My proudest possession as a free-born Englishman is my European passport. At the height of its power, it allowed me, a subject of Her Majesty and a citizen of Europe (and of the UK), to move without let or hindrance through many of the most beautiful and holy places on earth, and to enjoy the rights and benefits of the citizens of those countries.
All that comes to an end, in theory, on January 31, when Britain leaves Europe for good. We’ll be an independent nation again, respected and feared around the world.
Let me acknowledge that there are many Brexiteers who are good Christian people, better and wiser than I could hope to be. But they are outnumbered by the deplorables, who last year put my mentor Boris Johnson into No 10. Most of those in power, however, are secular liberals. One such was David Cameron, who, by mistake, took us out of the EU.
Boris is also a secular liberal, but there may be something else there. At any rate, he had his baby baptised a Catholic and, some years ago, commissioned a piece for the Spectator on the Ontological Argument of St Anselm. I was disappointed, though, when he said that he would settle for nothing short of a new Jerusalem in what’s left of England’s green and pleasant land.
At the close of the Tory party conference, he envisioned the “New Briton” arriving at passport control anywhere in the world, even in Europe: “You arrive in your zero-carbon jet made in the UK, and you flash your Brexit blue passport or your digital ID, you get an EV [electric vehicle] digital taxi.”
I have no desire to flash my “Brexit blue passport”. I want to be physically and legally part of the most glorious civilisation the world has ever known. I want to give back control.
Maybe it is a sign of late middle age – I am 77, after all – but sexy blonde American preachers shouting in tongues and stomping about in killer heels and off-the-shoulder blouses claiming to be God’s messengers don’t quite do it for me. (Maybe when I was 12.)
I am speaking here of Paula White, Special Adviser to the White House Faith Opportunity Initiative, but more widely known as Trump’s spiritual adviser. I came across her on YouTube not long after the US election.
She speaks in tongues and shouts and repeats herself. Here’s the sort of stuff: “Where I go God rules”; “When I walk on White House Grounds God walks on White House grounds”; “I have every right and authority to declare the White House as Holy ground because I was standing there and where I stand is holy”.
She does not shrink from asking potential donors to bung her $100,000 (or if they can’t afford that, $3,500 will do).
She tells her listeners that if they chip in, God will give them peace and prosperity in turn. If they don’t chip in, then … God will not be best pleased. “Your dream will die,” she says. Paula’s net worth is estimated at $5 million.
The late Michael Phillips, my headmaster at Elston Hall prep school, liked nothing better than to make us laugh.
He was at Eton before the war and one of his stories was of an elderly school chaplain who once began morning prayers with the Creed rather than with the Our Father. Here’s how it went: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator …” He stopped and corrected himself. “Oh no I don’t,” he said, “Our Father who art in Heaven …”
I am not unlike that chaplain. Instead of singing “Happy Birthday” when washing my hands, as per instructions, I might find myself reciting the Creed. After a moment I realise my mistake, and change … to the Salve Regina.
I now discover that you can say the Our Father and Hail Mary in 20 seconds, and there is no harm in doing that. If you are feeling frivolous, however, and loathe Happy Birthday as much as I do, you might try I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas (it was sung at the end of a traditional Latin Mass I attended on Christmas Eve a few years ago), or wander down Nostalgia Lane and try Cliff Richard’s 1959 hit, Living Doll (“Gonna lock her up in a trunk, so no big hunk can steal her away from me”). I don’t see it ever being used on Strictly Come Dancing.
Stuart Reid is a writer and former editor of the Catholic Herald