Let's go back to Spring 2011. This was when Prince William married Catherine Middleton. An enormous crowd lined Pall Mall to catch a glimpse of the happy couple. Across the British Isles, people were watching the wedding ceremony by the zillions, including ourselves. Hardly a house can be seen without the TV switched on at that particular hour. Then that evening, without doubt, many of the men across the country went to their local pub to celebrate, enjoy a social and a drink.
But eavesdrop on any conversation between the lads and listen in. Would the subject of discussion be centred on the wedding dress the bride wore? Very unlikely, I would say. May I dare go a little further and ask the chaps what colour her wedding dress was? More than likely they will give a blank look, while one of them reaches for his mobile phone in his pocket, click a key or two, then mumbles, "White." I know by my own experience. For me to get the answer right, I had to Google "William marries Catherine" on the Internet to bring up the images on the screen. Or else, I too would have muttered, "Dunno, I can't remember."
Like a majority of men, I believe, I don't give much time or concern about women's clothes or fashion. And particularly her shoes. Of all the social groups and discussions I have taken part in, I have yet to hear a debate, for example, whether women would look better, more trendy, or even more authoritative wearing high heels or flats. It was something which had never entered my mind.
That was when a female employee, in her late twenties, refused to wear high heels while at work as a receptionist at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, or PwC for short, a City accountancy firm. Not only was she sent home, but afterwards she launched a petition which attracted enough signatures for the Government to take note for discussion at Parliament. Not surprisingly, PwC had to give in and since then, had relaxed this particular dress code. After all, she did have a point. Hours of the day spent with the heel raised from the ground would have eventually caused some physical discomfort. But I can't see that as the whole issue. Rather it looked to be more of a rebellion against male authority by a new breed of radical feminist. At least that was how it came across, as emphasised by one female newspaper columnist.
One significant observation I have made within the last couple of decades. It came at our local superstore, Sainsburys. There is, and has always been, a uniform policy for all employees, making each worker instantly recognisable whether in store or out. But in former years, all male workers had to wear shirt and tie. Then, as if all of a sudden, most of the younger males were wearing a casual, open neck shirt, of uniform colour, although the more senior employees still prefer to wear ties. Was the Head Office in Central London feeling generous, or sympathetic, or having concern for the welfare of its staff, nationwide? Or rather, did the big boys at Head Office cave in to their demand for a change in uniform? And that considering that the majority of workers are in their twenties, an age bracket, according to my observation, who have a general lackadaisical attitude about wearing ties. Such demands, protests, and cries for change were kept secret from us, the customer, to such an extent, that the silence was deafening. All I saw was that their uniform had changed literally overnight.
I have always been intrigued over uniform. Quite often, an article appears in the national newspaper about a school pupil sent home because she wasn't wearing the right regulation clothing. Whether the skirt was too long, too short, tie wasn't straight, or the shoes weren't the right colour, the student was sent home. It also looks to me that the majority of students sent home due to improper dress were female. But if adult workers did not like their uniform, they rose to protest, and was often heard. As far as I know, there is no record of any school pupils arising en masse to protest against their uniform. Whether this has been due to their love of such clothing, or fear of punishment from the staff, I can't be sure, maybe it could be a combination of both.
Then as history shows, rebellion and protesting has always been inbuilt into the human heart since the dawn of history. From the disobedience of our first parents, their antediluvian descendants, and later, within the house of Israel, rebellion has always been on the forefront. For those who had religious education at school, or regularly attend church, who has never heard of the famous rebellion against God on a national scale, when the Israelites built a statue of a calf in solid gold, worshipped it, and to it offered sacrifices? (Exodus 32). Or that time when Korah and his mates stirred a significant number of leaders to rebel against Moses and the Tabernacle and encouraged Israel to return to Egypt? (Numbers 16). Or when the whole nation of Israel demanded a king - (1 Samuel 8) - and therefore rejecting God's sovereignty? Then the most significant, the cry of the crowds at the forecourts of Pilate's palace, demanding that this imposter, who calls himself Jesus the Christ, be crucified.
Then sometime after Pentecost, believers began to see the free grace of God as something difficult to swallow, and a very subtle form of rebellion was beginning to show at some churches in the region of Galatia, when teachings such as the need for male circumcision was necessary to confirm the believer's salvation. Paul had to write a whole letter to them, rebuking such teachings. But over the centuries, this form of works-based soteriology crept into the churches on a gradual basis. It was a very subtle form of rebellion against the free gift, in preference for some credit for good works done. It is strange in a way, that the most glorious free gift one could ever receive, without works or without any form of earning, would be rejected in favour of personal merit. And this train of thinking is with us to this day. Even among those who claim to be of the Reformers, the concept of Once Saved Always Saved is scorned in favour that salvation can be lost if the believer doesn't remain faithful. This form of rebellion against free grace is known as Arminianism, after Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, who was the first to teach this concept publicly.
Rebellion or protests does not have to be violent or mouthy, as was the case of the crowds baying for Christ's execution, or for that matter, the loud protesters at the 1980's national miner's strike. Instead, protestation can be very quiet and pass on unnoticed, as I believe, was the case of the staff at Sainsburys, and among theologians and Christians alike.
There seems to be quite a bit of fist-shaking and published demands for the UK to leave the European Union at the referendum next month. Not only as Tory newspapers such as the Daily Mail are campaigning for us to Vote Leave, but individuals are posting support for leaving on Facebook, constantly dishing out such advantages for having our national sovereignty back. This is where I squirm. History has shown us that nationalism creates prejudice against foreigners, even home born, such as myself as a defenceless youth. During those days I was teased by grown-up men for merely being Italian - something I have absolutely no control over, as I wasn't able to choose my parents before conception! How such prejudice eclipsed common sense. Then not to mention the well-documented records of racism and prejudice against the influx of Jamaicans arriving here in the 1950's and '60's, followed by the Asians in the 1970's and '80's. Street violence often broke out, often involving whole families of women and children as victims of national and ethical pride. On top of all that, the famous "Rivers of Blood" speech made by Tory Enoch Powell in April 1968 had only created further hostilities the indigenous whites had against non-white immigrants and settlers.
That's why, as I'm not afraid to admit here, I'll be voting Remain. Being fully Italian, having experienced teasing and prejudice thrown at me, I strongly favour internationalism over nationalism. But on top of this, I don't believe that the European Union is a mere work of peace-seeking secular politicians. Rather, as it looks to me, that this could be part of the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy prior to the Return of Jesus Christ to reign from Jerusalem. The existence of the sovereign nation of Israel plays an important role here. During the Nativity, the fate of the Lord was clearly foretold, that he would be the King of Israel, reigning on the Throne of his father David. Before the Lord can return, Israel as a nation must be in existence (Matthew 2:2-6; Luke 1:31-33). For many years, scholars have debated over two related prophecies found in Daniel 2:31-46 and 8:7-9. Authors such as Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, and Norman K. Robertson, who all had written books about prophecy during the days when the European Common Market having less than ten member nations, and therefore they believed that a ten-nation European superstate will herald the Second Advent. I was taken in by that theory as well. With as many as 28 member nations in the Union at present, obviously the ECM was not the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy! And I admit that I was mistaken too.
The theory now stands that ten superstates may exist globally prior to the return of Jesus Christ, the present European Union being merely one of them. But this time I won't be so dogmatic on the issue and accept that God alone will know the time and date of the Second Advent. In the meantime, our trust is in God alone, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. It is him alone we need to focus on, who is above every bickering politician.