Faith, Politics, and Transitions in Brussels

Ti€s that Bind

“Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” — John Wesley

19. 28. 334,570,678. 9.5. Members of the eurozone. Members of the EU. Population of the eurozone. GDP of the eurozone, in trillions. But numbers are sanitary things. They do not “lie,” but they can be manipulated. They do not get at any existentially real truth. What, in truth, is the euro about?

I remember as a child hearing about the European Union and the new currency. Growing up in conservative evangelicalism in the US, the euro was to be feared as the portents of a world-wide currency and government, which would ultimately headed up by the anti-Christ before the end of days. Is Juncker really that bad?

But the euro, and the EU, is about something else. It is about ending the possibility of war, which is always possible given human nature. It is about expanding the tribe, of who is in and who is other. In the past, languages, cultures, regions divided the small continent of Europe. Today, the experiment in being tied together continues, despite hurdles and obstacles.

You can disagree about what the best way forward is: Grexit, Brexit, expansion, federalisation. But what is important is peace. The same currency zone expands the inertia against war, and it is able to spur us towards peace. But take a page from American history: even then, war is possible, a nasty, destructive, civil war. The ties that bind cannot merely be monetary. Identity must be caught up in it too.

But this thought flies in the face of all modern thinking: you are not what you buy, consume, own, or owe. You are more than that. You are more than your bank account, your possessions, and your products. And so are countries. The identities we have and share embrace things that have no ‘value,’ that is, are beyond any numerical enumeration. Their value is in their histories, their languages, their cultures. They can be shared, and in order to grow, they must be — barbarism is when culture no longer grows and has projects, but turns back in on itself with its excess energies.

These could be the ties that bind. Beyond the euro, beyond the common market, what are the European projects? What are the cultural identities being shaped, being grown? Why does the Union exist? These are the questions that bring all its citizens together, and in answering them, we may get answers to many other questions.

— Jeremy