The Costs and Benefits of Union

The No’s have it 55% to 45% and the United Kingdom remains intact for now. That rush you hear is the collective sigh of relief from Northern Ireland.

David Robertson proved prophetic but he also comes from one of the few places that voted Yes. It raises the question of whether Pastor Robertson persuaded lots of Dundee’s residents to vote Yes or whether he was a Free Church version of a deeper Dundee sentiment. W-wers will always tell us that religion trumps region. I think only our hairdressers know for sure.

And David from Scotland, this one by the name of Murray who teaches in the Dutch New Jerusalem, predicted the outcome but worried about the health of the churches in his native land:

I keep coming back to the spiritual implications and asking, “What would be best for the Kingdom of God?”

I agree with the Christians who argue that the evidence from the devolved Scottish parliament since its inception in 1999 is that Scottish politicians have tried to outdo and outpace their London counterparts in stripping Scotland of its Christian heritage and replacing it with a rabidly secular agenda. Yes, I’m ashamed to say, Scotland has led the way in the UK in legislating for gay rights, gay adoption, gay marriage, etc. Having said that, London has only been a step or two behind. So, whether Scotland stays in the union or votes for independence, I don’t see either arrangement making that much difference to Christians or the Church of Christ.

Presbyterians in North American can say that the United Kingdom has been good by a variety of measures for Presbyterian churches over here. Without a United Kingdom, the Scots would not have been part of the British empire which in turn extended both Presbyterianism and Anglicanism around the world. True, North America had a Reformed church — the Dutch one — before the English achieved hegemony on the Eastern Seaboard. But could the Dutch have withstood the French (whom the British defeated in the 1763 after dispatching the Dutch nine decades earlier)? The Dutch could not withstand Napoleon. The effect of the French Revolution on a Francophone North America is anyone’s guess. But even if it wasn’t as bad for the Reformed churches in Geneva or Amsterdam as some have argued, it wasn’t entirely positive. In contrast, the British dominance of North America gave Scottish and Irish Presbyterians a foothold which after American independence became a significant presence in U.S. and Canadian religious life. On this side of the United Kingdom, we can say it was a positive development in several respects.

One thought that occurred to me last night while listening to an NPR show about the vote was the shared cultural memory that the Scots and English have thanks to two world wars. One of the most moving parts of visiting Scotland last summer was to see the lists of Scottish soldiers who died in the wars. They seemed to be everywhere — in the old buildings at the University of Edinburgh, at St. Giles’ Cathedral, and at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Would independence have required wiping out that memory of collective effort? The question is all the more poignant when you consider that independence from a United Kingdom allowed Ireland to remain neutral in World War II. That position did not prevent Irish from the Republic from serving in the war — as many as 100,000 fought with the British (over 3,500 died). But figuring out how to remember their deaths becomes a whole lot more complicated when the point of your republic is autonomy from London.

I wonder how much the memory of Scottish casualties in the United Kingdom’s wars made Yes impossible.

15 thoughts on “The Costs and Benefits of Union

  1. Neighbour for 20 years was from Glasgow and served for three years, mostly in Burma. Had a scare running from temple to his jaw. Never asked about that..


  2. Thanks for the mention. Just couple of points:

    1) I agree completely with David Murray about the state of the churches here. Thankfully the church David left, the Free Church of Scotland, has undergone a minor renewal and reformation and is growing and developing whilst remaining a confessional biblical church.

    2) The soldiers who died in the two world wars, especially the First World War, were actually a great reason for voting Yes. For many years soldiers from Scotland have been cannon fodder for the British Army. My own home village in the Scottish Highlands, current population 200, has a war memorial with 50 mens names on it – most from WWI. One of the most insane wars ever fought. I was actually doing an outreach meeting last week and one man there – 90 years old – had served in the Artic convoys and had all his colleagues killed. He said he was voting Yes for them.

    3) It’s interesting to see you are on the same side as Obama on the question of Scottish independence. Ironically the same arguments against Scottish Independence were pretty much the same as the arguments against American independence, but then I guess you’ve had a couple of hundred years to change your minds!

    3) Richard – Bill Smith’s blog maybe classic – depends on your definition of classic. If you mean by classic, smug, dishonest and ignorant, then yes it is classic. I realise that anything left of Genghis Khan is considered to be socialist in some circles in the US, but for those who actually know what the term means, I am not a socialist (of course the niceties of truth may not be required on Mr Smith’s classic blog!). This is the kind of political post about people in another country whom they have no knowledge of, which causes the rest of the world to marvel and the hubris and arrogance of a small section of the American Reformed church. I have spent a great deal of time defending the American Reformed world to people from all over Europe -pointing out how much good it has done and continues to do – however I hope that none of my fellow Europeans read the comments here….Scottish Presbyterian twit….is that the level of intellectual Christian discourse you expect?

    Disappointed at the abuse and mockery….I have friends in the US who have warned me – stay away from the reformed world on the internet in the US…its vicious. I didn’t believe them. Maybe I was wrong?


  3. @ CW, yeah, really; taking offense at ‘twit’? LOL!

    All the good-genes Scots, Irish, and English left centuries ago and became settler-colonists, here in North America, in Oceania, and South Africa, leaving the less hardy, more wimpy, nancy-boy ones behind in the old countries…


  4. David R. (the Scot), but think about how you’d memorialize the dead of a war fought for a nation of which you are no longer part. Would Michiganders still commemorate Civil War dead if we seceded from the Union? What would be the point when our new identity is premised on giving up the old?

