Is there a religion ghost in the shocking, to many, Brexit vote?
Of course there is. Any issue this, well, HUGE is going to have links to religious beliefs and institutions, on both sides of the debate. However, it will take a while for that shoe to drop, methinks, as secular journalists begin their work -- of course -- with waves of news about the political and economic fallout.
That is to be expected. However, we can begin our search for the religion ghost in this story by asking two rather basic questions: In terms of media and cultural elites, who is upset about the Brexit victory? And these grieving people in the mainstream media (looking at you, Christiane Amanpour), who are they blaming for this defeat for rational thought and the world's glowing future?
For example, I have no idea who this young journalist is -- Rebecca Pinnington -- but I would imagine that there were plenty of professionals in major newsrooms thinking this exact same thought in the wee hours of this morning.
What does it say that CNN has this quote on its front page, as I write this?
So who is to blame for this attack on the European Union and its supporters? It would appear, based on my early reading, that the chattering classes see this as a victory for old people who yearn for the values of the past and fear the wide open, evolving future. The word of the day appears to be "xenophobia."
The New York Times mainbar on this story opens with a barrage of negative reactions, without even a pause to ask why anyone in Britain might have voted to exit the European Union. The key voice, of course, is that of the Times itself -- with flowing paragraphs of information so true that it requires zero attribution to named sources. Here are some key summary paragraphs:
For the European Union, the result is a disaster, raising questions about the direction, cohesion and future of a bloc built on liberal values and shared sovereignty that represents, with NATO, a vital component of Europe’s postwar structure. ...
The campaign run by one of the loudest proponents of leaving, the U.K. Independence Party, flirted with xenophobia, nativism and what some of its critics considered racism. But the official, more mainstream Leave campaign also invoked immigration as an issue, and its slogan, “Take control,” resonated with voters who feel that the government is failing to regulate the inflow of people from Europe and beyond.
Other anti-establishment and far-right parties in Europe, like the National Front of Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders’s party in the Netherlands and the Alternative for Germany party will celebrate the outcome.
The bottom line for the Great Gray Lady?
In England especially, 85 percent of the population of Britain, many people fell back on national pride, cultural exceptionalism and nostalgia.
From the viewpoint of elite journalists, might there be a religion angle or two in that statement? Something, perhaps, about people clinging to God and fearing people who are different? (I don't think anyone clings to guns in UK.)
Now, read that Times litany once again and then compare it with the following summary of "What This All Means" from an EDITORIAL piece in The Guardian, on the British left:
The immediate outlook for progressive and even humanitarian values in the UK is not, on the face of it, encouraging. There is no denying that, even if only on the Faragiste fringes, xenophobia had its part to play in the leave campaign. The voices that thronged on the airwaves in triumph on the first dawn of the post-Brexit future were those of the Thatcherite past: Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith and Norman Tebbit. Such figures who feel, and not without reason, that “we are the masters now” differ from Mr Cameron not only in their contempt for all endeavours European, but often also in their reactionary stance on social and other affairs. Most, but not all, of the Brexit wing of the Conservative party opposed, for example, gay marriage, the one solid progressive achievement on the home front which the outgoing prime minister could point to, as he acknowledged that his time was up. Underpinning this mostly reactionary pro-Brexit cabal in parliament is a motley crew of border-hopping, non-domiciled tycoons and ruthless press barons, a monied elite which has masked its audacious bid to grab the reins in folksy, homespun slogans.
As a rule, I get the impression that few British journalists have a long list of sources to call in the "Leave" movement. If you look for voices on that side of this story, you are going to have trouble finding them.
As you would expect, there is far too much coverage this morning to attempt to survey it all. However, I would remind GetReligion readers of this key piece of information that was included in a Lapido Media think piece that I posted earlier this week:
A survey in April by the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD) showed that 54 per cent of those identifying as Christian were more likely to favour leaving the EU compared with 43 per cent of those with no religious affiliation.
This is even after allowing for the effects of political partisanship, region, age and education.
The survey also revealed significant differences among Christian denominations, with 60 per cent of Baptists likely to vote leave, compared with 54 per cent of Methodists, 52 per cent of Anglicans and 51 per cent of Roman Catholics.
Also, Religion News Service ran a pre-election op-ed piece on Brexit by Arthur Keefer, an American doing his doctorate in Hebrew Bible studies at Cambridge University.
Your GetReligionistas would, of course, have preferred an actual news feature on this topic. Nevertheless, there is some crucial information in this piece:
The religious debate on Brexit is not simply a matter of faith or theology but reveals central issues of concern: diversity, safety, unity and fear. These concepts govern the arguments from both campaigns.
One relevant subject, though, has received very little attention as voting day approached, even from religious communities.
In June 2013, all EU members came under regulation of the “Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief.” The title captures the thrust of the document, but its 14 pages set out the core values of the EU: The free exercise of religion or belief, it reads, “directly contributes to democracy, development, rule of law, peace and stability.”
The guidelines promote “the building of pluralistic, tolerant, and democratic societies” and lists additional ideals such as nonviolence, individualism and flexibility in membership.
This document champions a clear set of values. And these values may or may not align with the values of a particular religion.
This leads precisely where you would think that it will lead, in this day and age.
For example, according to the guidelines, the freedom of LGBT people overrides the freedom of religious action, a source of controversy within and outside Britain. Members of each religious group, and of all theological convictions, must decide if a vote to remain equates to an affirmation of the EU’s value system.
Forget conservative Christians, for a moment (who are not a major force in British life, these days). How would these guidelines affect Islam?
That's all, for now. If there are GetReligion readers out there who spend lots of time swimming in British ink, please help us spot the pieces that, I am sure, will soon hint at the religious themes in this major story.
Yes, I will drop the Rev. George Conger a note.