Martin Luther and Brexit: Game Changers

The nationalist genie will not go back in to the bottle

Jonathon Davies, Going Postal
Martin Luther (1529) by Lucas Cranach the Elder

We all know that Henry VIII famously broke with the Pope in Rome to seek a marriage with Anne Boleyn. But another important question is how was he able to do this? More specifically, would he have been able to do this if Martin Luther had not made his protest in 1517? It’s a very interesting question.

Society is governed by normative rules, that is a set of unwritten rules on how to think and behave. This goes from the personal level right up to what we now call international level. In the UK it is the height of rudeness to push in to or “jump” the queue. Sometimes these are backed up by legal rules and enforcement. For example, in some countries and jurisdictions it is illegal to spit in the street. It is now (quite rightly) frowned upon to invade lots of other countries and make them part of an empire. In the past it wasn’t. This begs the question, “why do things change?” Every now and then something happens that causes a paradigm shift in our way of thinking. New possibilities and ways of doing things are revealed.

This is to say; new concepts are introduced which fundamentally change the way people view and think about things. An example of this is in medicine, which I have previously written about, where the germ theory of Pasteur replaced the ideas of spontaneous generation. Now, these new ideas aren’t always readily accepted and there is usually a fair bit of resistance. The scientist Béchamp went out of his way to prove Pasteur wrong. It doesn’t mean they are stupid, either. Béchamp made breakthroughs in applied organic chemistry. It also doesn’t mean that the issue necessarily gets settled either way. As we know from the comments on this very blog, there are those who believe the Earth is flat. There are also people in the world who still think the EU is a good idea.

Back to Henry. Henry wanted a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. He was desperate to have a son, as inheritance was down the male line. Normative rules. Divorce was generally not allowed. The only way to get one was to ask the Pope for a divorce. There was also the prospect of an annulment, which renders the marriage void as if it had never happened.  Normative rules. It was this that Henry initially asked for the Pope for, on the grounds she had previously been married to Henry’s brother, Arthur. This was thought by some to be against bible teachings. However, Catherine’s uncle, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, had the Pope captive and so the annulment was refused. Henry needed another way to act. He needed to break the normative rules. He might want to defy the Pope, but how to do it? On what grounds? How could he justify it? What would happen if he was excommunicated? He needed some kind of framework in which to operate. He needed his own version of Article 50 and the Withdrawal Bill.

Luckily for Henry, Martin Luther had made his protest in 1517. Some accounts had him nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Whether this actually happened is up for debate. However, the legend lives on. Luther had been upset at perceived church corruption and bad practices, in particular the selling of indulgences, a sort of get out of jail free card for Christians, or rather get in to heaven quickly. This was seen to favour the rich, who could by them. Luther argued it was for God alone to grant forgiveness.

Luther published his ideas, which along with the printing press, greater literacy, the roots of nationalism taking hold, the end of feudalism and the rise of common law gave birth to the reformation. Luther was promptly excommunicated, but the damage was done. Protestantism grew, with separate churches being set up and various different reformers producing different versions. Within Germany different princes took up the Protestant faith and declared it the state religion.

Here then was Henry’s solution. Despite previously writing against Luther’s ideas, gaining the title Fidei Defensor, Henry now decided to create the Church of England, naming himself as Supreme Head of the Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury could then grant his annulment. He could then marry Anne Boleyn (many say he already had) and any heirs would be legitimate. The Pope excommunicated Henry, but it mattered not as he now had his own church. Would any of this have been possible without Martin Luther? Luther had successfully shifted views across Europe by a large enough proportion that rulers felt comfortable taking on his ideas. Not everyone agreed. There were wars between monarchs across Europe, such as the Dutch Revolt against Spain. There were rebellions at home, such as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Many rose to march with banners, some representing vested landed interests, headed by a lawyer, called Robert Aske. Sounds oddly familiar.

Henry broke away from the Catholic Church, and in doing so isolated himself from the Holy Roman Emperor and a Europe dominated by the Hapsburgs. Some might even call them globalists. Many comparisons have been drawn between Henry and the vote to leave the EU. So, was the leave vote in the EU referendum the change that shifted views, or was it an event that was enabled by a previous shift? Just like Henry’s break, the vote had a number of catalysts and attitude shifts behind it.

You could arguably go back to September 11th in 2001, with the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. This began the latest expansionary phase of radical Islam. It seemed to galvanise radical groups across the world, from Islamists, nationalists, the so-called far-right, along with being a pretext for the invasion of Iraq (Saddam selling them WMDs) that would prove a catastrophe both for the region, for Europe, the USA and arguably the rest of the world. The insurgent militants who went on to form Islamic State used the chaos in the failed Iraqi state as a springboard to run amok in Iraq and then Syria, as well as gaining footholds in North Africa.

This led to millions of migrants being driven to Europe and other parts of the world. The peak of this was the 2015 migrant crisis which the EU so spectacularly failed to deal with, as the Schengen hard “border” was shown to be a myth. Europe is still feeling the political, economic and social effects to this day. Greece in particular is held up as an example. Waves of terror attacks by those who entered and some who got EU travel documents added to it. What was the EU response? Why, more Europe! More centralisation. Refugees welcome. Anyone who disagreed began to be labelled as the now ubiquitous “far-right.” This doesn’t mean that it caused the leave vote, or that is was inevitable. But it did create a world in which it was possible.

The leave vote itself may also provide a catalyst, like those German princes taking up Protestantism. Other European nations saw that it was possible to stand up to the EU, that you could say no, that leaving the EU was a possibility. Hungary and Poland have become far more assertive of late, refusing migrants and EU dictats, despite the threat of legal action or expulsion. That threat doesn’t hold as much water as it did, largely due to the UK not collapsing economically or socially since the vote. Italy too has entered in to the spirit of rebellion. Those with their ear to the ground in Italy whisper that Salvini is becoming ever more popular, that Lega will form the next government, an Italy will leave the Euro and the EU along with it. Again, this doesn’t mean the leave vote caused these things, but it opened the eyes of many Europeans to see the possibilities. I think we will see a few more revolts in the near future.

The likes of Guy Verhofstadt and others talk about destroying nationalism. They won’t, and they can’t. The only chance they had to do this was stopping open borders, restricting migration, combating terror and Islamism and returning sovereignty to nation states. This goes against their globalist principles and the EU “freedoms.” The 2015 migrant crisis helped unleash nationalist forces across Europe. Without this you could ask the question of whether Brexit, Salvini’s win in Italy and others would have been possible. He is currently leading an “EU fightback” of liberals in Europe. This is the counter-reformation of its day. They can only go so far and be so successful. Like Protestantism, anti-EU feeling has taken root in the collective consciousness of peoples across Europe. You can only fight an idea with a better idea. The EU hasn’t got one. Just more Europe.

The biggest mistake the Remoaners are making is if they get a second vote and we remain in the EU (and that’s a very big if), everything will go back to the way it was before the 2016 referendum. It won’t. The nationalist genie is out of the bottle now, in the UK, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, USA, Brazil, plus on the rise in Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, etc, all powered by open borders, rape gangs and terror attacks. The game has changed, a paradigm shift is taking place, for good or ill. They only have themselves to blame, they promoted globalism, open borders, called anyone who complained about the consequences a racist and refused to admit there were any problems. Just like Martin Luther’s protest, whichever side you are on, the world has changed. Protestantism never went away. Neither will nationalism. There is no going back to the way things were, whether you want to or not.

© Jonathon Davies 2018

(P.S. For the avoidance of doubt I am a Catholic.)

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