Anger Is An Energy: Responding To Paul Greengrass’s 22 July

Anger is an energy sang PIL, and so the punk movement took flight. Behind the now cliché of a colourful mohican was a frantic energy to destroy the status-quo of the elites running culture and politics. This was a music that left everything out on stage – except, perhaps, the instruments themselves which were often thrashed past the point of breakage when the gig has reached its climax. A few bands still do this even now; it’s seen to be a signifier of having given so much to the performance that there’s nowhere left to go, a symbol of the destruction of the established order. It’s also quite good fun to watch. Like most musical genres, once punk muscled its way into deeper public consciousness it seemed to have less energy, and to be a bit tired. That’s not entirely fair, but the hardcore punk fans see neo-punk acts who remain commercially successful as bands who have sold out – many true punks look disdainfully on bands like Green Day and their fans as having somehow failed by virtue of their success. The baton of truth is held, it’s said, by bands most of us would never have heard of; in punk, and in other genres that once betokened rebellion but now command widespread attention – RnB, hip-hop, rap. And so on.

Anger isn’t wrong; it just seems to be something that can easily tip us over into wrong. One New Testament letter writer doesn’t say ‘Your anger is a sin’; it says, instead ‘In your anger, do not sin’. Anger is an energy, which left unchecked can lead us to dangerously lose control; which is why the same letter-writer also recommends that if  we find ourselves angry with someone we love, to sort it out before bedtime.


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The truth is that there seems to be an awful lot of anger around at the moment. American conservatives are angry that under Obama their America was lost. American liberals are angry at the Conservatives for spreading hate and intolerance. Progressive Christians are angry at conservative ones for supporting Trump; conservative ones are angry with progressive ones for not doing so and for accusing them of selling out the gospel. Women are angry at men for the patriarchy and the abuse and the harassment; some men are angry at women for finding a voice, other men are angry at the rest of the men for speaking up or not speaking up. Brexit supporters are angry with Remainers for demanding a new vote and with their government for selling out the referendum; Remainers are angry with Brexiteers for being Brexiteers and with their government for an indecisive process. Here in South Africa … well, it feels to me as if everyone is angry with one group or another. Apply to your own country or context several times over.

Social media is often blamed for this; and it’s true that never having to see the person you’re typing at makes it easier to get angry and nasty; or at least not having to see them in that moment … a bit like over-spending on the credit-card because it doesn’t feel like real money. If anger is an energy, it’s often a destructive one, whether it’s musical instruments, people or political unity.

Anger was destructive on 22 July, when right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 young people attending a Labour Party Youth Camp on Utøya Island outside of Oslo after detonating a car bomb in the city. Paul Greengrass’s new film, titled 22 July tells this story. With his background in television journalism, British director Greengrass is attracted to stories like this; most powerfully in United 93 which told the story of the plane hijacked on 9/11/01 that never made it to its intended target. That he managed to tell that story without nationalistic fervour, hatred or voyeurism is one of the great cinematic achievements this century. A similar eye is there in his more action centred films – the Bourne movies (3 of which are his) may be fictional thrillers, but they are ones that seem to live in a nearly-real, believable world. If a film had to be made about Utøya Island (and as someone who knows what it’s like to lose someone to terrorist atrocities, I think that’s an open question) Paul Greengrass is the man to do it. He does so with a cinema release, but primarily on Netflix, to get what he sees as an important story into the medium most likely to reach younger people.

It’s a film with clear segments. The first 30 minutes or so portray the massacre itself – the families of victims asked him to neither sanitise nor exploit it, and he achieves that. It’s a devastating half-hour, shot in the eerie half-light of Scandinavian summer; deaths and injuries are real, but not lingered on. Its cinematography is a mixture of his trademark shaken, handheld cameras which deliberately jar with some powerful longer shots; one, of a group of teenagers huddled fearfully halfway down a cliff face, is especially memorable and moving. From there the film follows two paths – the recovery of one teenager badly injured, and the arrest and eventual trial of Brevik. Throughout nothing is soft-soaped, but neither is it milked; the teenager’s recovery is hard to watch (beyond a couple of scenes which feel a little contrived or clichéd; though I’m aware we can’t know the details of his recovery process). Brevik (brilliantly portrayed) is neither mad nor cartoonishly evil; he’s coldly rational, angry and aware. The moment we all know is coming – when he walks in to court and gives a long Nazi salute – is no less upsetting for it being predictable. That’s all in the brilliance of the direction and the performance.

None of these people are the central character, though. That’s Norway itself; the country Brevik insists is on trial. Greengrass said in his brilliant and eloquent interview with the BBC’s Simon Mayo (Simon Mayo interviews Paul Greengrass) that he wanted to tell the story of how Norway wrestled with the issue of whether to let Brevik tell the court his reasons; should we listen to his anger, or should they deny him the oxygen of publicity? Is it ever right to listen to the people who do these things? Norway decided it was; and the result, Greengrass claims, is that anger is is dissipated. In that interview Greengrass cites the ongoing divisions over Brexit, the rise of the far-right in diverse countries and the political cauldron of the USA as contexts where a similar exercise in listening might be fruitful or even healing.

