Sheep and goats

Adam Eriksen has written an interesting post about the Matthew 25 sorting into the sheep and the goats, in which he advances the thesis that salvation is there understood in the traditional way in which it was understood in the Hebrew Scriptures, namely as a collective salvation, something which happens to a nation rather than to the individual.

This is a deeply uncomfortable reading. I can largely control what I do myself, but my ability to influence what my nation does is extremely limited; my ability to influence what my town did was very limited even when I was a member of the town council, and I am much further from any means of influence in terms of national government than I was as a town council member. OK, I did have a year as mayor, during which I did have much more power to influence, as people listened to the mayor, but even then it was a power to influence rather than the power to implement.

However, if my nation is judged and condemned in the way Eriksen suggests may be happening (or about to happen) in the USA, one thing of which I can be certain is that the individuals making up the nation will suffer.

I don’t know about you, but personally I have a rooted objection to suffering as a result of what someone else does, when it’s something I would never have done myself and have argued strongly against (or voted against). There is, however, a powerful example of this in my own country at the moment. We voted (by a rather narrow margin) for Brexit. I can’t help feeling that the most major factor behind this was a wish NOT to welcome the stranger, i.e. to limit immigration, which is one of the categories which the Hebrew prophets (and the Law) was most adamant should be cared for. Admittedly, by a fairly considerable margin we also voted, a little earlier and then again a little later, for a set of representatives (members of parliament) who did not personally support Brexit, but our government is taking the view that “the people have spoken” and we have to leave the EU, and has invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which more or less guarantees that this will happen. And we will be judged, and will suffer. Notably, we will have to pay a large amount (the current figure stands at around £50 billion) as a “divorce settlement”, money which could have reversed the cuts to benefits and have funded the NHS and social provision adequately for several years, whereas the NHS is currently horribly stretched and social provision is being cut left right and centre, plus, under Mrs. May’s current proposals, paying for another two years worth of membership in something which we will have no further say in. In addition, economists are, on balance, predicting that Brexit will produce a drop in our GNP of 2-5% (some argue that it will be larger), and several large employers are leaving the country, and no doubt more will follow. The government’s response to this (which will severely affect their income from taxes) will assuredly be more austerity, more cuts to benefits, NHS and social care, and a country heading for more of exactly the failure to provide for the poor, the sick and the marginalised.

“Not my government, not my prime minister” sounds hollow – and it buys no tins to put in the food bank (prior to the narrow win of the Conservatives in 2010, there was no food bank locally, and probably little need for it – and I still have some animosity toward the party which I supported and stood as a candidate for for some 40 years, the Liberal Democrats, for supporting them in 2010-15).

The trouble is, it isn’t just Brexit which could precipitate a judgment on us. We are also very strongly linked with the USA economically and in foreign policy – it has been said of our economics that if America catches a cold, Britain has pneumonia – and we will also suffer if the USA suffers as a result of any of the matters which Eriksen raises. Most notably, we are militarily linked with a nation currently headed by as malignant narcissist who seems to have the emotional maturity of a 5 year old, and who could easily precipitate us into global conflict (insofar as we are not already in a global conflict with radical Islam). A malignant narcissist, what is more, who republishes material from our home-grown extreme right hate group, Britain First (who exemplify rather a lot of the traits for which nations can be judged), but claims to be “the leader of the free world”. While Mrs. May has criticised his use of Britain First’s material, she has not cancelled a state visit, and she has not taken steps to draw back from our uncritical support of American actions in world politics (and particularly the Middle East), which have generally been called a “special relationship”.

Not my President, not my leader of the free world, and not someone I think my country should have any dealings with. Let me put it in a way Adam Eriksen would probably balk at. If you lie down with pigs, you will end up covered in shit.

Or, of course, judged in an apocalypse…

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