It’s a pity that Revelation, the last book in the Bible, has been hijacked by religious extremists and the makers of horror movies. In the midst of John the Divine’s visions of lakes of fire and days of judgment, there is a huge sense of anger and alienation. John does not write against the background of any specific persecution, but from a sense amongst ordinary people that they were not being treated with justice. Nero, the beast, whose name is numerologically expressed as ‘666’, is the embodiment of a European superstate where little people count for little. Private dissent from the official cult of the Emperor might be tolerated, but publicly obedience was required and enforced.
There is a strong anti-establishment strand in the New Testament, time and again the church is forbidden to practice the faith and time and again it ignores the authorities. What John and other New Testament writers would have made of a European Union, where increasing amounts of power are being focused in fewer hands and where the independence of small nations is disappearing, it is impossible to know. But perhaps, standing in the tradition and teaching of the New Testament, it would be appropriate to ask questions about the Lisbon Treaty.
If the treaty is a good thing, then let the peoples of Europe take the decision. If politicians are afraid of the votes of their own people, then how can they possibly claim to be democratic?
Only one country is being allowed a popular vote – Ireland. The referendum is due in May or June and the opinion polls suggest a two to one majority in favour, but what if the referendum were to be fought not on the treaty, but on whether peoples should have a right to vote on their nation’s future? If Ireland said, “No”, not because it was rejecting the treaty, but because it believed that democracy should extend to all countries, what would happen?
If the Irish people said they would not approve a treaty ratified by governments like that in Britain, which no longer command public confidence, the EU leaders would be compelled to rethink their approach.
Is it likely to happen? Probably not. There will be dire threats and warnings, and the prospect of the government holding the referendum as many times as necessary to get the right result, as it did with the Nice Treaty.
“For the freedom of large nations”, sounds a nice slogan. Perhaps it should be accompanied by warnings of hellfire and damnation.