It sounds true and wise, and probably is. I’ve tried hard to listen over recent years, as best as I am able to practically, given my circumstances. But the thing is, I’m getting sick of it. I’m getting sick of being shouted at – metaphorically in text or in reality through someone’s voice. I’m sick of being told or thinking I might be intolerant on the one hand or racist on the other; of being theologically liberal or conservative or progressive; of being a toxic male or a weak one; of being a parent who’s too strict or too permissive. And so it goes on. If listening really does dissipate anger’s energy, or allow the wrongness of the ideas that drive it to be seen for all it is, then I’ve yet to really experience it. Maybe dealing with it once in Norway just caused it move and take root more deeply elsewhere, like some sick version of Whack-A-Mole.

What do we do with our anger, mine and yours? Unexpressed anger is a breeding ground for all sorts of darkness, of which others or the angry one themselves may both bear the brunt. There are plenty of places in the Bible, for example, where anger and lament is given a voice; but this is rare in our public worship. Saying or singing the psalms doesn’t seem to be something that works in many settings now – so maybe we need new expressions of these texts, or songs and hymns that give voice to very contemporary laments. Still, though, many Christians seems to feel that anger is inherently sinful, and that its very expression or acknowledgement will let the genie out of the bottle. What about the rest of us, though; the increasing majority who are ‘spiritual, but not religious’; atheist or agnostic? What are their options? How do we listen well, and express anger well without the cancer spreading or worsening? How do we find the strength to keep listening when we’re sick of it?

I don’t know.

Brexit: Leave and Remain build hope

After giving both Leave and Remain supporters the chance to speak and listen to each other (see the 2 previous posts), I invited supporters of both options to say “What are you (personally) doing to build hope where you are? Give us examples of little steps you are taking that can inspire others to do the same.” Answers below, edited only for typos, without identifying the authors.

  1. Good question! I want to talk the country up, not down. I want to challenge lies – let’s stick what we said. And I want to pray for truth, integrity, wisdom in our leaders. But would love to hear from others. I’m not sure I’m very developed in my thinking yet.

2. As Chaplain in an Academy, I have plenty of opportunity to build hope (indeed, it’s kind of in my JD).
Today I spent an hour talking to some of the most ‘difficult ‘ about the immediate and long term affects of racism, and how they can identify and deal with it in others and themselves.
I get to remind staff almost every day that hope is real, and worth pursuing – and to (hopefully) help them see glimpses of light shining through even on the darkest of days.
Outside of work, i help my daughters look for the good in situations and people.
Inside my head, especially at the moment, all of the above is quite hard sometimes…

3. Showing friendship to those from other EU countries who face an uncertain future.

4. I am actively taking time to talk and encourage the people I meet every day around the school and the town and on here to maintain balance, to ignore the constant barrage of negative fear mongering that is everywhere at the moment, particularly on social media. Words are powerful things, they bring life or death to both the speaker and the hearer. I choose to bring life where I can.

I am meeting lots of people who are scared but who have a lot of misconceptions and have been unable to distinguish between the truth and the lies out there, often being terribly afraid of something that actually isn’t true. I don’t have answers. I just believe that what you keep feeding will grow so it is important to counterbalance the negative stuff out there and unpick the untruths where possible, so I tell them not to give up hope, not to focus on only the negatives they hear but to seek out the alternative viewpoint. I tell them I believe there is hope and will hold on to that regardless.

I am telling my 15 year old son that his future is not destroyed as the media are busy telling him. That there are turbulent times to get through first but the potential for new things to come is enormous. That he still has a future to aim for and take hold of. To quote a poster on his dad’s wall that “those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t get in the way of those who are doing it.”

I don’t need to tell him to continue to accept the people at his school who are immigrants because he does anyway. He has never distinguished them by skin colour, only by their behaviour. I continue to cheer him on for that attitude.

5. Personally, checking my rights to Irish citizenship & starting to investigate life in Ireland.
Looking out some safety pins (can’t put them on waterproof jackets though).

6. Sharing the idea and offering pins to our members at St Stephen’s E17 this coming Sunday.

7.  Intentionally talking to Eastern European neighbours (previously: neighbours) and people we meet checking they are ok.

8. Continuing to try & teach myself some polish, checking in with school to make sure kids and parents are safe and happy, wearing a safety pin, challenging dickishness.

9. Using FB – Posting a sermon following the referendum results from All Saints Church, St Margarets, Nr. Twickenham. Sending it in messages to FB friends who have commented about referendum.
Trying my best to gently calm the angry responses closer to home – family!

10. My heart is raw, heavy and deeply unsettled so forgive me but Im trying to engage with your question. I have decided that I’d rather be beaten up than allow abuse of other foreigners. I’m actively sitting near people speaking foreign languages so that I can defend them if needed. Sadly in my current emotional state I’d probably not be averse to physically confronting such racism. Probably not exactly what you were hoping for but it is honestly where I am at present. Apologies to my vicar and parents who may choose to have read something more grace filled.

