From a premillennialist perspective, there has always been suspicion regarding the EU, due, as we have seen, to their particular understanding and interpretation of prophetic texts in the Bible. In its early iterations, in 1949 just after the Second World War, Paul-Henri Spaak, former Prime Minister of Belgium and acknowledged as one of the original founders of the EU, was reported to have said:
This quotation has been used many times by premillennialists to emphasise the ulterior motives that lie behind the scenes of EU officialdom. However, I have been unable to find evidence of Spaak having actually uttered the quote attributed to him, which, it seems, has developed into something of an urban myth within premillennialist prophetic discourse. Regardless of their legitimacy, these words have served to generate what Richard Landes has termed “semiotic arousal”32
. Indeed, in this context, ‘semiotic promiscuity’ would seem to be a more suitable description for the intensification of prophetic sign searching since Spaak allegedly uttered those words.
Consequently, numerous signs have been identified which together provide evidence that the EU is the prophesied revived Roman Empire. Among them are: the Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg, France—home of the European parliament; the currency of the EU—the Euro; the sculptures outside the European Union buildings in Strasbourg and Brussels—The Removal of Europa and Europa Riding the Bull, the flag of the EU and even the EU anthem. There are more but the focus will be limited to architecture and sculptures.
4.1. Louise Weiss Building in Strasbourg
When the Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg, France—home of the European parliament—was completed in 1999, its structure caused something of a stir. Designed by Paris-based architects Architecture Studio Europe, and constructed at a cost of some 470 million euros, the centrepiece consists of a 60m tower that intentionally appears to be unfinished on the eastern side. The rationale for the design was to signify the fact that no eastern European country had joined the EU at the time of completion; it symbolised the unrealised dream of a unified Europe.
The building’s purpose as the new home of the European parliament ensured scrutiny of the design from some unexpected quarters. Among them were conspiracists from various anti-globalisation movements and religious fundamentalist groups. Premillennialists, who belong to the latter category, did not buy in to the official narrative of why the tower was designed in such fashion. On the contrary, many believed that the structure was actually modelled on the painting, The Tower of Babel
(1563), by the Dutch renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel (1525–1569). The significance of this is not so much in the similarity that the Louise Weiss building might have to Bruegel’s depiction of Babel per se
; rather, it is the identification of the EU parliament building with Babel (Babylon)33
and what that represents that is purported to be symbolic of a more sinister influence. What compounded this theory was that 7 years earlier, in 1992, the European Council34
had circulated a poster depicting an image very similar to Bruegel’s Tower of Babel complete with a construction crane inside the perimeter signifying the continuing construction of the tower. The maxim that accompanied it was “Europe: Many Tongues One Voice”. The poster caused outrage among Christian groups and it was quickly removed from public circulation, allegedly due to their complaints35
The reasons for the outrage generated by the image can be traced back to the way many Christians understand the story of the Tower of Babel found in Genesis chapter 11. The narrative describes the “whole world as having one language and a common speech” (11:1), who decide to build a city with a tower that “reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the earth” (11:3–4). The story describes how God, seeing the ambition of the people, scatters all the people and their language, resulting in them no longer being able to understand each other36
. From a premillennialist perspective, this has been interpreted to serve as a warning to humanity not to challenge God. However, the European Council poster was seen as a maleficent example of Europe setting itself up against God. Alan Franklin, UK-based journalist-turned Bible prophecy teacher noted that the poster “appears to be an attempt to reverse God’s judgement on Babel”37
The maxim accompanying the image confirmed to premillennialists that the EU was trying to provide a platform to challenge God. “Europe: Many Tongues One Voice”, although appearing to be an inversion of the original, is interpreted as actually attempting to re-create the notion of ‘speaking as one’. Again, Franklin notes the array of interpreters employed in the EU parliament buildings and suggests that one voice or understanding is being created by other means with the same result38
. David Hathaway, itinerant speaker and founder of Eurovision Mission to Europe
asked, “is the EU the spiritual development of the original Babel, and is the EU attempting to build what God once destroyed?”39
In terms of semiotic ideology, within this economy of signs, Babel/Babylon represents rebellion against God and symbolises a marginalisation of worship of the one ‘true’ God. Thus, in light of the suspicions highlighted above, the construction of the Louise Weiss tower signifies a conjoining of EU agency along with, but under, demonic influence. In the context of the criticism with which the 1992 poster was met, it was absurd, in the mind of premillennialists that the design of the physical building went ahead replicating the form of Bruegel’s original. However, on the other hand, it fits with the prophetic narrative framework. It is part of the paradoxical nature of the premillennialist prophetic representational economy. It signifies that the EU is an instrument of more sinister powers: namely those that are satanic. Hathaway claims that not only does Louise Weiss building represent the Tower of Babel externally, the interior resembles that of the Colosseum in Rome. The significance of this should not go unnoticed and it is something to which we will return.
The notion that Babel/Babylon represents a system of government raised in opposition to God is not only significant in the representational economy of premillennialist prophecy narrative framework but highlights how such economies often interact with others in any given social context. The representational economy of international European politics identifies the Louise Weiss building in a very different way to that of premillennialist Christians. The tower is occupied by the offices of civil servants. It is a place where the European parliament meet every month in the cosmopolitan city of Strasbourg, France. For MEPs it is a place to debate the minutiae of EU policy. As well as a place of business, it is open to the general public to view and has cafeterias and refreshment areas. On the other hand, within the premillennialist representational economy, the building represents all that is wrong with the EU. Its design epitomises a flagrant revolt against God and thus is inspired by Satan. Importantly, due to its geographical location (i.e., the headquarters of European politics) it fulfils biblical prophecy.
