Posted by: rogermitchell | September 14, 2019

Theologising Brexit (1)

Theologising Brexit is the title of a challenging and resourceful book by Black Theologian Anthony G. Reddie (Routledge, 2019). I like it a lot. Having already interposed my talk on Love Politics between my posts on Luke Bretherton’s Christ and the Common Life, and given that the next will be on his section on Anglican political theology, it makes sense to include a couple of posts on Reddie’s book at this point. Reddie describes Brexit as underpinned by a rising tide of White, English nationalism. He is a Methodist, but as will become apparent, he recognises Anglicanism’s problem with Whiteness and imperial Christianity. We have already seen the contribution of Black Power to Bretherton’s analysis, and I think that looking first at Reddie’s work will prepare the way for my next post on Bretherton’s book which will be a response to Bretherton’s chapter on Anglican political theology. I will break my overview of Reddie’s Theologising Brexit into two posts looking very briefly at the ten chapters of his book.

The aim of Reddie’s book is to provide a prophetic, postcolonial model of Black liberationist theology. With it he challenges the Church and wider society to live out the gospel of Jesus and reminds us that a so-called Christian nation has to be one in which there is justice and equity for all and not just a priveleged sense of entitlement for only some. Reddie’s ten chapters are wonderfully discomforting and for me fulfil Walter Brueggermann’s description of genuinely prophetic work, namely to provide a critique of the contemporary society and release the passion to act for the common good.

Chapter One exposes the link between Christianity and empire, and the White English exceptionalism that remains an unresolved set of religious and theological ideas that have helped to shape the national identity, and continue to resource the White, English nationalism that underpins the Leave vote. Chapter Two outlines ways in which notions of British cultural superiority and the lament for a time when we were a great empire still persist. It exposes the way that the church has often conditioned Black people into internalising the tropes of empire within their psyche alongside their White counterparts so they end up defending these ideas and behaviours, and some of them end up supporting the Leave campaign. Chapter Three explores the role of what he describes as imperial mission Christianity in the propagation of empire and colonial thinking via Christian education and discipleship that has generally although not always served to undergird White British exceptionalism. He suggests that this has had a corrosive effect both on those who would identify themselves as White and those who are constructed and identify as the other. Chapter Four asks what it means to be a ‘proper’ human being in Britain and explores the invisibility of Whiteness and how its hidden nature causes the sense of entitlement and normality that underpinned the Brexit vote. He offers this as a starting point and gift to us White British to help us deconstruct our destructive inherited notions of entitlement, whether middle or working class people. Chapter Five addresses the struggle that Black and other minority groups have experienced in the attempt to find genuine belonging in British society. It challenges the xenophobic backdrop of Brexit, and offers Black and minority identities as the means to challenge the suffocating boundaries of a reactive White British culture.

As you can see, this is a polemical and unapologetic critique of some of the underlying causes of the Brexit phenomenon. As I have already emphasised in my various posts on Brexit over the last several years, I am not accusing my Leave voting friends of consciously holding these views. However, with Reddie, I do believe that these are the substantive motives behind the desire for Brexit in the corporate life of the nation and we all, however we voted, do well to reflect on the perspective of a brother Englishman with a life time’s oppressive experience of the powerful ongoing residue of White British imperialism and cultural supremacy. I will overview chapters six to ten over the coming days. As ever, please comment here or on Facebook.



  1. Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

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