*** DEBUG END ***

Brexit’s biblical parallels

07 April 2017


NOW that Article 50 has been triggered, it occurs to me to wonder whether the Bible might offer any parallels with Brexit.

For the most optimistic Brexit­eers, our departure is a kind of Exodus, an escape from the op­­pression of Euro-bureaucracy and a triumphant march to the Prom­ised Land of low taxes, curbed immig­ration, and free trade with anyone.

Should doubts come up on the journey, there are plenty of latter-day Moseses to remind us of our former slavery: how we once had to contribute to Euro MPs’ inflated ex­­penses and collude in the decima­tion of our fishing fleets. Whether Brexit is orderly or disorderly does not really matter — indeed, there is a certain glee in the thought that we might “crash out” of Europe, bat­tered but proud, poor but free at last.

The remaining Remainers are more likely to be contemplating a kind of internal exile, in which Brit­ain is increasingly distanced from her immediate neighbours, and so from our place in the world. The thought of reimposed borders at Calais and elsewhere represents an unwelcome loss of comradeship, free movement of peoples and ideas, and shared values.

The only chance is to cling on to as much of this as we can, hoping to salvage some­thing lasting from the wreckage of our former faith. Vaguely, the Re­­mainers experience their condi­tion as a punishment, a judgement on their failure to grasp the dis­content of those who wanted out. They might also contemplate that leaving Europe is only one aspect of a greater exile ahead, after the break-up of the UK, and even the end of the monarchy. Britain as an entity is finished, and we are reduced to being Little England.

If scripture is to guide us in these uncertain times, the only thing that we can be sure of is that our expecta­tions are unlikely to be ful­filled. The Exodus ended in savage warfare, the promised land was not taken without cost, and stability took years to establish and was arguably always fragile.

Nor was the exile the unmitigated disaster that it might have been. It was the beginnings of the Jewish diaspora: it brought new interpreta­tions of faith, new insights into the meaning of being God’s people. Again, there were disappointments along the way. The return to the land was not the glorious fulfilment foretold by the exilic prophets, but a slow, patchy, and only partial recov­ery.

Politicians, like prophets, point to glory or disaster, but scrip­ture as a whole never promises a rose garden, or underestimates the capacity of nations to screw things up. In the end, our earthly pil­grimage is a hard slog, with a heav­enly vision to keep us going, and much confusion along the way.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)