“I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit,” tweeted Donald Tusk last week, as he made his State of the UK address to the European Empire. And there the quotation ended for most of the media churn: in fact, ‘promoted’ was often exchanged for a hint of ‘supported’, leaving Brexit-backing Britons with the distinct impression that the President of the European Council had consigned 17.4million of them to eternal damnation for having the temerity to reject God’s plan for Europe. But his dispensation was specific: the wrath of Tusk was directed at those who promoted Brexit “without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely”. So that’s Vote Leave? Boris Johnson and Michael Gove? Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey? It’s just the elite few, isn’t it? Those who mesmerised half the nation with unicorns and a bus?
When you think about it, President Tusk was indeed damning millions of Brexiteers to weeping and gnashing of teeth, for who didn’t sit in a pub or gather around the dinner table and try to persuade friends and family to do the right thing? Who wasn’t chatting or tweeting, schmoosing or bad-mouthing in the hope of winning a few converts to the cause? And how many did this while advocating a clear and concise plan to give effect to those dreams of liberation?
Did the Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser have a Brexit plan in mind when he appealed to 8,000,000 Guardian readers with his exposition that ‘The Levellers and the Diggers were the original Eurosceptics‘; or before he explained ‘Why our landed gentry are so desperate to stay in the EU ‘; or as he preached ‘Brexit recycles the defiant spirit of the Reformation‘; or as he asked: ‘Still puzzled by the Brexit vote? Take yourself off to Blakenall Heath‘? Did the Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe have a Brexit plan in mind when she sought to persuade those gathered at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, of the moral goodness and Christian virtue of leaving the EU?
Is Donald Tusk saying there is a special place in hell for Giles Fraser and Ann Widdecombe? Or were they simply innocents duped by Vote Leave unicorns and Boris’s bus?
President Tusk’s special place in hell was echoed by the chief Brexit representative for the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, who tweeted: “Well, I doubt Lucifer would welcome them, as after what they did to Britain, they would even manage to divide hell.” So Brexiteers are beyond even the embrace of Satan: that special place in hell is worse than the anguish of hell, for the foul fiend cannot be defied even with the poetry of penitence.
Enter the Bishop of Leeds, who, on sabbatical, has been enjoying lectures on Nazism and books about Judas. In a post entitled ‘Betrayal‘, he segues from National Socialism and the British Empire to Judas Iscariot:
The immediate pertinence of these three events – the lecture later this evening, the conversation with the student, and the Amos Oz book – is that all are run through by charges of treachery, traitors and betrayal. But, without the benefit of hindsight: who/what did the theologians of Jena think they were betraying if they supported (or didn’t support) Nazism; or who did the Empire-builders think were the traitors to the cause while they were busy exporting Anglicanism to the world and looting the colonies of their riches; or did Judas feel that it was Jesus who had betrayed him by failing to bring in the kingdom of God in the way he had expected or been led to believe?
Which brings him (naturally) to Brexit:
When Donald Tusk wondered yesterday which special place in hell has been reserved for those who led Brexit without any plan for how to do it, the emphasis was on the lack of a plan – the sheer recklessness of demagoguery without strategy or vision that knew what it wanted to be free from but no idea of what it wanted to be free for (‘free’ being the word they use for the final destination of Brexitannia). Contra the (utterly predictable) snowflakey screaming in the media, he did not condemn Brexiteers or those who voted for Brexit. He rightly put the responsibility on those who led and promised and then abdicated responsibility for the consequences.
For Bishop Nick, there is an evil thread which runs from Judas to the Führer, and from the Führer to those who led Brexit. He has already damned Boris Johnson to a special place in hell (Prov 12:22; 1Tim 1:10; Jn 8:44 cf Rev 21:8), but here he extends judgment to all those fanatics who preached the Brexit cult of irrational and dogmatic faith. Judas is in hell. The Führer is in hell. What eternal fate awaits those reckless demagogues who, for want of a vision, damned this present generation to perish in political purgatory?
Like the Nazis’ fascination with the myths of magicians and the spear of destiny, ‘Brexitannia’, the Bishop believes, is built on the strength of collective irrationalism with a religious essence. It isn’t the same faith as Nazism, but it is the same demonic spirit which led Judas to betray Jesus, and the German masses of the 1940s to hope for a new sense of national communion with the security of efficiency and power. Brexit, it seems, is a political doctrine of national pride, to be achieved through a mystical union with the spirit of Iscariot in obedience to the Führer. This is the cause of all evil which is leading hearts astray, and its manipulating prophets will be consigned to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Collective salvation lies a ‘People’s Vote’, but for “those who led and promised and then abdicated responsibility for the consequences”, it is too late: better for them that a millstone were hanged about their necks, and that they were drowned in the depth of the sea.