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What would a renewed Europe look like?

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Theresa May began this week by meeting with her Brexit cabinet to determine whether to embrace a “soft Brexit” (with maximum access to the common market and a heavy regulatory regime imposed by Brussels) or a “hard Brexit” (triggering EU protectionist policies but freeing the UK to pursue economic dynamism). But thinking about the European Union should be more fundamental, re-examining its drive to build a secular utopia through ever-more-burdensome supranational government.

In a new essay for Acton’s Religion & Liberty Transatlantic website, Stephen F. Copp, an associate professor of law at Bournemouth University in the UK, lays out “an alternative, non-utopian vision for Europe.”

A more healthy, decentralized Europe would be “based on re-embracing Christian values, the ‘bottom-up’ renewal of Europe as a Christian society – and the EU letting the UK go with its blessing.”

In the third instalment of his “God, Brexit, and EUtopia” series, Copp contrasts this vision with EU-centric schemes fueled by an unquenchable thirst for concentrating more power in an “ever-closer union.” He writes:

Influential voices are now demanding yet deeper European integration. French President Emmanuel Macron has called for EU identity cards, a shared defence budget, a European military intervention force and an EU defence force. Martin Schulz, the German SPD leader and former European Parliament president, has called for a new constitutional treaty to create a United States of Europe, with those countries that refuse automatically losing EU membership. (Encouragingly, Angela Merkel and others appear sceptical.) There is no doubt that these people are well-intentioned. But how will this power be exercised by those who may come after them?

The outcome of the conflict over Brexit with a country as strong as the UK has shown the true extent of the power the EU has so stealthily acquired. The smaller nations of the EU should be very afraid. And friends such as the U.S. should take note.

The process of reclaiming Christian values begins when individual European nations learn from their genuine mistakes, shake loose decades of guilt over imaginary ones, and return to the norms and standards that laid the foundation of what was once known as “Christendom”:

In an insightful article “Europe’s Guilty Conscience,” Pascal Bruckner contrasts how Europe is being paralyzed by self-hatred, whereas the U.S. has been able to combine self-criticism with self-affirmation. Douglas Murray has gone as far as to say that “the civilisation we know as Europe is in the process of committing suicide.” There is much truth in this and the solution may be theologically based. The foundation of all Christian ethics are the commandments first to love God and second to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” For some nations in Europe, the process of coming to terms with their pasts and learning to love themselves again may be a long and difficult one. But it is vital that the process of Europe’s spiritual renewal begins.

That demands that Christians provide a stable foundation upon which a less top-down society can rest, the fertile soil from which a redeemed civilization may spring:

Without the EU, there will be freedom for a new and better Europe to emerge, reflecting the priorities of Europe’s peoples rather than its elites, and the main obstacle to voluntary cooperation between the nations of Europe, with no strings attached, will be gone. Re-empowering the nations of Europe, their people and leaders, to make decisions for themselves and as to how they will be governed is part of what it means for them to be fully human, a precondition for the deep spiritual renewal that needs to take place. This is not something that can be driven, top-down, from a secular institution; it is the role of the family and churches from the bottom up. The challenge is for those of us who call ourselves Christians to be Europe’s renewal.

Read his fully essay here. (You may also read part 1 and part 2.)

(Photo credit: Public domain.)

Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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