On November 16th’s episode of The Briefing, Albert Mohler—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—asserts that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was in alignment with Christian teachings because of the concept of subsidiarity.
In Quadragesimo Anno, Pope Pius XI describes the concept as follows:
“Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.”
When applied to government, the main idea here is that decision-making capacity should reside as close to the people as possible—if the city government can handle it, it should be handled at that level, the state should not step in.
According to Mohler, the creation of the EU was a violation of this Christian concept, because when the nation-states of Europe joined the EU they gave up some of their sovereignty.
Now, an obvious question is raised by this assertion: if the creation of the EU violated subsidiarity, didn’t the creation of the United States violate it as well? After all, the United States was formed by thirteen independent nation-states that gave up some of their sovereignty to a central government.
Mohler implies that the creation of the United States was not a violation of subsidiarity because the US adopted a federal system in which the states and the federal government share power. I agree with him on this point. I believe, however, that he is wrong in his assertion that joining the EU was a violation of subsidiarity for the following reasons:
- The individual states in the United States gave up much more of their sovereignty than did the states that joined the EU. The American states gave up the following powers that EU states retained in the EU:
- The power to declare war
- the power to conduct diplomacy and foreign relations
- the power to coin money
- The power to create a postal system and issue stamps
- A healthy respect for the concept of subsidiarity was actually written into the 1992 Treaty On European Union. According to the EU, subsidiarity was included in the TEU in order “to ensure that powers are exercised as close to the citizen as possible…”
The conclusion here is obvious; if one is to say that joining the EU was a violation of a Christian principle, they must also say that a state joining the United States violated that same Christian principle.
Ultimately, both the United States and the EU were formed in attempts to prevent a multitude of small states from constantly waging war against each other. Both political unions have been remarkably successful in this regard. Therefore, it may prove incredibly unwise to champion the breakdown of these governing bodies—and it may be very irresponsible to label these efforts as being in alignment with a Christian worldview.
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