11. I tread carefully until I know which way a person voted, I reign in my comments when talking to friends who voted the other way. I am struggling with this current situation.

12. I have to say that I am at quite a loss here, Rev. The whole process dragged so many memories of the divisions after Indy Ref to the forefront… which is where a substantial part of my discomfort comes from. At least, this time, Scotland seemed to be speaking with (more or less) a united voice. But the in-fighting; lying through statistical propaganda; leaders with faces I would never tire of slapping… it was all too reminiscent.

I teach my children tolerance (acceptance of another’s viewpoint, but not necessarily agreement with – )and a firm belief that God loves everyone – no matter what – but in a country where I can be arrested at a football match for singing sectarian songs, but have to wait in a traffic jam in the middle of my own town whilst the Unionists march down the high street, waving orange banners and playing those tunes on flutes, it often seems pointless. If we can’t sort this type of stuff out, what hope of getting the bigger picture?

I don’t see the benefits of leaving – sadly, all too many people don’t accept the reality that the free movement of people goes both ways. UK citizens can go and work in mainland Europe; the barrier is often language. Other countries are willing to learn English, our shouty people who don’t like immigrants don’t want to go to Italy and learn Italian. In order to continue being successful, we are going to have to accept some kind of free movement: which is going to upset people all over again. Yet, maybe there is hope for our farmers (if they don’t rely on those evil immigrants to work for them – doing jobs the British kids don’t want). If we are not putting into the Euro Food Mountain, then maybe we will stop growing so much oil-seed rape and start growing real food again which can be exported.

There will be Indy Ref 2 – although Nicola is taking her time about it: she’s far more canny than Pie-Face Salmond, and her biggest issue during the next Referendum (other than proving the economic case – which may involve loss of the pound) is to keep Alex Salmond out of it. I am convinced he lost it for them last time – insincere and smug as he was. I don’t want to go back to that bitterness. Yet, if there is hope, it is maybe there. We might be poor, we might have sky-high mortgages, but at least our kids will have access to a free Europe.

I don’t want to imagine another war in Ireland – although with a solid, militarised border that will (almost certainly) have to be put in place to protect the UK (!), there will be many who think that will be something that can happen. We were in Belfast a few years ago – and the divisions are deep and hurting (kerb stones painted red/white/blue or green/white/orange depending on the flavour of Christianity practiced in the town). A united Ireland may not appeal to all, but it will be a debate to come…and maybe that’s the hope – that Ireland will go through a long process of debate and talk, and come out more peaceful than ever before.

Gosh, I sound so fed up – and maybe I am. Political leadership is at a premium, and we’re floundering into the dark. I don’t think the Lord has a political side: he lets us choose our path, and meets us along the road. My prayer is that we find him, and walk with him; hearing his voice and living to full the situation we have cooked for ourselves.

13. It’s a bit like my best mate being an Arsenal fan whilst I’m a Spurs fan. Friendly banter whilst respecting the other’s view.

Brexit: Remain speaks, Leave listens

After letting Leave supporters voice their reasons for wanting to Leave the EU without fear of retort, I gave Remain supporters the chance to speak. The question I asked was “to say what they feel have lost and why and/or what they fear as a result of this referendum”.

I have posted the responses below without identifying the author (apart from my own), only edited for typos.

