Everything has changed: John the Baptist and Brexit

[What follows is purely personal and does not necessarily reflect the views of my Benedictine brethren.]

The name was crucial. St Luke’s gospel makes that clear. The expectation was that the son born of the aged Elizabeth and Zechariah would be named after his father, or at least a close kinsman. Yet the decision was for John, a novel name in his family and one that clearly stupefied the family and friends who had gathered for the baby’s circumcision.

Why does St Luke labour this trivial point so? The name John in itself means nothing special per se. Its significance lies in its symbolism. That the baby would not take his father’s name is a sign that this boy would not follow in the footsteps of his father; he would not be a temple priest, but a prophet. His vocation would not be to serve the old covenant but to herald the New Covenant. He was to be a voice crying in the wilderness of Israel pointing to the Lamb of God, who will be a light not only for Israel, but to enlighten also the Gentiles. The novel name is a symbol that Israel is about to embark on a novel course, to become the new Israel, the Church, the Body of Christ.

That the baby is to be John not Zechariah is symbolic that John’s birth is the dawn of a new dispensation, a new Israel, and a new humanity. With St John’s birth, everything has changed.

Last night in Britain, and indeed for Europe, everything changed. But instead of a wider, global, catholic vision the English and Welsh have opted for an insular vision, an empty patriotism and the lifeless totem of independence. They have left a common enterprise erected to preserve peace and prosperity in Europe, citing rightly that it has lost its original spirit. So Britain has taken its ball and gone home.

What is remarkable is that the untruths, especially on the economy and immigration, have been so effectively peddled that those with the most to lose from Brexit, the poorer, are the one who have voted for it. Prices are set to rise, especially for staples as the agricultural sector will find it self without labour and without almost half its income. Petrol will rise again. Pensions are endangered. Many immigrants like me now feel, quite suddenly, that this is no longer home.

Just as remarkable is that so many people voted for an option for which no blueprint was offered, no clear path or plan of action. But of course, if the pundits are right and this is part of the global movement of the disenfranchised thumbing their noses at the out-of-touch elites—a movement that has seen the rise of the far right in Europe and Trump in America—then any plan of action or blueprint for the future was irrelevant. It was all about the gesture. Now to reap what they have sown.

In global terms, Brexit suits Putin’s Russia very much, as he works to fragment Europe and prevent what it considers its proper sphere of influence, which is growing increasingly westwards, from associating too closely with Europe. Putin is a bug winner today.

And Europe is the loser. A slim majority for remain would have been a loud and close shot across Brussels’ bow, enhancing the arguments for reform and perhaps even encouraging a return to the orignal vision for the EU held by its Catholic founders: a common trading zone producing such economic interdependence that for Europe to go to war again would be suicide for all its members. Brexit has emboldened those parties in Europe that want to abandon the project, most of which are right-wing, to push for referendums in their own nations. So we may be seeing the implosion of Europe about to begin, and a return to ethnic tribal loyalties as the overriding formator of social identity. And history shows us where that all too often leads.

In effect too, England and Wales have voted to end the United Kingdom. In opting for the surface glitz and empty heart of supposed self-determination over and against Europe, it is now impossible to argue against another referendum for Scottish independence. They voted overwhelmingly to remain, all 32 local areas voting that way, and now they can justly argue that they have no real voice in the UK and that they are now to be forced to endure exactly what such a clear majority of them did not want. The Northern Irish also voted to remain, and for them looms the prospect of the return of border posts, symbols of the Troubles which have only recently been put to bed and which may now be roused from their slumber. All those Irish who cross the border daily for work will have to arrive at a new modus vivendi, unless Ireland is reunited. The unionists will have none of that. The rest may be all too predictable. And this afternoon came news that the mayor of London will investigate if the metropolis can achieve some sort of independence for itself from England. This is probably as much a gesture as Brexit itself, but it does not bode well for national unity

Feeling just as disenfranchised will be the young. 73% of 18-24 year olds voted to remain, and over 60% of the next age group up voted to remain. Their future inheritance is now very much not one they want.

The whole Brexit campaign reminds me very much of the first Brexit, when Henry VIII pulled the nation from the Catholic Church in order to further his own patriotic dynastic ends. He too opined that as sovereign lord of a sovereign nation he should have to answer to a foreign authority, even a religious one. Soon just to be a Catholic priest was to be a traitor. It set the stage for the achievement of empire, a glorious prosperity in secular terms for Britain, a bitter trial for its subject nations. In religious terms it led to a ghetto national church that increasingly became subservient to the state, and by our day to the atheist secular hegemony. Britain prospered at the world’s expense, and it seems that the elites who really controlled the campaign to leave want to repeat this path, if they can.