4.2. The Woman and the Beast
Outside the Winston Churchill EU building on Avenue du President Schuman, Strasbourg, is a sculpture of a woman riding on a bull entitled The Removal of Europa40
. The statue represents the ancient Greek myth of the abduction of Europa by Zeus, and was a gift from Crete to the European Parliament in 2005. The association of Europe with the symbolism of a woman and a bull (beast) has a long history. Europe takes its name from Europa and this symbolism can be found adorned on many artefacts associated with the continent of Europe and, more recently, the European Union. As well as this statue, there is a similar one outside the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels—Europa Riding the Bull
. Another example is located inside the Paul Henri Spaak EU building in Brussels where the glass facade inside the dome is covered with a 150 square meter large ceramic mural called Miti del Mediterraneo
, which portrays the abduction of Europa and other elements of Greek mythology41
. As well as appearing together on the Greek and Italian two Euro coin, the images of Europa and of the bull appear separately on various EU documents. For example, the bull features on EU residency permits, and the new Europa series of bank notes features an image of Europa42
For EU officials, adopting such symbolism might be regarded as mundane and non-controversial in the secular environment of the political representational economy of the EU: it is symbolism that links the old Europe with the building of a new, stronger and united Europe. There is a quite different perspective when understood within the representational economy of premillennialist prophecy. The semiotic ideology governing the functional qualities and meanings of signs within the prophetic representational economy reflect very different connections in terms of what Europa and the bull actually denote.
Tony Pierce, a leading British premillennialist teacher and contributor to Prophetic Witness43
The EU has adopted symbols straight out of the Book of Revelation. Outside the Council of Europe building in Brussels there stands a statue of Europa (a woman) being carried off by a bull, a picture of the Greek myth of the Rape of Europa. In other words, it is a woman riding a beast. Revelation 17.1–6 sees a woman riding the beast as the symbol of false religion allied to the antichrist political power, persecuting true believers in Jesus44
The semiotic ideology, the assumptions guiding how such signifiers should be interpreted, connects the physical presence of the sculpture with the symbolism found in the texts of the book of Revelation and specifically chapter 17. What is significant is the association of the woman riding the beast as a symbol of ‘false religion’ who, in turn, is allied to the Antichrist. The reference is generally understood in this economy of signs as the ‘apostate church’ (Rev 17). The woman depicted here is identified as a harlot (v.1). In verse 5 her full title is given: “Mystery Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots, and of the abominations of the earth”. The clues to what church this might symbolise are found at the end of the chapter. Verse 18 states, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth”. Many premillennialists believe this to refer to the city of Rome: the hub of Europe which dominated the known world at the time that Revelation was written. Furthermore, the connection is made that the church associated with Rome is the Roman Catholic Church and its dominant position as a world religion.
In a sermon delivered two weeks prior to the UK referendum, David Moore, a Baptist minister in the UK claimed that the woman in Revelation 17 represents the Roman Catholic Church and her global influence. He stated,
When you think about spiritual entities, religious organisations that have this extent of presence, that has this amount of political sway, that has this degree of prosperity, that practices a religion that presents itself as Christianity but actually in practice is blasphemous and abominable, there is only one religion on earth that fits the bill … I’m speaking to you about Roman Catholicism45
If more evidence were needed that the Roman Catholic Church represented the apostate church, Moore identified a further link in the colours described in Revelation 17:4. The woman is described as “dressed in purple and scarlet…” Moore was quick to point out that
Even the colouring [of the woman] here, the purple and the scarlet. Google the Holy See. Have a look at the images that come up. You’ll see them sitting there and you will find them arrayed in two colours: purple and scarlet.
Moore finds clear connections between the woman (the harlot) and the Roman Catholic Church. It is a view that is common within the representational economy of premillennialist prophecy. Pastor Ken Davidson of Donaghcloney Elim Church, Northern Ireland, in a passionately delivered pro-Brexit sermon, emphasised the link between the description in Rev 17:4 of the colour of the attire the woman wears, and the vestments of the Roman Catholic Church; even displaying a picture of them46
The symbolism of the woman fits with the premillennialist view of Roman Catholicism, and it is no coincidence that this and the symbolism that adorns high profile architecture and artefacts of the EU resonates so strongly with that found in Bible prophecy. Indeed, as Joseph Webster, in his insightful study of Protestants in a Scottish fishing village, notes that it is ‘Godincidence’ that replaces coincidence47
. However, it is the demonic that has temporary influence over the world with the EU being the cradle of the Antichrist.
Davidson, also, among many other examples of what he deemed to be Roman Catholic collusion with the machinations of the EU named some of the leading euro bureaucrats: Jean Claude Junker, Donald Tusk, Frans Timmermans, Martin Schulz, Mario Draghi and Federica Mogherini as all being Jesuits48
. The point being made with such a lengthy list is that the EU is controlled by a Jesuit (Roman Catholic) cabal. For Davidson, it was part of a conspiratorial attempt to continue to wrestle power away from nation-state members under the guise of the EU. The connections and links that are evident demonstrate what I argue is a demonic lineage that premillennialists trace from the chapters of the book of Revelation through to the contemporary political administration of the EU. The Roman Catholic Church embodies the spirit of the Antichrist and its clandestine influence is a subjugating factor in EU politics49