Of Barack and Boris: a Cautionary Tale

I wonder whether St Mark, whose feast we celebrate today, ever stopped to think how his account of the Good News of Jesus Christ would be received. Did he weigh his words carefully, or did they simply tumble out in his enthusiasm for his subject? We can certainly see signs of redaction, and we all silently bless him for some of the little details, like the green grass on which the 5,000 sat to eat their loaves and fishes, but we shall probably never know how much art or artifice has gone into his gospel’s composition. We do know that if we look too long at the gospel’s construction, we may miss the message it contains. Similarly with Barack Obama and Boris Johnson. Their words provoked such squeals of protest over the week-end that we may be in danger of missing the message they wished to convey.

Take President Obama’s forthright remarks about British membership of the E.U. No one likes being told by a foreign Head of State what we should or should not do, but what he had to say was worth pondering. Dismissing his remarks as bullying is unfair and, I think, unhelpful. My American friends won’t like my saying this, but the tendency to give the benefit of their advice to others unsought is one of their characteristics. It is no good taking umbrage, because it is usually kindly meant. Personally, I find it endearing more often than I find it irritating. But President Obama struck a nerve because he touched on a sensitive topic which has not yet been properly debated. We have had plenty of opinion voiced, and various figures have been published, but we have not yet had time to weigh them and think through the consequences.

Boris Johnson’s reaction to President Obama’s remarks was typical of the man. His questioning of the President’s motivation and underlying prejudices was perfectly valid, but the way in which he expressed himself was definitely not. However, it would be as wrong to dismiss his underlying argument as it would Mr Obama’s. Those of us who will be voting in the E.U. Referendum do need to think about sovereignty, economics, immigration and so on and so forth. There is, however, one more thing we must consider: the common good, and the common good not only of our own nation state but of all the other nation states that make up the E.U. and, indeed, the whole world. The Long Ending of St Mark’s Gospel contains the command to proclaim the Good News to the whole of creation. Maybe today we could spend a few moments reflecting on how we understand that injunction in the light of our place in Europe and the world as a whole. Neither staying in, nor leaving, the E.U. is without profound moral and ethical consequences.

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10 thoughts on “Of Barack and Boris: a Cautionary Tale”

  1. A timely reminder that we should think for ourselves on this issue and not expect the media or politicians to do our thinking for us. Thank you for these wise words.

  2. Thank you as always. I feel I live in a another universe. There is no talk of Brexit in Scotland. It isn’t being talked about or debated. It feels a like a foreign referendum. YouGov of which I am a member showed a recent map with areas in favour of the EU coloured green. The whole of Scotland was green. Why? I don’t know! Cumbria just across the border was the reddest anti-Europe area. How can one mile change attitudes so much?

    Of course we may see some Brexit discussion after our parliamentary elections next month. I doubt it. I haven’t found anyone here opposed to Europe.

    I’d love to know why there is such a difference in attitude. What a strange divided island we are ….

  3. I too ponder on how the exit or stay will work itself out in the interests of the greater good. The debate is so polarized that it’s difficult to distinguish if they’e not being selfish or even untruthful in the claims and statements made.

    The thing that I find difficult when they talk of being in a completely new situation if we leave – I’m old enough, as are several millions of others to remember Britain before we went into Europe, and I recall, without that much debate or real consultation that time around – and the Britain that I remember was one, post-war, still paying for it, and with huge divisions in society between the haves and have not’s – and as far as I can see, while things have leveled off a bit, there remains huge divisions between the rich and poor, and a deliberate government policy to cause that division to persist.

    Equality didn’t exist in those days in the way that it does now, and so those changes are for the greater good, but somehow, equality depends upon where you live in terms of health care, and also perhaps on the level of deprivation that you suffer. We for instance live in a former Working Man’s cottage, built when industry was booming in our area, but those industries are long gone, replaced by in the main service industries, developed to serve a consumer society. We have food banks (three locally) and our parish is involved with a local Church Against Poverty Debt Centre – as the need is increasing, not decreasing.

    I can’t see that the intention given to either going or staying is going to address our local issues, let alone those of the global poverty and deprivation, let alone climate change? Apart from giving us as a Nation, the opportunity to be isolated, ‘change deniers’ living in a bubble of our own creation. And if we leave, how soon will the pressure start to exclude even more refugee’s and talk about forcing European workers to return home as their contribution is no longer wanted (never mind needed).

    Surely, we should be doing something about the ails of the world, which we have some responsibility for, before we start on that slippery slope backwards – trying to return us more to the bad old days, which this government seem determined to do.

    Sorry, this is bit of a rant, but it does annoy me the purely selfish arguments being put forward by both sides in the BREXIT debate.

  4. I’m American. The Brits belong to NATO, the most undemocratic military “state” on earth, and the most violent. When you wise people are telling Russia about all its problems you do the same thing that dumb Americans do. Barrack is insulting your intelligence. Well, don’t you think Brits have been insulting people for centuries. Get over it. When you join American Imperialism, remember your under us. It’s what you ask for when you sleep with a Giant Enemy of the World.

  5. If the whole of Scotland is going to vote for the Status Quo, I’m tempted to think that her grounds are not (merely) economical but a reflection of her historically closer ties with the Continent than those possessed by England — but this referendum provides the most perplexing choice I have had to make in 60 years of voting, and your comment, Sister, about ‘profound moral and ethical consequences’ has left me even further baffled, and troubled by my ignorance. Would it be possible for you to say a little more on this subject? A constant prayer of mine is one expressed by Rev. John Watson (1850-1909) “May God grant us teachability” (Incidentally, a useful weapon against my many prejudices!).

    • Thank you. I hesitate to write more on this subject because I know I am not as well informed as I’d lilke to be; but I do think that, at the moment, the question is being considered only in terms of the pros and cons for Britain, and predominantly, the pros and cons for England. I would say that we have a duty to consider the implications for the rest of Europe and for the world. The refugees and asylum seekers flooding into Europe, for eample, are not ‘a problem for others’. How they are treated concerns us all, and that is as much a moral and ethical challenge as it is a political or economic one.

      • Thank you for that, Sister. It seems I have to decide whether staying in Europe will ever have any power for good on Britain; although we are members of the EU currently, we are still able to turn away young migrants in danger, a shocking act of meanness. But that’s my take, not necessarily yours!

    • Thank you. I hesitate to write more on this subject because I know I am not as well informed as I’d lilke to be; but I do think that, at the moment, the question is being considered only in terms of the pros and cons for Britain, and predominantly, the pros and cons for England. I would say that we have a duty to consider the implications for the rest of Europe and for the world. The refugees and asylum seekers flooding into Europe, for example, are not ‘a problem for others’. How they are treated concerns us all, and that is as much a moral and ethical challenge as it is a political or economic one.

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