Posted by: rogermitchell | June 24, 2016

This different Britain

Although a theologian, I know myself to be first a feeler, and only then a thinker. Over the next weeks I will be blogging every few days or so, to help myself and those interested in my translation of feeling to thought, as we acclimatise to a Britain where a more unkind, unloving politics has apparently prevailed, at least temporarily, over the emerging new political shoots of peace and wellbeing.

Traveling by train and tube across London from Enfield to Catford this morning, for me the disappointment, shock and uncertainty  resulting from the majority leave vote is palpable. People who have found home and shelter over generations here, now know that the majority have given way to the forces of xenophobia and personal and corporate sovereignty that made the nations from which many have originated such dangerous places. These same forces of what in short hand I call empire were those that made Britain and its colonies a dangerous place for the multitude of ordinary people up until the end of the Second World War. Here in Britain this was certainly true for those from a working class background like my own. But then the Union movement and the Labour party, both of which were at least in part rooted in the Jesus story, and that I have called the “love stream”  in my research and writing, culminated with the post-war hope for peace to bring new opportunities and freedoms which have provided the context for lives like mine. (See for example The Fall of the Church. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2013

Of course not everyone who voted leave is a racist, selfish person, but they have willingly included themselves in a decision that is at least in part motivated, promoted and activated by people who are. This is why, for the first time in my life, I no longer feel so at home in this country of my birth. Back in the eighties I could see that Margaret Thatcher was unleashing a biopolitical economic empire that is now upon us and in the nineties that Tony Blair’s decisions for war were opening up an increasingly violent future of which we are now reaping the consequences. But I knew that they were representing a minority view within Britain, despite having been democratically elected. But the vote to leave the EU is not simply the product of our peculiar electoral system, it is a straight majority of those who wanted to vote. Now I know that the majority are willing to give place to what in my view is individual selfishness and corporate racism, and this is a wholly different feeling. As those familiar with my research and writing will know, I believe Western representative democracy and fascism to be on the same spectrum, but not until now in my lifetime have I felt that Britain is once again exposed to the extreme end of that spectrum. But I do feel that now.

There can be no doubt that people of love, what the apostle Paul calls the ekklesia, must come in the opposite spirit to all this and that certainly those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus can expect to live as strangers and exiles in the societies to which we belong. But to do so is more than ever fraught with the real challenge not just of being misunderstood, but opposed with ignorance, intolerance and rejection. Of course this is what people of peace must always expect, as the Jesus story demonstrates, but for the first time, for me, it is a felt reality.



  1. I feel insulted by this post. I voted to leave because I value the whole world to be more important than a rich man’s club. Please don’t generalise and try to understand other people’s point of view.

    • No insult intended George. As I said, of course not all who voted leave intended this message to be one that their action elicited in me. I am simply processing here. I am not trying to generalise at all. And I hope I understand the point of view of others. But that cuts both ways!
      With love

  2. I completely understand, currently in the USA our choices for the upcoming election have seemed to narrow to slow death by narcissistic bigotry (complete with religious endorsement) or prolonged exposure to deceit and brutal betrayal resulting in stage four empire cancer…when I stand back a bit and look at the ideas…it becomes apparent that the democratic process for most of the planet has become corrupted by spin doctors selling snake oil cures to people in fear induced comas…but the answer obviously is not going back to something less democratic…the question seems to bubble up is it the lemmings who voted or the sea that drew them who voted? Plundering hell has always been a suicide mission, and we know of course if you commit suicide you go to hell…so we deliver ourselves when we lead others out of Egypt…the only solace is “I will be with you”…but what a great comfort that is, here walking in the dank corners of our bad choices is the fresh light of grace…it is new every morning…mainly because we need it new every morning.

  3. I live within the boundaries of the EU in Latvia and like you Roger it has left me feeling very vulnerable and unsure. The country I left 13 years ago is not one I recognise now and whilst I accept George’s point above, I have also seen some wonderful collaboration across the nations rising up and longed to see that continue and flourish. Right now I just feel so disappointed and discouraged that I am not sure where I go from here.

    • Hi Joanna
      I have lived here in France for 27 years and I feel exactly the same. There are 2 million ex pats in the EU and many weren’t allowed to vote, we had therefore no say, no representation and no leaders. We believed in the European dream and have brought up our children here. We will now become illegal immigrants technically. Now we have to choose between becoming French citizens or returning to the UK. So for 2 million Brits in Europe the dream has become a nightmare. I feel cheated. And I have to say I am struggling with a good deal of anger because I don’t believe we should have had a referendum it should have been voted on in Parliament by our paid, informed politicians who I suspect were just too spineless to take on the responsibility.

