Some years ago, my younger brother took our Mum up to the Scottish Highlands, to visit an insignificant-looking area of open space known as Culloden Moor. It was the site of the last battle ever to take place in Britain, on April 16th, 1746. Lasting about an hour, the contest was between Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charles, who desired to sit on the Throne in London, and was also leader of the Jacobites - against the Government officer William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. The latter, whose troops were predominantly English and better trained, won a quick victory over the mainly Scottish Jacobite troops, leaving a considerable number of casualties, mostly from the Jacobite side. After his defeat, Bonnie Prince Charles took flight. This eventually led to the Scottish Highlands being integrated into Britain, in the process of the formation of the United Kingdom.
|Cottage Hospital, Culloden Moor.|
About two years after Mum's visit, I took my wife Alex to the same area while spending a few days at a hotel in Inverness. Hardly an attraction, the moor was an open field covered mainly with heather, with a network of trails allowing visitors to wonder freely, along with a nearby car park (if I remember) a small museum, a cottage used as a hospital, and of course, most important of all, a refreshment cafe and shop. What has changed since our visit in 2005, was the building and opening of a rather swank-looking Visitor's Centre in 2007. No doubt, the facility would have been much appreciated by William Augustus and his men for a respite after the battle!
Hence the beginning of a era for the British Isles known as the United Kingdom, consisting of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, where everyone within its shores lived in relative peace for more than two centuries. So when Scotland held a referendum for independence on September 2014, I was worried. For my heart would have been as much broken as the United Kingdom would have been, if the Scottish National Party had won.
Back in 1990, a friend and I cycled from John O'Groats, on the most northern point of the Scottish coastline, to Land's End on the tip of Cornwall. We remember the border crossing well. A straight road passing two signs, one on each side of the road. One read, "Welcome to Scotland." The other merely read, "England." But there were no white lines across the road, no passport controls, no customs. One just drove along uninterrupted, as anywhere else in the open countryside. The same applied when we crossed into Wales, albeit briefly. All three crossings consisting of an open road passing through without any form of obstructive barriers. That is the meaning of the United Kingdom, where anyone can pass through national boundaries as if they did not exist, itself a tangible expression of a total lack of tribal conflict or seclusion.
It was very different at the world's smallest continent throughout the 20th Century. Made up of a number of independent nations, Europe became the source of two of the world's most atrocious conflicts, both costing lives by the millions, followed by high levels of then-unrecognised Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among the surviving veterans, some homeless and often seen tramping along the streets of London back in the sixties and seventies, intoxicated with alcohol, at times even with methylated spirits. All because by 1939, one national leader believed that his country was populated by a superior race, and had aspirations to conquer and rule over the rest of Europe, including Britain. At the same time he had six million Jewish men and women sent to prison camps to face death. Just for being racially inferior.
After visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum on the western outskirts of Jerusalem in 1993, I grew appreciative of the concept of a European Union acting as a deterrent against international and inter-tribal warfare, along with serving as a barrier against a Communist invasion, even though I gave little thought about such a union at the time. But throughout the last couple of months I grew to understand the benefits of Union membership, and what it could mean if we vote out of the European Union, even prompting a domino-effect of the Union to fall apart completely, meaning that one day in the future, a third world war could break out over another conflict between two or more European nations. Most likely not in my day, as I am already in my sixties. But as I look on young families with their toddlers, my heart sigh, wondering what kind of a future they will grow up in.
As I listened to the News on the radio that Friday morning of June 24th, I fell into shock which turned into depression, which gripped my soul for more than twenty-four hours. Not long after hearing the announcement that Brexit has won the national referendum by a narrow margin of 52 to 48 percent, our Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, stood outside the door of number 10 with his wife Samantha standing slightly behind him, both looking very distressed as he announced his resignation. Up to the present I have always disliked our Prime Minister for what he stood for, seasoned with his Etonian background and his past membership of the notorious Bullington Club for aristocratic students at Oxford University. Furthermore, he has always shown a higher regard for the elite above the needs of ordinary people. But on that morning I thought I detected a tear rolling down his face. I felt a pang of pity. Despite his background reputation and performance at his post, I just couldn't gloat over his national public humiliation. Instead I felt sorry for him.
Which heightened my depression. I attended the gym for my normal three-times-a-week two hour workout. Normally I leave the gym with a feeling of well-being after such a workout. But not on that Friday. Instead, I sat alone in the sauna, itself almost deserted, and finding myself at a position which clarifies any depressed man:
It was also on that day when I recalled some of the weirdest statements made by various church leaders about the European Union before the result was released. One leader of a church in Southampton ordered his congregation to vote leave, insisting that the European Union is the work of the Devil and therefore an abomination before God! Then at a Bible study group I heard about another pastor of a more localised church saying the same things about the Union. On that occasion, on the day of the referendum itself, I stood up and declared that all this was total nonsense, and even rebuked the elderly couple involved for being so gullible. Their reply was that they felt God saying these things in their hearts. The next morning I heard the result.
