From the mouths of Lords
The BBC’s Radio 4 Today program from this morning is worth hunting down, for those who live the UKEU “brexit” debate.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth, a man of the cloth, occupied this morning’s ‘Thought For The Day’ slot. He gave an eloquent reflection on “the issue of Europe.”
And there’s something in there for everyone, from the pie-eyed nostalgic federalists who pine for the Christian-fired inspiration of the EU’s founding fathers, to advocates of EU membership, advocates of EU reform, and advocates of financial-sector regulation.
Listen again and fast-forward to 1h48m10s, or wait for the beeb to put the clip on its Thought For The Day site.
Or just read the transcript below.
No, no, my pleasure.
Europe has been in the news all week, again. But leaving aside all current political controversies, the issue of Europe does raise much bigger, wider questions.
The early European structures and institutions were brought about by political leaders with a passionate vision for the future.
They wanted to bring lasting peace to countries who had just been devastated by two terrible world wars.
And in fact the key figures in bringing this about were for the most part fired by a deep christian faith.
So the first question is simply whether their vision for Europe has any relevance today, or do we simply assume the work has been done and there’ll be peace in Europe for ever more.
Then, if we look at the long history of human political arrangements from tribal societies to warlords, princedoms to great empires, the nation state as we know it is a relative latecomer. Are we really to assume that the nation state or indeed the EU or the UN as we now know them is the end of this process of political evolution?
Certainly from the standpoint of religious faith it would be absurd hubris to think we’ve somehow arrived NOW at what God intends for human societies.
Then perhaps the most crucial feature of our time: globalisation.
This means that capital can be switched from one part of the globe in an instant and that international companies can evade the power of the state with offshore accounts and tax havens.
In short, whereas in the past individual governments could for the most part ensure that the financial sector worked to benefit its people, they’ve now substantially lost control.
The financial world runs riot, or at least runs rings round individual governments.
So the third question is whether the financial sector can be reined in and structured to serve the common good without wider institutions involving whole continents and the international community as a whole, institutions that are strong and effective because they have legally enforceable arrangements between them in place. Globalisation is the most potent economic and political factor of our time, bringing changes to many areas of our life.
But if this is a serious challenge, it also forces us to think of the world as a whole, of cooperation with others as well as competition with them.
As the divine purpose is inclusive of all humanity, and as the thrust of the New Testament is to make us look beyond our ordinary boundaries, beit of family or nation, to see a ‘neighbour’ where there’s a human person, especially a person in need, globalisation is I think to be warmly welcomed.
But I don’t see how it can be channelled to serve the good of all without wider structures and institutions, whatever form they turn out to be.