked, who, to borrow from CS Lewis’ The Last Battle, will taste ashes where the godly taste sweetness from the Lord). It is there to restrain the excesses of sinful humanity. But God does not want human automatons: He gave mankind free will, and that principle should be at the centre of any attempt to understand and implement Christian political theology.
Somewhere along the line our political class lost the principle of liberty. It would be easy to sardonically sneer that they never knew it, but that is not true, either in the USA or the UK. The increasing invasion of private life by the state is a cause for very real concern. Not only is it malum per se, but it is also a tool for the suppression of the Gospel.
The EU is not a Christian institution, for all the Catholicism (real or nominal) of its original architects. References in its documents to the religious and cultural heritage of Europe are designed to accommodate both Christianity and atheism. By default, this means that the EU is not a Christian institution, for Christianity is an opt-in religion. One must positively declare for the LORD.
By contrast, the UK is officially a Christian kingdom, even if in practice true Christianity is practiced by a very small minority of its inhabitants. Our monarch is anointed in the name of the LORD and is bound by coronation oath to uphold the (Reformed) Christian religion. To what extent our monarchs and their governments have managed to do that, I leave to the reader’s appraisal. Nevertheless, the aspiration is there. Other religions are permitted under the principle of toleration, not endorsement, under our constitution. This is another point that our political class does not know or chooses to suppress.
Our country and the EU should not be entangled with one another. We voted in a referendum in 2016 to send that message, whether religiously or atheistically motivated, to our political class. Today we send that message again.
Unfortunately, Christians are divided on this issue, and we must admit that. There are those who see and believe this principle most fervently. They have been labouring in prayer for a long time now, petitioning the Lord to sever us from the European Union. Then there are Remainer Christians, praying and campaigning to keep us in the European Union. In the middle are the people who do not know what we should do, and those who hold to the notion that some kind of compromise is possible.
My prayer today is that the Lord will give clarity to those who faithfully serve Him. But they will also need wisdom: there is a spiritual battle raging over Brexit, and one of Satan’s greatest tools is deception. So, we must look not into the distorting mirror provided by the Devil, but into heaven, where the true forms of things appear.
1 Kings 3:5-14 (ESV)
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”