Why “Brexit” is a troubling lean toward the past

DSC_0694“You’re a Brit,” someone said to me the other day. “So explain Brexit to me.” (Brexit is the recent decision by voters in the United Kingdom to exit the European Union.)

All righty then; okay; fine; here we go.

First – wait for it – I’m not “a Brit.” I’m an American.

I certainly grew up in England; my parents are as English as they come; I was born in Kent and lived in Folkestone until I was 19. Then I took a three-month, 17-nation tour of Europe and the Middle East, followed by a two-week trip to the USA, and I never really made it back.

By the time I was 29 I’d been living this side of the Big Pond for a decade, had been married to Rebekah almost six years, had two amazing children, and could proudly announce I was a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. My U.S. birthday is February 15, 1985.

DittoToday I drive on the right without thinking about it, I call the world’s most popular game “soccer”, I haven’t played cricket in 42 years, I’m about to vote in my 8th presidential election, I don’t believe in dual citizenship, and – even though I still know what a googlie is and I still (occasionally) crave clotted cream and strawberry jam on a scone – Queen Elizabeth II probably doesn’t even ask about me any more.

Additionally – and this is important – I have to acknowledge that my working knowledge of the British way of life is limited to childhood memories, infrequent visits to the UK, six seasons of Downton Abby, and my birthright skill of being able to make a smashing cup of tea.

“TEAR DOWN THIS WALL”: However, and this is an important lead in to what I have to say, today I consider myself very much a Citizen of the World. I have an international perspective that I believe is critically important to consider if we are to make sense of our future as people who stand against this new – and disturbing – tendency to reinvent nationalism and build new walls.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” Ronald Reagan famously said in 1987, speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate. What’s happening in the UK – but primarily England – is just one more example of a current day wall-building movement that isn’t that much different to what’s going on this side of the Atlantic.

DSC_0575It’s my belief that wall-building is a symptom of fear, because being open to others – ideas, opinions, friendships, traditions, and even the people themselves – is very difficult when you lack confidence in your own sense of self. When economic times are challenging, and when security is an issue, when things don’t come so easily, then it’s easy to blame those who are not like us, and we retreat back into what we know best.

So I believe the choice is a clear one: Do we reach out our hands in friendship, sit down and talk, get to know one-another as fellow citizens of this world we all share? Or do we retreat into our own space (or what we like to think is our own), dig a moat, build a wall, pull up the drawbridge, and continue to set our world on a trajectory back toward the feudalism of the Dark Ages?

I believe the U.K. has chosen poorly.

DARK AGES: “The Dark Ages,” I wrote in The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian (my favorite book), “were defined by the absence of education, institutionalized ignorance, limited travel, a lack of worldview…”

The story (in the chapter Where Grace Shatters Darkness) focused on my concern that the middle school students I taught were – by virtue of their refusal to learn and to grow – fixing a path that would guarantee their effectual return to the limitations of the Dark Ages.

DSC_0172That is my concern today, when I see so much political rhetoric devoted to turning the clock back, so many people jumping on board reactionary, nationalistic, isolationist bandwagons, and so much of the world retreating into “I’m right – you’re wrong” ideologies and religious exclusivism.

CONCLUSION: So I guess the whole “Brexit” situation troubles me. It’s symptomatic of the new politics of wall-building. And that – my thoughtful and hopefully prayerful friends – is a significant step away from the kind of peace Europe has worked so hard to forge since anywhere from 50 to 80-million were killed during the ravages of World War Two.

Peace – and I mean that in every way – DEREK

(The photographs in today’s post are from my most recent trip to the UK)



Categories: Current News, life, photogrpahy

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12 replies

  1. What do you mean by “I don’t believe in dual citizenship”? To me, its like “not believing in the ocean”. It’s just there, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s only there if you choose it.
      When I raised my hand and said, “I disavow allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate or power” I stopped bing a British citizen. For me dual citizenship is a non-sequitur.
      No more British passport, just the one.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Have you formally relinquished your British citizenship? If not, it may well be that you don’t consider yourself a British citizen, but Britain still does.