  1. I supported remain, but the biggest thing I fear is the labeling of leave supporters by remain supporters. By saying they are racists, or ignorant, or even that they stand with people who are racists – or any of the other things that have been said, it legitimises racism; If we say leave voters were racist is suggest 52% of the population – the majority are racist and thus those who truly are, no longer feel alone, but feel they have the country behind them – which I very strongly do not believe they are!!
    I have spoken to quite a few people who voted leave and the biggest thing I have heard is “I want more say” often more say in business or local money or environment or something else, but it is about being heard. My fear is that they will not be. There will be a second referendum pushed through, there will be an overturning of the decision or there will be a burying under the carpet of all the problems.
    The shock, outrage and anger shows a country who is not listening and who is at odds with its population – It seems to be that people are looking for a reason without understanding, and without listening and have taken to condemning simply from fear. This vote should not have been a surprise. There have been signs of it for a long time, and no one has answered it.
    As an example to tackle the thorny issue of immigration, I worked in Hertfordshire with many schools for 10 years, over that time it went from being the exception to the rule that there was at least one student with English as a second language, I say that not to say it was wrong, or right, but to give my observation (in fact it was actually great for me as what I was doing was accessible to all, and teachers said it really helped, and many of their parents got involved – giving them an outlet to show they cared and me a fab assistant – win-win all round! ;-)) However, I remember in 2012 (I think) a labour MP stating that immigration had not increased. That did not sit with my experience. To me it was a lie; one that was not based on everyday reality. Thus there had to be something wrong; the statistics, the MP; the area; my perception. My perception was not incorrect, by looking at school record it is possible to see this trend. The area was known as being very white middle class; why would this suddenly change and nowhere else? Thus this can be thrown out. Therefore, either MPs lie or their records are wrong. Either way, MPs are not to be trusted when it comes to what they say on immigration. If they had admitted immigration had gone up – and given a reasoned approach that would be one thing, but instead anyone asking a simple question was, and still is labelled as racist.
    There is also, a slightly linked area of over population. We have one of the highest population densities in Europe, but I know many people have shared posts entitled “how to spell check a racist” or “what to say to a racist” that states “only 1% (or in some posts 2%) of the UK is developed.” This is to me symptomatic of a townified, ignorant and bullying attitude, that seems to have been legitimised, most especially amongst the educated. To look into it deeper – First – someone raises a problem, you (and by “you” I am talking in the abstract) don’t like it so you label them as “other” and come up with a word that is loaded with hate (racist), this immediately ensures their views are held up to be extreme, can be belittled and ignored. Next you ignore their real concerns (I want to be heard, I am concerned about the environment, sustainability, my children) but boil it down to a single, arguable case and them, without hearing the actual concern. Next you use made up (I assume) figures to justify your view – after all there is a huge difference in the two figures -one is double to other, and finally you show your utter ignorance with a belief in something that is so patently untrue, and can be torn apart easily – I mean what does “developed” mean? Does it mean it has a house on it, concrete – what? Does that mean our farms, fields, woods are not developed (which of course they are)? Does it mean you believe that we do not need to eat? Does it mean you believe that the only species to value is man and other species are dispensable? Does it mean you believe there is no place for requiring green space, for valuing mental health, just as long as we survive? But of course this can’t be said – the other person has been labelled a racist and thus their views have been denigrated to the floor. I find this truly worrying.
    To me the leave vote was a vote for change – to change politicians, and to change the media, and, speaking as someone who is more countrified than townie, a vote against urbanites and in particular a vote against London; London is remote, irrelevant and a waste of space, so somewhere like Brussels must be even more remote, irrelevant and a bigger waste of space.
    I am most afraid this will not be heard and things will continue as they are, with people having less and less say. Being more and more disenfranchised. My biggest disappointment is David Cameron’s to be resignation. If he would stay then at least 1) he could show he was listening and even though it wasn’t what he wanted, could show he accepted the voters say 2) being pro Europe I think he could probably negotiate a new European deal that was neither in or out – a compromise, a person who wants the UK to leave is not the person to do this, 3) He could show his fortitude; On one of my posts this morning an 8 year old was reflecting on her learning for the year “I am better than David Cameron, as when things go wrong I keep at it.”


2. In summary the stable future of the UK is in doubt. British universities will be hollowed out as we are shut out of European initiative e.g. the European Space Agency. All the spin-outs and other jobs driven by that will go to EU states. Global companies will look to invest in the EU.
The peace in NI is at risk & if the peace goes so will any hope for prosperity.
Scotland will go it alone, which will be bumpy but we know we’re a small nation & need to be in the EU for global clout.
I could go on.
Boris said empires rise & fall and I can only see this as the final fall of the British Empire.
The other prospect is this precipitates the break up of the EU and then I fear for the lasting peace across Europe. Binding ourselves together economically has given us the longest period of peace between member states ever.
Weather in Scotland or Ireland my family will be OK but all our futures are now more volatile & less prosperous.

3. My response.

So a word from me. I can’t even begin to properly articulate how all this feels, living as an expat. I don’t regret my decision not to vote; it’s a hard decision to take and live with that I know some disagree with violently, but I feel my conscience is clear. But that doesn’t inure me to what’s going on. I feel that I woke up on Friday morning and the country I grew up in had disappeared overnight. I suddenly feel rootless and adrift. I have always despised nationalism in all its forms, and have advocated for ‘devo-max’ for Scotland. But I now find myself in the strange place of feeling that it would be immoral to ask Scotland to stay in the union. I am deeply angry that the country has been lead so badly for so many years by politicians of so many stripes, resulting in such deep generational/geographical/economic divides. I have lost much respect for people who – though by no means racist – have voted the same way as racists and are doing so little to distance themselves from that racism. I am deeply fearful that the resultant power vacuum will, over time, be filled by right-wing politicians that will lead to a drift to fascism. I find it beyond insulting to be told that such fears are far-fetched and groundless and that it could never happen here. It could, and if strong and wise leaders don’t step in, it may well. I do not love the EU, but I do celebrate Europe and the closer ties the EU brings; Europe has formed part of my identity that I now feel is lost. I think it’s good for people, churches, countries to be part of something bigger, and that this vote is an act of wilful isolationism which can never be good. I am deeply fearful and angry at the racism that this vote legitimises; I had longed to bring my (foster) children to the UK (they, in South African terms, are coloured); I am now fearful of doing so. I have lost respect for some Christians who I feel are using their faith and the Bible to prop up a political view, and to use Scripture so poorly. There are people I want to be relationship with whom I will struggle to rebuild love for, for what I see as short-term, selfish, myopic thinking. I feel rootless, lost, like part of me has been amputated; it’s a real experience of grief. Grief is not hurried through, and to suggest that it can be by simple platitudes such as ‘It’ll be fine, you’ll see’ or Pooh memes is deeply insulting. It is very, very hard to be fully present where I am; concentrating is hard, I feel on the edge of tears much of the time. When I’m not close to crying, I am close to shouting.

