So we now know that the UK will come to a decision about its future relationship with the Europe on June 23rd. Over the next few months, the news will be dominated by the EU referendum campaign.
Now, before you decide whether or not to read on, I want to say two things:
- Not all of our readers will have a vote or direct interest in this referendum (including readers from other countries.) However, hopefully you will find it helpful as you think about your engagement in other political issues (e.g. Presidential nominations). Also, please do take time to pray for Britain and the rest of Europe over the next few months.
- If you will be voting, I’m not about to tell you how you should vote. I don’t think that’s for me to say and I’ve no intention of declaring how I will vote or even if I’ve decided. My aim here is to help us think about how we engage with issues like this as Christians. So, if my own opinions on the question (informed or otherwise) leak out occasionally here, then I apologise in advance and include the caveat that such views are personal and not official Bearwood Chapel policy.
So here are few quick thoughts.
- As in any political decision, Christians will come to different views. There are Christians in all the different political parties and there are Christians who favour ‘leave’ just as others will vote to ‘remain’. We should not make matters central to faith when they are not. There isn’t a Christian position on the EU referendum.
- The issue being debated is serious and will have lasting repercussions that will have a real impact on the lives of many people. Although, at times, it may have felt that Europe was something that political anoraks and eccentrics banged on about, this does not mean that it isn’t genuinely important. At times, we may not like the tone of the debate and that may tempt us to switch off and ignore it. But we should take time to listen to the cases being put.
- The usual rule of disagreement should apply. When we do disagree with others, then we should disagree with their arguments, but at the same time have a charitable view of their motives. For example, I should not assume that because someone favours immigration controls that they are racist.
- However, we should be wise and discerning. First of all, this means that we should be aware that sadly some people will use the debate out of evil motives to stir up fear and hatred. This may happen on both sides. I hope that this will not happen and in so far as we are involved as Christians (whether Christian political leaders or in the natural discussions that take place between friends, family and colleagues) we should seek to set a positive tone. You will realise that I’m particularly concerned about the focus on immigration and benefits. This does have the potential to prove toxic. Please pray with me that those who wish to promote hatred and violence on our streets don’t find an open door here. We should also check our own motives.
- Beware idolatry. This links to the above point. Fear often leads to idolatry. We put our hope in false saviours. The European Union may have brought many positive benefits, but it is a human institution and brings its problems too. We should not put our trust in institutions; they cannot guarantee peace, security and well-being. Nor should we idolise the nation state. This type of idolatry is most obvious in the ugly nationalism seen in fascism but it can equally display itself in a romanticised view of your country’s history. Remember that most of our nation states today are artificial and temporary constructs. Whilst staying in the EU is no guarantee of future safety and prosperity, nor will leaving provide some magic wand that will wave away all of our nation’s ills. Many of the big ethical decisions that Christians have disagreed with over the past 40 years may well still have been made outside of the EU.
- Yes the issue is important, but it’s not that important. Nothing is more important than the Gospel. Don’t become obsessed by the EU debate – even if you are active in politics. And don’t be embarrassed if you find that you really can’t make your mind up. It is okay to say “I don’t know.”
- God is sovereign. This means that we can trust him to do what is best for his glory. So if on June 23rd the vote goes the wrong way (whichever way you think that might be) remember that God will still be reigning on the 24th June (ditto for my American friends – whoever gets into the White House this year). Now this does not mean that a “wrong” decision won’t lead to difficult times ahead but it does mean that we can trust God to work out his purposes for good.