        I have two citizenships. I never said such things, and I see no problem with two citizenships. A passport, by the way, is just a printed proof of a citizenship, not the legal status itself. But I’m sure you are aware of that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Obviously it’s a personal decision – yours to make. But the US is quite clear on renouncing other citizenships, and the oath of allegiance is not optional.
    “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen…”


  3. Sorry, Derek, but I cannot agree with your intervention in this way about the British democratic decisions, as you are not a British citizen. John and I both voted to leave the European Union in this past referendum, because we had prayed extensively and sought God’s will on the matter, and particularly that His will might be the outcome. The result was not something we expected, but as many have said since – we must work together to make this work.

    We do not agree with the rhetoric of certain in the Leave campaign, but we are very sure that the European Union is far from what it is cracked up to be, and there are serious questions to be asked about the bureaucrats who take home fat pay packets at the expense of particularly poorer nations. We are not building walls, but opening up other opportunities which have been denied us– being a member of the European Union -who take it upon themselves to rule on all manner of things we want to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fair enough. I’m glad you and John approached the decision thoughtfully and prayerfully. But I was – and am – quite clear regarding my status as an international voice, and my thoughts don’t qualify as interference so much as counsel and caution in a world that really is teetering on the brink of a return to failed models of what it means to coexist.
      There are many voices in Europe… and the UK… and the Middle East… that are disturbingly close to the rhetoric of “leaders” such as Donald Trump. Collectively, it’s something we must continue to talk about as an international community.
      I’m sure the UK will make the best of a challenging situation – that’s the “Keep Calm and Carry On” spirit that has been so redemptive over the long haul.
      But I still think it was a short-sighted call… as an internationalist, that is!
      Peace and blessings – DEREK


  4. Your post sparked several thoughts that I’d like to share…I apologise for the length of this…
    1. I believe it was comments designed to deter a “leave” vote, such as when the German Finance Minister said that a vote to leave the EU would prevent all UK access to the single market, that triggered a British trait to take the risk and see how things work out. When a spectator gives advice, and thereby tries to be a participant or contributor, it can sometime deliver catastrophic outcomes. The Remain and Leave campaigns had been doing an equally ineffective job.

    2. The EU reaction is understandable. Having been “in” for 40 years, I expect all parties were comfortable with each other, however, the “parties” were the politicians and bureaucrats and not the people. EU politicians have reacted like they were startled. David Cameron agreed a deal with EU leaders earlier this year which didn’t stand up to much scrutiny, appearing to be easily reversed once the votes were counted. Perhaps people smelled “no change” (or a raw deal)?

    3. The UK buys more from the EU than it sells to the EU. If the UK is out and the EU decides to do no trade with the UK then it seems that, economically, the EU will suffer as much as, or perhaps more than, the offending British. Once people calm down this will probably turn out to be a bit of a non-event. Businesses should be able to do business together across country boundaries. This was the aim of the Common Market (EU predessessor) until politicians (not businesses) decided that monetary and political union were further good objectives. These have not universally benefitted member states or their citizens.

    4. The UK has always been an outlier, offending European leaders over many years by deciding not to join monetary union (Euro) and the Schengen agreement that allows people free transit between EU member states without showing passports. EU citizens are, by the way, able to relocate within the EU as they pursue employment or retirement opportunities.

    5. The bitter responses expressed by EU and British politicians and bureaucrats are very saddening but reflective, perhaps, of their true colours. The UK is one of several nett taxation contributors to the EU. We pay in more than we get out and have done for 40+ years. The decision will cause problems as budgets and EU funding will need to be adjusted. Did you know that EU auditors have never signed off on the organisation’s accounts? This would not be tolerated of any corporation in Europe or, I expect, the western world but is one of those uncomfortable elements that the UK has unwillingly been party to for a long time. The UK implements and adheres to EU legislation and directives, being one of its most compliant member states. Sadly, some member states regard these as “hints” or “suggestions” and perhaps this, too, prompted people in the UK to say “no more”.