4. You did something good here. I have lived in the UK all of my working life, well over two decades now. I don’t feel that I can bring a “German” perspective. But I am not a UK citizen either and so cannot bring the perspective of a voter. I love Britain. I do not feel threatened by this vote. Ever since we decided against me taking up a job offer in Germany in 2005, it seemed likely that we would spend the rest of our lives here but if I were a betting man I’d say the odds on us leaving the UK have shortened.

5.  I’d like to be able to answer this sensibly and not melodramatically – but I’m eating chips with mayonnaise European and I feel my identity is being ripped away from me. Maybe ask again when it all isn’t so raw. . . .

6. I voted remain as a vote for security. I feel the positive aspects of the EU have never been promoted. There seems to be a perception that we can keep the perks of the EU without the responsibilities. What has happened since seems inevitable. The whole focus on money for the NHS seems a complete red herring rather than a proper focus on the pros and cons of the EU membership. It feels like we are in no man’s land. The immigrant argument has brought out the worst in some people…ironically a trade agreement seems to imply movement of people too.

7. I felt physically sick when I flicked my phone at 5am on Friday and found the results, which I truly did not expect. What have I lost? To be honest, I simply do not know yet. I feel like I am in the spinning house with Dorothy in the whirlwind. Sooner or later it will land on the ground and I have no idea what it will crush when it does. I feel everything is up in the air and nothing is certain. I may find I have lost things I really didn’t want to in the long run. I may find our economic outlook is as gloomy as some say or I may find it is as bright as others say or somewhere in between. No Man’s Land is where I live at the moment. I simply do not know what to honestly expect.

8. It is almost impossible to write this without crying. I fundamentally believe it is better when nations work together, and as we all know, true partnership (be it in community, or marriage, or in church) involves the hard task of working together and not always getting our own way. That the EU has kept peace in the continent where former enemies work together, in a shared partnership and have a stake in each other’s future is nothing short of miraculous. Yet these achievements, and the stability of Europe, has been traded for a completely false prospectus. The most persuasive argument of Leave was that we would “take back control from unelected bureaucrats” when actually we have shed loads of unelected bureaucrats in this country, who are currently running the show whilst the PM and Chancellor have gone AWOL, and will be running the negotiations with the EU soon. What this was code for was “foreign unelected bureaucrats”. And what were we going to take back control for?? Well it seems simply to spend the same amount of money on the same things, and (as the most honest and authentic voices on the leave side admitted) try and stay in the trading partnership and probably even the single-market. And yet the MOST painful thing for me to see was that this “whole charade about taking back control” was achieved through the specific targetting, lying about, and demonizing of immigrants and refugees. YES, I know it wasn’t the only reason people voted to leave (and definitely NOT a key reason for the many Christians I know who voted to leave) but looking at the campaign it was DEFINITELY the most effective and powerful reason that made the difference (Remain was 7 points ahead before the unrelenting focus on immigration, “the Turks are coming”, “We’re at breaking point”). It is no co-incidence that this was the time where MPs were getting death threats, hate attacks were going up, and I believe it is no surprise that this was when Jo Cox was killed. Parts of the Leave Campaign (who didn’t even believe it ANYWAY) fanned the flames of racism for political ends and this was shameful (I expected it of Farage, but I know Johnson didn’t even believe it). So for the sake of being able to have our own unelected bureaucrats deciding the wattage of our own kettles, and our own fishery policies, we have given a boost to the far-right in Europe and given legitimacy to racism at home. And at what cost – the economy crashing down around us, worse than 1992 and 2008, and at the end of the day we may STILL have to follow rules of the unelected foreigners to stay in the single-market. It has been the biggest political lie sold to the country and it will take years to recover (if we actually decide to leave in the end). I would also briefly add that I have spoken to many foreigners in my congregation who are deeply upset, uncertain about their jobs, some who feel that through the last three weeks “the country doesn’t want me here”. Friends of mine and [my wife] have been shouted at to “go home” because of the colour of their skin. Jobs are already being shipped out of London, jobs are not going to be created here, and the poor are going to suffer. But it’s OK because we are sovereign (which of course we were before, as the Ref showed).

9. What we’ve lost up to this point:
– The ‘United part of the UK: This is an unneeded referendum, the result of internal tory politics. It has split us apart as a country, brutally.

– Regard for the truth: The Leave side were campaigning on a platform they knew to be untrue. Days after the result they are admitting there won’t be control of immigration and there is no £350 million to spend. Quite the opposite. We’re about to have tax rises or even more austerity to pay for the damage to the economy (so far).

