Christian view of Europe incompatible with Ukip says thinktank
In an article in the Guardian newspaper and an interview for BBC's Radio 4 Today Programme this weekend, the thinktank Ekklesia has said that support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is incompatible with a Christian view of Europe.
The statements follow the joint publication of a paper which looks at a Christian view of the European Union, but also amidst reports that the Reverend Philip Foster, vicar of St Matthew's church in Cambridge, planned to hold a service of thanksgiving for the UKIP election result.
Writing in the Guardian newspaper on Saturday, Ekklesia's director suggested that the concept of a community of nations where divisive barriers are broken down is a Christian idea.
But he said that the Christian concept of community means that an issue such as the European constitution can not be seen simply in terms of the national interest.
"A question over the single currency or the constitution becomes an issue, not of how our national interest will be affected, but of what the impact will be on the weakest members of the community - and those beyond its borders" he said.
"To abandon the vision of a European community altogether and retreat into a narrow nationalism, as Ukip proposes, is an answer to the wrong question. Ask not what the EU can do for your country, but what your country can do for the EU."
A recent report published by Ekklesia and Sarum College also presents a direct challenge to the assertion that decisions about Europe should be made primarily in Britain's self-interest, as the UKIP suggests that they should.
ìTowards the Abolition of the Nation State? European and National Identity in Christian Perspectiveî, is written by Canon Richard Franklin.
Franklin concurs with one leading theologian who has addressed the question of Europe, Wolfhart Pannenberg, who says that ëthe modern elevation of the nation as the dominant model of political action can be seen as a contradiction to the international traditions of Christianity and to their source in the Christian hope that all humans may participate in the Kingdom of God.í
In the paper Richard Franklin says; ìThe spirit of universalism, internationalism and Catholicism which is at the heart of the Christian faith means that narrow patriotism and nationalistic bigotry are inimical to the gospel.î
ìChristians have often equated their religion with their national loyalties and nationalist leaders have used Christianity in its various forms as a tool for the establishment of national cultural homogeneityî, Franklin says. ìBut seeing one's own nation as specially chosen leads to sinful self-aggrandisement and a failure to recognise that all individuals and communities are subject to universal divine Lordship and judgement.î
The paper points out that spiritual equality and unity and the breaking down of racial, cultural and religious barriers are central to the New Testament and the main currents of Christian political theology. Since internationalism is at the heart of Christian political thought, it suggests, it is legitimate to consider whether the nation-state or, indeed, anything short of some kind of comprehensive international political unity can be justified.
Richard Franklin continues; ìNation states must not view themselves as 'ends in themselves'. They are a phenomenon of political history which have many defects. In Christian perspective they can have practical, but only transient, value as a step on the road towards the wider political unit implied by the gospel.î
The author also points out that the 'Fortress Europe' mentality is a temptation towards an excluding Empire that must be resisted.
ìPolitically the EU exists to allow the flourishing of all other forms of collective identity contained within a framework which does not allow natural differences to develop into anything that is destructiveî, he says.
Franklin points out that in history peace has usually been maintained by the force of arms, but that the EU is remarkable because ìthe peace, justice, democracy and rights enjoyed by the citizens of Europe are upheld by consensual politics.î