    5. The mess we’re in now needs to be unravelled and the way forward mapped out. Whether this has been a mess accumulated over 40 years or one that emerged since last Thursday is a moot point. It’s not in British interests to fall out or fail to reach agreement. I wonder what will happen over the next 2+ years as things are unwound and reset? I think agreement may be easier to achieve than many have been saying, once all parties start to discuss. Why wouldn’t they want to agree?

    The great thing for you, as an American, is that you are largely unaffected and you may experience some serious positives if the threats and warnings come to reality:
    a. It’ll be cheaper to visit your British relatives because the exchange rate will be better $:£.
    b. You may find it easier to buy a UK holiday home, if the bottom drops out of the market, as has been predicted.
    c. British goods will cost less in the US, unless punitive import duty and tax rates are applied, because the EU market will be unavailable to UK exporters.

    Above all, I am glad that my citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). It makes the bickering of politicians and bureaucrats seem petty when the richness of spending eternity in God’s house is in view. Praise the Lord!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thankyou Dorethea and Nljs.At the risk of repeating what you have both written… I am a British Subject and consider myself also a Citizen of the World. Does anyone who voted last Thursday know what will happen as all of this is worked through??-I think not and that’s the short-term concern.

    It was a referrendum, a trawling of the people to see what they felt about the deal with have with the EU.. not a vote to blow up the Channel tunnel or close our ports. I too reflected prayerfully before I voted to remain, along with a few other people.. We have yet to hear any politician of any persuasion sticking thier head above any parrapet in any reasonable way. I think for many people of the 52% who voted to leave, they were voicing their long-held frustration with what they percieve to be Brussels’ unaccountability and at the risk of spelling out the obvious, 48% is not a proportion to be sniffed at. so be careful what you assume.. Not all of England has said in any way that it wants to withdraw from the International scene.
    Its not simple. When we’ve had voting like that in meetings I’ve chaired, 52% would not be an acceptable majority to push through any major actions … but then in the church we make decisions by prayer, discerning the will of God and concensus- but that’s not widespread in internatonal politics. We’ve seen many people saying they didn’t actually think that voting to leave would result in leaving. What we need now is not vaccuous promises or scaremongering or finger-wagging, but analytical reading of the situation and level-headed leadership… that can be prayed for.
    .What the nation, I believe has been horrified by is the rise in reported xenonphobic hate crimes.. as if the racist elements in society feel they have some kind of mandate to act out their hatred.It is a very very small element in our society which is xenophobic- it does us all a great disservice when people start to delcare the England is building walls and turning her back on her friends. Rant over.


  6. I agree with Liz Kemp, and support efforts to bring racists, those throwing fire bombs and voicing hateful comments to court. I did pray about this decision before I voted to leave the EU. I just did not want an ever decreasing voice in Europe and an ever closer union. There are faceless and unkown unelected people driving the process in Europe towards a United States of Europe with its own army. It was said in the debate that this was to be achieved by 2025.
    There were many people voting to leave who do fear immigration from within and outside the EU with genuine fears of the NHS, Education Social Services and housing being severely stretched to cope with the increased population and its needs. This is a real genuine concern where some tighter limitation to immigrants may be necessary. This has never been really discussed by poloiticians because many are labelled racist.
    There are also unfortunately many who voted to leave who are more extreme and would not think twice of voicing the irrational hatred of immigrants. The majority of immigrants have work in the UK and contribute in taxes and are not a burden on the state.
    I keep praying for our people, the Politiccians and Gods will in this situation as it unfolds. I am sure that in the short term or medium term the UK will be poorer but believe that when we are up against it facing difficulties it will push us to work together for a better future in the long term.
    All your prayers for the UK and our politicians would be enormously helpful.
    David Woodman



  1. how do we make difficult decisions? #secondguessing – Life, Gratitude, Faith, & Passion

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