the need for memory, unity, and the urge for nationalism

Brexit may end up being the first stage of what could become the eventual breakup of the European Union. What the UK and other nations within that union should do, in my opinion is not leave, but stay and work at making a better union.

Even a well learned Christian in a popular publication for some, advocated for Brexit, essentially arguing that nationalism and tradition can help a nation through storms which he said the kind of unification in place would not. There are a number of questions I have for that thought, but the concern I want to press here is the need for memory. Treaties and alliances are important, and they can be particularly good among states which have been at war with each other in decades past. And the thought that states would lose their identity, and in the melting pot lose their heart ignores both the change which continues to take place in nation states, as well as the differences which will likely remain, a good example of that being the at least alleged nine nations within the United States of America.

The pros for Brexit are possibly a throwback to the days when the globe was much larger. We live now in an era when it is much smaller, and the dangers are not far from our doorstep. We can’t go back to the past, nor is it desirable to do so. So Brexit is a most unfortunate reaction to probably a weakness in both the leadership of the European Union and the United Kingdom itself.

The need for nation states to work hard at unification for human flourishing (see Miroslav Volf on this subject; my words here will not necessarily be in line with his much better, well thought out take on the subject) of course does not mean that there aren’t problems with the project. Give me one example of any nation state whose foundation is built not partially on sand. But the alternative isn’t good, either. Nation states which are weaker need to be included in the mix and helped in times of trouble when need be. And debtor nations without the means to pay off their debt, and therefore in abject poverty with all the dangers that come with that, need help as well, debt forgiveness for a start. No nation is an island to itself. The room is much smaller. And nations need to think more and more in terms of being their brother’s keeper, which actually always was important. As well as looking after their own.

We of the church are to model to the world what the ultimate unity in truth and love looks like, that reality present from God in Jesus by the Spirit. Even as we in Jesus look forward to the day of Shalom (Peace, Justice, Flourishing) when all the nations will be under his rule and reign in the new earth to come.


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