Sunday, March 31, 2019

Brexit Tales 4: The Christian with the Tract

It would have been either 1982 or 1983 whilst I was a student. I walked past this bloke in Oxford and he pushed a leaflet into my hand - maybe he could sniff out Christians, or just spotted my bad clothes. I stuffed it into my coat pocket and thought no more about it for a couple of days, as those sorts of tracts are usually pretty awful - especially theologically and presentationally.

Some time the following week I must have been bored, as I found the leaflet in my pocket and took a look. The details are a bit hazy now, but I do remember clearly that it was very agitated about the EEC and the UN. The issue with the EEC was something to do with it having [then] 9 members states, which correlated with something about judgment or the end. Meanwhile the UN was seen as a step towards world government, which would apparently usher in all manner of evil (rather than a more peaceful world).

As is often the case with these kinds of tracts, it was all based on verses from Revelation. The approach is usually to try and find some kind of correlation between events, people or numbers in that book and see it as proof of some forthcoming significant moment. Over the years I've had a few circular letters that have long screeds of apocalyptic stuff sent to me as a vicar. This was an early encounter.

Since then it has intrigued me that a certain kind of Christianity has continued to have a hostile view of the EU in keeping with the man with the tract. I'll come back to broader-based Christian views of brexit in a future post; the opposition I'm talking about here comes from a very particular kind of spirituality which sees secular organisations not just as neutral or non-religious, but as actively hostile and even in the hands of evil. as such it can all get a bit conspiracy-theory in its most extreme forms.

Last summer I attended a course at a Christian conference centre. Another group of women from some kind of pentecostal/charismatic network were using nearby rooms, and it was a hot summer's day so the windows were open. One of our group overheard them earnestly praying that "these evil men won't thwart God's will for brexit". We concluded that dialogue in the bar later would probably not be fruitful. More recently I came across the website of another preacher of a similar theological ilk describing brexit as a miracle from God that will enable revival. I couldn't help thinking that it was all a long way from why many Anglicans voted leave (I promise I will come back to that!)

Anyway back to tract man. There was an address on the leaflet - some kind of PO Box if I remember right. So out of curiosity (and I was a Christian Union rep after all) I wrote him a reply, challenging some of the points politely, quoting the odd Bible verse and asking a few questions. The letter was returned - the address didn't exist. The EEC grew in number and became the EU with 28 members. Maybe tract man has another leaflet that can tell us what 28 (or 27) signifies.

Hang on. 27= 3 x 9. Suspicious, eh?

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