Did God really speak to them? Was I in the wrong? Worse still, was I in rebellion against God, as depicted by the nations, including Israel, in the Biblical book of the prophet Amos? This has brought me near to a sweat - until I also remembered that the Archbishop of Canterbury has voted to remain, and quite likely most, if not all, the clergy of the Church of England. If the clergyman second only to the Queen has voted to remain in the EU, then there must be a serious flaw in the theory that the European Union is an abomination before God.
Reading the Biblical book of the prophet Daniel throws some light into this issue. As a captive of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, the young prophet revealed the meaning of a dream the king had one night in bed. The dream was that of a massive statue standing in front, consisting of a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, lower legs of iron, and feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. Then a large boulder, not cut by human hands, rolled down a nearby mountain and struck the statue at its ten toes. The whole edifice crumbled into powder, and like chaff blown away by the wind, nothing of it remained, but the boulder which demolished the statue grew into a mountain which covered the whole earth.
Then some time later, the elderly prophet had a dream of his own, that of a stormy ocean. From the swelling waves arose four beasts - a lion, a bear, a leopard, and an unknown ferocious beast. His attention was drawn to the fourth beast, and from its head grew ten horns, and another horn grew after the other ten. These two dreams both share the same interpretation - that four empires will rule over the nation of Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, God's own city, from Daniel's day to the end of human history. Of these kingdoms, three are clearly past, while the fourth has been suspended - to allow for the present Church age - only for this kingdom to resume power sometime in the future from this point of time - as we have not reached the end of the Church age, let alone human history. But the importance of these four empires to Israel and its capital Jerusalem cannot be underestimated. It has nothing to do with the Church.
(See Daniel chapters 2 and 7.)
But the one important principle underlined here, and that these kingdoms were decreed by God himself. It was God's plan for the Jews to be ruled by these four non-Jewish empires for their continued disobedience and rebellion against his laws and commandments. The fact that all kingdoms, nations, and empires are firmly in the hands of God himself, who re-affirms through Paul that there is no authority existing that hadn't been established by God (Romans 13:1-7). As such, it is God who causes empires to rise and fall, to enthrone kings and also dethrone them at his own will.
Which leads me to conclude that if people, even Christian believers, had said to me in the past that the British Empire was established by God, then it must follow suit that the European Union was established by God as well, wasn't it? Why do some Christians endorse the British Empire as a work of God, but emotionally denounce the European Union as a work of the Devil, and therefore a divine abomination? Didn't the British set out to conquer the indigenous in their own homelands, make slaves of them, and through bloodshed rule over them with absolute authority - for some four hundred years? And yet these same people who approved of the British Empire are now screaming out, we want our country back! The EU made slaves of no-one, they never ruled with the same kind of absolute authority, and there certainly was no bloodshed. Furthermore, the Union is only forty odd years old, a tenth of the Empire's duration! Yet many see it as evil.
We want our country back! I bet that that was exactly the cry of the conquered indigenous under colonial rule for four hundred long years. And then the English in particular sampling a mild form of their own medicine for just a few decades brings shock and horror. I cannot see the fairness, but perhaps fortunately for us, we as a nation are now free from the cruel, bureaucratic dominion of the EU, even after all this time, never a gun was fired by them in our direction. Now the Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is thinking of another referendum for Scottish independence. Because the Vote Remain was won by the Scots with a wider margin of 62 over 38 percent of the vote, compared with the 52 over 48 percent for the Vote Leave on the national average.
A second Scottish Referendum for Independence looks now to be on the cards, according to the Media. If the voting goes ahead, and they vote out, a very peculiar set up could emerge. They could be accepted back into the European Union. Even before that, the United Kingdom as we know it at present would be broken up and cease to exist. Quite likely, a passport control booth would be set up at the very spot we cycled through unhindered back in 1990. And the same applies to all other roads, along with border checks within intercity trains out of London Kings Cross and Euston Stations. And passport checks for cross-border domestic flights. A dire possibility? I guess that could be the case, but perhaps not. But the weirdest peculiarity would appear on the new map of the European Union, if it does not fall into itself.
The map would show a uniformed continental block (if the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and Italy remains in the EU) with Scotland, and maybe Northern Ireland too, shaded in with Europe, but between Scotland and the north coast of France, there would be a landmass unshaded, as neither England and Wales would be in the EU. This peculiar resurgence would be the end result of the English (and Welsh) cry that "they wanted their country back."
But however events will turn out in the days, weeks, months and years to come, I have come out of my depression and set my faith in the Lord that neither my countrymen or ourselves would be any of the worse for wear as a result of leaving the European Union.
May God save, keep, and bless everyone who puts his trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.