– Respect for visitors amongst us: Hate crimes reported to the police have increased by 57% so far. We need more immigrants in this country, not less. We’re an aging population and employers say that UK people are unwilling to take on a range of jobs.

– Respect for human dignity: We have a basic duty to look after those least able to look after themselves, those fleeing persecution.

What we’ll lose if article 50 is triggered:
– Economic prosperity: Article 50 is designed to punish those using it. We have little to negotiate with. The EU does not want us to benefit from leaving and will try to make an example of us. Companies will leave, not having uninterrupted access to the 450 million people in Europe. We don’t have the people to renegotiate the hundreds of trade deals we would need.

– Options: It’s not a pick & mix. The Europeans have been saying very clearly it’s all or nothing. The best we can get is roughly what we have at the moment, without a say in making future laws. That’s a huge step backwards. If we want to trade with the EU, we need to follow their standards anyway, or our goods and services won’t be let in.

– Wise stewardship: £5 billion a year in Euro membership is a wise investment to get many, many times that back in trade. Tax will have to go up and austerity will never end if we’re billions worse off as a country. We can’t get the benefits without paying the cost.

– Our country: The United Kingdom will disintegrate. Scotland will leave. No question about it. I’m British. That’s my identity. That is where my family is. It would be like losing a limb.

– Security: United we stand, divided we fall. Cooperation with others is vital. European security arrangements aren’t perfect, but we need everything we can get in the fight against international crime and terrorism.

– Potentially peace: Europe has had much bloodshed over the past centuries. We’re not natural good neighbours. The EU contained that old aggression and misunderstandings. The far right and far left of various both want out of the EU. They are not good company to be in. Anything that Donald Trump is for, is unlikely to be pleasant.

The Leavers aren’t *for* anything. I’ve read many of the leavers arguments and they are very wide-ranging. They are not for a single thing in common. It’s like cutting off your nose because it itches a bit. Leaving is the wrong diagnosis for a variety of ailments.

Yes, modern life can be difficult to many, but we’re not going back to the days of coal mines and shipbuilding. For many, if it apparently wasn’t about immigration, it was a protest vote against the Conservatives or against politics and politicians in general.

The majority haven’t actually spoken about the EU, they’ve expressed anger on all kinds of issues.
I don’t love the EU, but it is much better than the alternative. This is not a black and white issue and never should have been put as such. We had just about the best of both worlds. We were semi-detached from Europe, but able to enjoy it’s benefits. Yes, there was give and take, but that’s fair enough. If we leave we’ll be giving, giving, giving for no benefit. All of the chaos was predicted and it’s happening

There is still time to prevent the total disaster from happening. We must not trigger article 50. Its’ up to parliament to if they want to do that however. We therefore need to have a general election once the parties have sorted themselves out. However, whoever is put into the tory leadership does not need to call an election. They can rule for another 4 years if they wish. I seem to remember something the leavers said about not wanting unelected people having power…..

This is still fixable. We need to pray that it is.

10.  Many French people I have spoken to are fed up with the UK being “half in half out” of Europe. “Either you’re in or you’re out. Make your decision and stick to it. You can’t have it both ways.” Like all points of view, there will be those who disagree. Not sure if this is in the right place. You asked for the French perspective, that’s what I have heard…

11. I liked being part of something bigger. I grew up in 70s and 80s South Africa and remember well the awful, trumping, nationalism and isolation. I remember being asked if I was foreign in the town I grew up in because I spoke English. I don’t think we’ll quite know what we have lost for a few years yet. Hopefully, though, the voting public can remain this engaged for the next general election. It’s all a bit of an unfunny joke that due to general disinterest in Europe, Farrago and his ilk were elected to represent our interests as MEPs. What a joke. How ironic.

12. I was and still am utterly devastated about the result and especially because of the age divide. My career ahead is science and conservation and a HUGE amount of funding from the EU goes into research and environmental science. This will be a huge hit for in my opinion the most important industry with ever increasing climate change. As a young person university funding is very important to society as a whole to better this world and increase our understanding. So much will change for universities and research :(. I want a peaceful future working with Europe and the ability to work and travel. I want foreign people in this country as they are the backbone to our society eg Polish workers getting the job done and paying their taxes. Economically it makes sense to stay no one wants a recession. Trade is better and easier in the EU. Not saying the EU is perfect but I think most people just don’t have a clue the benefits they see everyday in being inside the EU. The leave side wants to be independent yet they still want trade deals n all the benefits of the EU. It doesn’t work like that… you either contribute and get the benefits or don’t and don’t reap the benefits. Leaving the EU was the worst decision ever caused by a lack of education of the true facts. Being a Christian means doing what’s right for the most people. Leaving did NOT do that.