However that prosperity may be some time coming. Economically we shall learn just how far from independent Britain is. No doubt something will be cobbled together in time, but at what cost and to whom in the meantime? The waving of flags will die down soon enough, and the reality will set in. The world will look at Britain in a very different light from now on, whatever the beholder’s opinion. Soon enough there might not be a Britain to behold.

Everything has changed. Whether for the better or the worse time will tell soon enough. Alas I expect it will not be for the better, at least for the foreseeable future. I am no be-leaver. But who cares about that now. We must bend the knee to a brave new England. How sad.

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Auf wiedersehen, pet.

12 thoughts on “Everything has changed: John the Baptist and Brexit

  1. My sentiments precisely. I’m in the older age group, and I feel that the young have been robbed. Thank you for your wise blog posts, Father. St Benedict, patron of Europe, ora pro nobis!

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  2. Jan. Yes ,the issue of Britain’s relationship with Europe is still the key as much as it was at the time of the Act of Supremacy,but one can take the analogy further ,notwithstanding Henry’s tyrannical reign ,nevertheless the church was ,just as the EU now is ,remote ,unaccountable ,wholly undemocratic and seen as claiming both monetary and political sovereignty . The EEC as conceived was an excellent idea ,but it has grown into a political monster far beyond its original remit.
    My feeling is that Britain will never disengage or turn its back on Europe ,it will however re engage in a manner that recognises Britains ancient institutions including the common law that sits Ill with jurisprudence from an absolutist tradition.

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  3. This is so very sad. I feel ashamed now for the little thrill I got when I was watching it all unfold. You are so right. Let’s hope there is some good in this. If Turkey does join the EU, which is probably more likely now, I would be better be able to see the good as Europe becomes more Islamised.

    Talk soon,

    Chris

    On Sat, 25 Jun 2016 4:58 am Dominus mihi adjutor wrote:

    > Fr Hugh posted: “[What follows is purely personal and does not necessarily > reflect the views of my Benedictine brethren.] The name was crucial. St > Luke’s gospel makes that clear. The expectation was that son born of the > aged Elizabeth and Zechariah would be named after hi” >

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  4. to vote without a “blueprint”, without any real clear direction of the ” what next”…as in “ok, we voted, what now…” sort of thinking should be a telling sign that there is a deep underlying nerve that has been exposed and that “the people,” the voters, can no longer stand the irritation of exposure… So voting almost blindly, but voting just the same, signals a tremendous unhappiness, or a fear, or a need…of which is not being met or addressed by the current leadership or global position….
    This new unknown is frightening—yet it seems that to the voters, the unknown is a better option, perhaps one of desperation, yet is more acceptable than the current known.

    Just as I see the same similarities happening here in the US—no candidate is a good choice but the rise of the outsider, with all his bluster, bravado, obnoxiousness and idiotic and arrogant ways seems to be to many a voter, who has pushed him skyward, a better choice then the entrenched politician. Not that what is happening is necessarily good, but it is a very real signal that the status quo is no longer acceptable…
    In turn all of this should be the red flag that a deep unhappiness, worry and dissatisfaction in life as is-, is now percolating up to the surface of the average citizen–

    The secularism that has risen throughout all of Europe and in the UK, as it rises here in the US, is not going to go away with or without this vote, or any vote, sadly.
    Brexit is not a vote for or against a return to a Judaeo Christian form of life.
    It is rather the result of deep unhappiness with the current flow of life—what it should show us is that the unknown and what is perceived as reckless desperation or a last gasp of national pride, appears to be a better option to the average voter, than the current position and course.

    There has been a call, dare we say demand, for a change in course—lets hope, no, let us pray, that Great Britain will be the leader that she has been throughout so much of history—bravely going forward charting a new course for herself and the nations who now watch in astonishment.

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  5. I think you are being unduly pessimistic, Father. There are people in many countries unhappy with the project of a federal Europe that had been forced on us. Brexit may not break the EU but perhaps it will make it more accountable.

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  6. Thank you Father, you have expressed my own thoughts – I live in Ireland -the republic and the possible repercussions for us polotically and economically worry me. The UK are lucky to be a large state and with power which it is a pity it did not use to improve the EU rather than leave it.

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    1. Hello! One silver lining to this dark cloud might be a renewed impetus to closer relations between the two Irelands. Let’s be honest: does anyone really want the border posts between north and south to go back up? It will be a sad, an ominous, day if they do.

      Pax.

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