The Euro and Europe
Politics and economics are functions of the State, of which professing Christians as individuals are members, with the responsibilities involved in that. Those who maintain the Establishment Principle have always encouraged Church and State to guard their distinct provinces jealously from interference by the other. They affirm the duty of Church and State to encourage each other in fulfilling its obligations to God, each keeping within its own province. The Church has a prophetic role in bringing the Word of God and its moral and religious principles to bear on actions of the State.
The Church’s concern over the European Union is primarily with the religious significance of Britain’s involvement. This involvement is the result of indifference to the Reformed heritage of the nation, but participation will have serious temporal repercussions. The integration of Britain in Europe proceeds apace. The effect of current European legislation upon churches and individuals is as yet uncertain. In a European superstate Romanism would be the dominant religious and political force. The leader of allegedly a billion Romanists world-wide has political strength which his system uses to the full. Undoubtedly, unless the Lord prevents it, the Protestantism of the throne, about which the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster was recently reviving complaints, will have its foundations further undermined by the creeping influence of Europe combining with the indifference and secularism and openness to all religions which engulf most of our people.
From the beginning of Britain’s economic and political incorporation in Europe, our governments have been less than frank with the nation as to their intentions. In 1970 Edward Heath stated to the House of Commons: “There will not be a blueprint for a federal Europe”. At the time of the 1975 Referendum on Britain’s continued membership of EEC, the electorate were assured that sovereignty would not be eroded. Mr Heath assured Parliament that “there is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty. . . . There are some in this country who fear that, in going into Europe, we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified.” But in November 1991 he was asked: “The single currency, a United States of Europe; was that in your mind when you took Britain in?” He replied: “Of course, yes”. Cabinet documents recently made public show that 30 years ago Treasury officials reported their opinion that steps towards economic union could imply “the ultimate creation of a European federal state with a single currency”.
Tony Blair has called for the EU to become a “superpower but not a superstate”. He has claimed to aim at a relationship with Europe somewhere between federal integration and an area of free trade. Yet he is reported to have said that his ambition is “to integrate Britain into the European Union, with all that this entails”. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, sometimes lets the secret agenda out. He has long avowed his aim to be “a European Federal State with, amongst other things, its own legal code”. He has more recently affirmed that, “with the launch of the euro, we have taken a major step down the path which will lead ineluctably to greater convergence of economic rules”.
The Euro is playing its own part in furthering economic integration which is designed to promote political union. Economic reasons have been alleged for the delay in holding the promised referendum on the incorporation of Britain in the Euro-zone, but it is widely suggested that the real reason is that the pro-Europeans in high places fear a negative outcome and hope that growing familiarity with the use of the Euro will win round enough of the currently unconvinced two-thirds of the electorate to secure a favourable result. International harmony based upon common loyalty to the King of kings is what we earnestly pray for, but there is every reason to fear that the politicians of Europe are engaged in building a modern tower of Babel motivated by the same humanistic and God-defying principles as the original empire builders: “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4).
Persecution in China
Religious persecution in China is still a force to be reckoned with, although the county’s leaders seem to be departing from the maxims of Marxism in the economic field. It is reported that a Hong Kong businessman, Li Guangqiang, was arrested last May while delivering 16 000 Bibles, which came from America, to an underground Christian group called the Shouters. His trial, in the south-eastern city of Fuqing, was expected to start in the middle of January on charges of propagating a “heretical cult”. He might face the death penalty. Li is a partner in a business that buys candles in China to sell overseas; in April he also sent a lorry load of about 17 000 Bibles to the underground church in Fuqing.
In 1995 the Shouters were banned by the government as an “aberrant religious organisation”. Said to number 500 000, they have their name from their practice of shouting out during their services, “Jesus is Lord!” They have been active in China since the 1920s and have been targeted by the government for decades. They have been singled out for persecution in part because of their ties to overseas Christian groups. Whatever their detailed beliefs, it is clear that they are prepared to run considerable risks to spread the Word of God.
Earlier last month, two leaders of an underground Protestant church in central China’s Hubei province were sentenced to death under the same anti-cult law, which the government adopted in 1999 to justify its campaign against Falun Gong. The law does not provide a precise definition of a cult, and it is alleged that the government is using it to harass religious organizations that refuse to worship in state-run churches.
Clearly the Communist system has an inveterate hatred to Christianity; and it seems unlikely that this particular leopard will ever change it spots. However, God’s purposes will be fulfilled and these include the worldwide spread of the gospel. His revelation includes the promise: “Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim” (Is 49:12), usually taken as a reference to China. Considerable missionary effort was made in China from 1807, when Robert Morrison arrived from Britain. His great achievement was the translation of the Scriptures into Chinese.
In spite of all the opposition since then, Christianity has never been extinguished in that country of more than 1.2 billion souls. At the present time, Christianity is spreading rapidly in some districts. However, the supply of preachers has not matched the number of those embracing (at least outwardly) the Christian religion. One visitor writes: “As for the preachers, their understanding of the doctrines is very deficient. . . . The rate of church growth far exceeds its quality and, for want of labourers, they are made church workers and even leaders while they are neither mature or ready. There is no one to guide or teach them. Though they are willing to suffer persecution for Christ’s sake, even to the point of imprisonment, they are not able to stand the temptations of Satan, identify the cults and pinpoint their errors.” The situation is exacerbated by decades of persecution, and presently by the distribution of much unsound literature of various kinds. What need there is to pray that the Lord would bless His own Word throughout that enormous country and provide the means whereby sound teaching would be provided on a large scale!