13. The politicians on both sides throughout the EUref have been citing information that is despicable and to be blunt but full of shit. Not trying to change anyone’s mind but I have some very personal reasons I voted remain and I wanted to share. They are:

a) Because real life things in my life have been affected by the EU, I.e. Woman’s rights in the workplace. The U.K. Recently fell off the gender equality list in the world. One reason we are not lower is because the EU have strict policies on equality in working.

b) Selfishly I like being able to travel unhindered across Europe, I like it that I can live anywhere. There are a HUGE amount of Britons in France, Spain, Germany and other EU countries. We export so many Brits! Some we don’t want back 😂.

c)  I want my children and my children’s children to have the legacy of community. As Jo Cox said: we have more in common in what unites us than what divides us.

d) I like having the EU keeping people like Phillip Greene in check, he is just one example of what’s really wrong with the UK. He owns topshop, DP, Burtons etc and doesn’t pay ANY UK Tax. Our friends in the government defend him as they have people like that in their pockets. The EU pressure people like him and the government to sort it out.

I could go on all day but those are 4 very personal reasons to me. I hope it helps.

Not looking for a debate as I know I could be wrong but I hold humanity, community and decency in my heart and try to in my actions so I voted remain.

Brexit – Leave speaks, Remain listens

Watching unfolding events in my home country from the other side of the other world has been an odd, disorienting experience. With the benefit of rolling news and news sites live blogging, I’ve never been out of touch. But in another away I’ve always been out of touch. The surprise at the result and the resultant fall out has exposed a fractured country to harsh sunlight. Not only will exiting the EU take years to enact; so will healing those cracks.

15 years of pastoral ministry and 6 and a half years in post-apartheid South Africa have taught me if that if fractured relationships are to have any chance of healing, some deep listening needs to happen. I may be physically separated from the country, but I thought I could at least try to enable a little bit of that. So I posted three questions on my Facebook page over the course of four days or so. The goal was not to debate, but to get people to hear each other. Over the next few days, I’m posting the fruit of that here.

The first questions was for Leave supporters to answer, and for Remain supporters to listen to. I simply asked them to comment with ‘insight into why they voted the way they did’. The responses are anonymously reproduced below, only edited for typos.

Read, and listen.

  1. a) Sovereignty.
    As Christians we believe in God’s sovereignty over nations. We also believe in the sovereignty of nations, under him, to determine their own affairs. “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” (Acts 17:26). This is also reflected in Article XXXVII of the Church of England’s 39 Articles: ‘The sovereign has the chief power in the realm of England and his other possessions. The supreme government of all in this realm, whatever their station, whether ecclesiastical and civil, and in all matters, belongs to him and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction.’ Why do we believe national sovereignty to be important? One word: Accountability. The further governance gets from the people, the greater the capacity for sin and unaccountability. The simplest governance is the most desirable: representatives who are the most directly connected to the people can be held most easily accountable to the people. The constant complaint against the leadership of the EU is that is it is unaccountable.

    b) Security.
    The first duty of a nation-state is the security of its own citizens, for without that security, there is no nation state: the state will be taken over by another state. Defence of the realm is therefore the primary duty of the state. The EU free movement of peoples policy is a major risk to our nation’s security, especially with the rise of Islamic terrorism – the free movement of millions of people within the EU is now so large that it is impossible to have proper vetting of all those who come into a particular state. Only by detaching from the EU will we be able more closely to screen those who are coming into the United Kingdom for our own security. It will also enable us to deport those from other countries whom we deem are a risk to our national security.

    c) Stewardship.
    Stewardship is important to Christian people. We believe we should use wisely the money that God has given us. Sending many millions of pounds a week (net) to Brussels is not a wise use of money. We are paying for too many extra layers of administration, when that money could be used for front line services at home such as healthcare and the education of our children, and also to help the poor of other nations. We want to be good and responsible stewards of our money and not waste money on expensive and needless bureaucracy.

    Just one of these reasons would be sufficient to vote for Britain to leave the European Union.

  2.  I Didn’t Know how to vote having emigrated but was pleased Leave won.
    a) Trade
    the EU was organising a free trade deal with North America behind closed doors so no leaks could get out. When leaks did, it was bad. TTIP was ditched in September 2015.

    b) Accountability.
    If you can’t vote out those who have power over you then you don’t live in a democracy. When the unaccountable rise to power the righteous go into hiding to para-quote a proverb.

    c) Couldn’t deport Abu Hamza
    Even the Queen was perplexed at this one.

    d) foreign policy notably Israel
    The EU’s anti-Israel stance was at odd’s with Britain’s and rather than Britain adding a pro-Israel voice to the EU, instead Britain’s pro-Israel voice was subsumed. Jerusalem Post believes an unshackled british foreign policy is best for Israel. If remaining meant having greater weight abroad through the EU this is worth nothing if the EU sides consistently against the only democracy in the middle east.


    Concern of the one size fits all policy that EU encourages, fed up with non-EU nationals being discriminated against, fed up with the non-accountability of EU decisions and the colossal waste of money on bureaucracy and the gradual undermining of our sovereignty and the disgusting way the Greek people have been treated.

