JAMES BALL: We're making a mistake of biblical proportions
PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 April 2019
Bible stories that Brexiteers really shouldn't try to adapt to their cause.
For Christians, Lent – and then Easter – is intended to be a time of sombre remembrance and reflection as much as for others it is a time when you eat your bodyweight in chocolate.
Brexit doesn’t merit ‘remembrance’ and, so far, has never mustered anything even close to ‘reflection’ from anyone near to it. But one of its most prominent voices did use the weeks in the run-up to this season to resort to a biblical parallel, using the tale of Moses seeking freedom for his people, to score a point about our protracted departure from the EU.
Alas, because that prominent voice was Boris Johnson, he totally screwed up the retelling of the story – in huge print on the front page of the Daily Telegraph, no less. First, Johnson confused who said “Let my people go!” as Moses, rather than God. He also, especially significant for his Brexit position, which elided Pharaoh with Brussels, forgot that after that moment, Moses and his people spent 40 years in the wilderness – a situation Johnson swears blind won’t happen, even if we leave with no-deal.
Given the time of year, and the risk Johnson might try more terrible analogies, here are a few other Bible stories Brexiteers really shouldn’t try to adapt to their cause.
Adam and Eve
This one is frankly just too close to home for those involved in the Vote Leave campaign. This tale saw the serpent persuade Eve to ignore terrible warnings of the consequences which would come to pass if she ate the forbidden fruit, making it sound like such a good decision that she eventually went along with it.
Having faced no immediate terrible consequences for her actions, Eve then helped persuade Adam to do the same – only for them both to then face the delayed wrath of God for their actions.
In many ways, this might seem an inspiring tale of shifting the blame for Vote Leavers – after all, the snake wasn’t responsible for implementing the result of Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the fruit – but they may wish to remember that the whole situation didn’t work out too well for the snake, either.
The casting out of the moneylenders
In one of several parables dedicated to Jesus restoring the temples of his religion, Jesus cast out the money changers and traders from the temple, declaring that they had turned a place of prayer into a den of thieves.
Many of us may feel that the financial services industry of the City of London have done much the same to the UK, but while Brexiteers have so far contributed to more than $1 trillion in capital leaving the UK – and numerous high-paying City jobs with it – they’ve done nothing towards the second part.
They may also wish to note that if they do wish to destroy one of the UK’s most skilled and high-end professions, they may need something with which to replace it, too. A priest recruitment drive, perhaps?
The judgments of King Solomon
According to his story, King Solomon was an ancient king of renowned wisdom, whose counsel was sought to solve the thorniest of disputes and the most intractable of problems. It would be no surprise, then, if he were referenced for some way through the intractable parliamentary maths of Brexit. This could prove very dangerous indeed, given the calibre of many of those involved, and their unerring ability to take the wrong lesson every time something goes wrong.
Solomon’s most famous ruling concerned two women, who both claimed a baby brought before the king was their own, neither of whom had definitive evidence to prove their case. After some thought – and surely to the horror of all around him – Solomon came up with a simple solution: tear the baby in half, and give half to each.
The king’s plan, of course, relied upon the reaction of the women: the first to spot the coming disaster, and care strongly and viscerally enough to renounce her claim to the child to avert disaster and save its life, was judged to be the real mother.
The danger, given the House of Commons’ current short-sightedness – and forgetfulness as to how reality works – is that the child-splitting fix may start to seem like a sensible middle ground to some of them.
Given the horror of this tale, it’s strange it’s one told so often to us as young children. This Old Testament story recounts how God, having seen the earth is sinful beyond redemption, decides to flood the entire planet for long enough to kill everything except the humans and animals upon an ark he has ordered Noah to build.
After almost six weeks upon what surely must have been a stinking and unsanitary boat, Noah and his fellow survivors are free to repopulate a now vacant Earth. This is barely less extreme than several Brexit options being laid on the table, and given the likelihood of long extensions – and our total inaction on climate change while all of this is dominating the agenda – could start to seem like a viable Brexit plan to Theresa May as she faces her 198th Brexit extension in 2094, as sea levels rise still further.
There are two stumbling blocks even to this Brexit strategy, though: the first is that the UK is, as we are endlessly reminded by Tories, an “island nation”, and so unlikely to do better than our continental neighbours come the flood.
The second is that God marked the end of Noah’s flood with a rainbow – and there’s no way the DUP would be seen dead associating with a plan that closely tied to LGBT people.