    Please don’t be so touch about the abuse, or so anti-American in noticing it. You’re a big boy and you stick your neck out a lot.


  5. Rev. Robertson,
    We Americans on the whole don’t “get” the politics of other nations, I admit that. I know a whole lot of American Christians would be shocked to hear that the good Dr. Lloyd-Jones was a supporter of the Labour Party at a time when Labour wasn’t centrist at all. My apologies for my remarks, Rev. Robertson.


  6. I don’t think a loose statement like this should be allowed to pass: “One of the most insane wars ever fought. I was actually doing an outreach meeting last week and one man there – 90 years old – had served in the Artic convoys and had all his colleagues killed.” Robertson might call WW1 “insane” but was it an unnecessary war. I would say no, it was necessary. Perhaps he also calls WW2 insane as well?

    It is true the Scottish Highlands which late 19 C went through a population boom suffered proportionately greater than perhaps any other part of Britain, but was their death in vain. No I don’t think it was. I can take you to a little town in central Victoria by the name of Skipton, pop today 500 but with 100 names on the honour board in the Presbyterian Church from WW1 with a good number not returning. Let us not call their sacrifice for participation in a war 12,000 miles away insane. It was a just war that had to be fought. Both my grandfathers fought in that war.


  7. I suppose I should have my feelings hurt because I am called smug, dishonest, and ignorant. But they’re not. I follow the old adage, “Say anything you want about me. Just be sure you spell my name right.”

    What first stimulated this comment was the posting of the theonomist, Dr. Knodel. Dr. Knodel is a former PCA and OPC minister who is now RPCNA. Dr. Knodel’s comments struck me, as the views of theonomists so often do, for identifying his own views with that which is Christian and identifying other views as anti-Christ(ian). Dr. Knodel re Mr. Robertson’s views: “I interpret it as a philosophical contradiction, tending to DQ one profession or the other. One cannot love Christ AND the doctrine of consensual thievery. They are antithetical. I fear the Free Church is fraught with such frailties. Isn’t alliteration lovely???” Everytime I read this sort of thing, I am struck again at how wrong are the views of the Christian right. In this particular instance I immediately thought of those in the Old World who are both Reformed and, may I say, have socialist leanings.

    While I read Mr. Robertson’s views a week or so earlier, they did not sufficiently provoke to motivate me to write. However, when I read Dr. Knodel’s comments, and remembered Mr. Roberston’s letter rebuking the PM and instructing him about the Christian view of things, it struck me that we have an instance of two men, starting with the Bible and Calvinism, and coming to such clashing views of what the Bible and Calvinism teach, or at least imply, about politics and government.

    These clashing world views confirm to me how impossible it is to derive politics from the Bible.To put it another way, they make me realize anew how some verion of the two-kingdom approach has to be correct. The church is ruled by the Bible and theology; the state is not.

    Mr. Roberston, it seems, frequenlty sticks his chin out with his published views. Is is suprising then that there are those who will thow the right hook as he jabs with his left?

    But, I should have thought that, if Dr. Robertson were to take issue with me, he would have done so regarding my use of the condescending views of Dr. Percy about Scotch and those who drink it. Dr. Percy, my fellow Southerner, makes me absolutely certain (and my list of things about which I am absolutely certain grows short) that my friends such as DGH are indeed smug Scotch drinkers. Dr. Percy was not only was a Bourbon drinker, but honest enough to say his palate was not not sufficiently sophisticated to distinguish the expensive stuff from the middle of the road stuff. He was also practical enough to say he preferred 80 proof to 100 because the 80 proof allowed him 5 drinks in a day while the 100 only 4. These things are are more worthy of our interest than the indepedence of 5 million Scots and clashing Calvinistic worldviews.

    What I will say again is, “God I thank thee that I am not Scot.” I will add, “I thank thee that I am a great great grandson of that distinguished gentleman and Southern patriot, Francisco Moreno.” This ancestor may be sufficient for me to begin claim to be Hispanic on my goverment forms here in the U.S. When sufficient detail is required by those socialist leaning bureaucrats, I will identify myself as a 2K Bourbon drinking Hispanic.


  8. Independence for Scotland may be likely.

    Continued high levels of support for the SNP in general election polling suggests that the post-referendum boost for the nationalists wasn’t a brief or passing phenomenon. Labour’s weakness hasn’t been remedied at all by the change in local party leadership, and Labour is still on track to be all but wiped out in Scotland. That would make it practically impossible for Labour to win the general election on its own, which it was already going to have some difficulty doing without its problems in Scotland. That could put Scottish nationalists in a position to extract huge concessions from Labour as part of a coalition deal, or it could leave Britain with no party that is able to form a stable government. No matter which party emerges to lead the next government, Scottish voters are about to give a huge endorsement to the SNP, or at least a huge vote of no confidence in the other parties. It is difficult to see how Scotland can be kept part of the union for that much longer when most of its voters don’t want to be represented by any of the unionist parties and instead mostly support the parties that want independence.


  9. I had thought that support for Scottish independence included aligning with the EU. But David Robertson is a Scotland First guy, it seems:

    I am astonished at how many people think that the choice is remain in the EU as we are and have a stable economy, peace, workers rights, racial harmony, motherhood and apple pie. The EU is in deep trouble and it is going to change.

    Some have blind faith that it will be reformed in a more democratic direction (although they have no evidence for this). The greater likelihood is that the euro will collapse and that the European states will be required to have a greater political union.


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