4. I wouldn’t say “Remain” are anti-democracy. But a key thing for me is small government. Someone said 1 size fits all above: EU will always be centre right/left. But what if we want to nationalise industries & another country wants 1pc vat. Last election saw from 3 major parties big guns fall, far harder in EU. The way laws are passed etc all flows the wrong way.

5. a) sovereignty / democracy. Too much power over too many nations in the hands of too few who are unaccountable. Laws could only be proposed by unelected commissioners.

b) trade justice: eu is a protection racket to make that makes trade with 3rd world (particularly African nations) hard. When we joined the EU we turned out back on poorer commonwealth nations
Within the euro zone there is also no trade justice: nations that fall on hard times (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy) cannot devalue their currency to get themselves out of the mess; string nations (esp Germany) get to keep their currency unnaturally deflated so as to maintain a massive trade surplus. In this way Southern Europe is effectively in indentured servitude to Northern Europe for the next 50 years.

c) powerlessness to influence change: we were not ‘leading the EU to reform’ but, at best, occasionally slowing down its deterioration.

6. This is a great idea – to provide an environment where people can post their views without fear of abuse. There have been many times that I’ve wanted to reply to a friend on FB about some of the reasons people voted to leave, but I didn’t want to deal with the level of abuse and vitriol I’ve seen aimed at people who had – mostly from friends of friends, but sadly a few of my friends have sunk to new lows when it comes to letting people know what they think of Leavers. My reasons to vote Leave are below, but the condescension and patronising of many Remainers before the referendum actually affirmed to me emotionally that I was in the right ‘camp’. If I could summarise my reasons, it would be this: I voted to leave the EU for the sake of freedom, both socioeconomic and democratic (or sovereignty as others would put it). Not so much for me, but for my children.

a) In my view, the EU displays some of the characteristics of the beginnings of fascism; some even argue that it is already a fascist organisation. Principally, that power and influence within the EU was too far removed from the individual and was not a key part of the democratic process and accountability. The EU has too much power and, in my opinion acts like a bully, such as the way they applied pressure to the IMF to refuse loans to Italy unless PM Silvio Berlusconi was out of power. It had a terrible effect on Italy’s economy and is an interference-too-far in a country’s national politics. As much as I really don’t like Silvio Berlusconi, he was the democratically elected PM and it should be Italian politics/people who decide whether he should have remained so. What has happened with Greece also shows that, when push comes to shove, they are willing to put the population of a nation through awful austerity measures (when there were other options for Greece) for the sake of keeping the rest of the EU ticking along. I could go on and on, but it would make this post a) extremely long and b) not really be within the purpose of the space you created.

b) I didn’t like the direction I saw the EU moving in. In the run up to the vote, I read the Interreg report, Europe 2020 Strategy, the Five Presidents Report, and various other pieces of literature produced by the EU itself. In particular, I was concerned by the EU social cohesion policy and that it would inevitably entail top-down imposition of social (and economic) values. Don’t get me wrong, I believe social cohesion is a good thing, but anything other than it being an organic, bottom-up, grassroots ‘movement’ is bad news. This also happens at a national and local level, but at least I have more power as an individual to influence change and use my vote to protest.

c) The regulatory framework of the EU favours bigger and multinational businesses which can absorb the associated costs more easily, whereas small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are hampered by it. Big businesses LIKE regulation, because it enables them to out-compete smaller businesses, and they lobby EU commissioners to introduce legislation in their favour. We need to support SMEs as they generally employ more people (especially locally) per £ of turnover, with less centralisation of costs (usually administrative labour). Enabling British businesses to more freely trade with countries around the world, outside of the EU, will make us more prosperous and secure (less dependent on trade from a single zone).

d) Any EU laws which people perceive as beneficial over UK law (e.g. working time directive) can be made (and already are) part of the body of UK law by legislating it to be so. The electorate should be holding our own elected government to account for our laws and how they treat us, rather than depending on the EU for protection from our own politicians.
I’d like to state for anyone reading this that I’m not a racist, xenophobic, or bigot, and immigration was not a factor which influenced my vote. I don’t really care how many people from other countries are here and I was born in another country, so I’m one of them. However I do think that more border control over ALL of Europe would help reduce the ability of criminals to easily traffick girls/women (mainly females, although males are also victims) into domestic and sex slavery. And if me having to apply for a visa to work go on holiday/live in another country helps fight people-trafficking, I’m more than happy to do so.

7. I have always believed that the EU would move towards a Federal State and never voted “in” back in the 70’s. Responses to the Brexit vote by EU politicians are already using the UK result as evidence that the current arrangement is far too unwieldy and there needs to be a movement to just such a Federation.

8. Here is my main piece on it- which has been read 100,000 times….there are also other articles on my blog which explain. Click here. 

9. I have nothing to add as all well covered above but nice to see the articulation of a broad spectrum of views without being ripped to shreds!! I suppose the only thing I might add is that it would be good to have views on whether or not we are “hard-wired” to feel most comfortable in a group with whom we have some affinity of culture, language and shared history?

10. Here are some of my reasons. Click here.