      • I am thinking of taking the route of learning the language in order to stay, but what puts me off more than anything is the possibility of swearing an allegiance to a country. I have never sworn an allegiance to a country, not even Britain (unless you count my Brownie or Girl Guide days, but they don’t really count). So as Martin Scott puts it, what is the most redemptive route? Will ponder on that, but I really do need to learn the language, just not enough time or brain space till now

  4. Really gutted by the Brexit vote and the illusion perpetuating that the future will bright once we’re back in control of ourselves. We’ve been tracking your recent postings Roger and have appreciated them very much. So keep at it! Here in Scotland, our adopted nation and which voted decisively to remain, we wait to see what shakes down. Perhaps this tiny country with a big heart is moving in a different direction? We hope so. Love to you and Sue.

  5. I hear your lament Roger. I really do and I understand your grief. I voted Remain too. But I also remember that it was a very small ‘majority’ – c.1.5m more than voted to remain. If a shift has occurred, it’s still minor in number – but it’s taken us over the cusp this time.

    There was something visceral in this vote that spoke with frustration and pain of a loss of something held dear (probably wrongly) by a generation that is passing. Perhaps it includes selfishness – I’m sure that’s part of it. But there is also a lament in them too… A false sentimentality about nationalism? A resentment they no longer seem to control themselves? Fear and anger at seeming lack of a voice or a voice that’s not been heard? I’m not sure. It all plays in and was whipped to a cappuccino froth by the Farage-types found all over. Not nice but in our faces…

    I wasn’t even sure about commenting here either. Frankly, I’m torn as to how to interpret this… Sombre. And yet. With a loving God it’s always Win-Win, no matter the dead ground between the now and the future. But sometimes that dead ground includes exile – I feel a bit like Jeremiah today…weeping but trusting (I think).

  6. I entirely follow your position here and you have expressed my feelings entirely. My gut reaction was to apply as soon as Scotland was free for a passport, but joking aside the commitment must be now to find a relevant expression of love that continues to reach out to the poor and marginalised, the widow, orphan and stranger if you like. We certainly need a new Pentecost to reverse the trend. Lord help!

  7. If you will allow a Canadian to comment. . . I used to tell people that if we make a wrong decision, God is redemptive. If we make a right decision, God is redemptive. It is God’s nature to be redemptive no matter what we choose. However, to experience the Father’s loving arms, the prodigal son had to turn around, repent of his choices, and return to his father. It is always a choice for us whether or not we enjoy God’s redemptive love. While the decision to leave seems utterly wrong to me because so many will suffer for it, God stands ready to be redemptive no matter how you understand the vote. A revolution of love awaits all of us, all the time. Time for kenarchy to lead the way.

  8. Thanks for being early to reflect from feeling to thought on the referendum. Maybe, just maybe there might be a hidden movement reworking how we can collaborate as Europeans that might be provoked as a result. However we are more likely to see a harder line sovereignty rise and a divisive Europe. The fruit of the walls of defence on immigration could never look good.

    If there is going to come something fresh it probably has to be provoked from the edges.

    A lot of reflection has to be done and a lot of ‘how then do we now’ in the light of a very definite shift.

  9. I agree that those who voted purely for racial reasons were a disappointment but there are some very valid points that have been made by alternative sources. It is silly to think that the EU is some magical band aid that can overcome and fix integrated issues but it would also be silly to believe that leaving will have the same effect. Democracy is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that everybody is working for the same motivations when that simply isn’t the case. I’ve noticed that over the last 10 years or so, the UK as a whole has become much more concerned about looking after number 1 than anything else and this is simply a defence mechanism. There are only so many times someone can be hurt before they will retaliate, the problem is, where to direct that retaliation. I don’t like the idea of being centrally governed when we don’t fully understand their motives but I also don’t like the idea of our government having free reign to do whatever it pleases or disregard human rights/employment laws, etc. There’s are just my personal opinions based on a huge amount of reading and gut instincts. The idea of any government really isn’t all that appealing but then I highly doubt that civilization is ready to lead themselves just yet. Sorry, I’d be much happier if everyone crapped out rainbows and free love..peace

  10. I’m impressed you’ve been able to process this much already; I’m still in the early stages of sobbing into my cornflakes every morning. It’s a debacle of the highest order and I can only see struggle ahead both internal and external, but then I’ve always been one for cautious realism.

    After 17 years in the UK, it’s the first time I’ve felt such a sense of rejection and, I guess, ‘otherness’ as an EU national. I’m hoping it will pass with time, but I’m grappling with feeling that the shaping of my adult life, in particularly my Christian life (France being such a different place spiritually), which took place entirely in the UK, has been dismissed as of no importance to people I used to call friends. I know it’s not actually the case, but the Brexit that wants to put limits to EU migration tells me that I should never have been here in the first place, because my unskilled 18 yr old self would not have had a chance to get into such a Britain. I know so many Christian people from when I was in Essex who voted Out, and it tells me (irrationally I know, I’m working on it) that they didn’t really welcome me so much as put up with me, and that community was actually a sham. I do know it’s a lot more complicated than this, and it’s only one tiny aspect of the puzzle I’m processing right now; I suspect I am weeks away from knowing how I really feel!

    • Dearest Frog
      You know that is not my heart…x Be encouraged that many love and appreciate you including me.
      I wouldn’t eat those cornflakes… Croissants are much better tasting – honestly.

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