Indulge me for a minute while I strip away some of the excess fat that has attached itself to the EU referendum. Let’s take away Boris and his potential posturing; let’s take away Farage and his Kippers; and let’s take away clumsy terminology like ‘Brexit’ and ‘Bremain’.
What we’re left with is an incredibly important moment in our nation’s history. It is a decision about which direction we want the UK to head in for the foreseeable future. The outcome will affect how we address international aid, human rights and the environment. It will also affect sovereignty and where power is focused.
While we may be tired of the infighting or the kowtowing, we cannot get away from the fact that what happens on June 23rd will – to a greater or lesser extent – impact the 500 million people that populate the EU nations, as well as many generations to come.
And as Christians, whether you’re a Brexiter or a Bremainer (sorry), this is also a unique opportunity. The EU referendum ultimately offers us a chance to demonstrate what it means to ‘love our neighbour’.
While in Jesus’ day there were Jews and Samaritans, today – in the run up to the referendum – we have left and right, Europhiles and Eurosceptics, with disagreement bubbling over at dinner tables, in pubs, and on that most heated of battlefields: Twitter. As Archbishop Justin Welby recently warned, the EU referendum has the potential to leave the UK ‘dispirited and divided’.
By voting, you will be following Paul’s instruction in Philippians 2:3 to think outside ourselves and to consider others
Loving the neighbor that we don’t necessarily agree with is an important way the Church in the UK can be distinctive during this political turning point. Neighbourly love can shape how we disagree, avoiding personal attacks as well as a ‘them-versus-us’ mentality, which does more to sow division and discord.
We can also practise loving our neighbour by the very act of voting on June 23rd. The EU debate gives us an opportunity to learn and reflect on the bigger picture. Making a decision requires us to consider refugees and migrants as well as our local communities, and to think about how laws are made and how resources are spent. By voting, you will be following Paul’s instruction in Philippians 2:3 to think outside ourselves and to consider others.
At Christians in Politics we recently launched an EU Focus initiative, providing opinion pieces, resources and useful information to make engagement as easy as possible. We’re also organizing, in partnership with Reimagining Europe, a series of ‘conversations’ in cathedrals around the country with MPs, peers, political commentators and religious thinkers contributing their thoughts and ideas to the debate. We hope the initiative will be a useful resource and that it assists Christians in loving their neighbours well in the potentially divisive coming months.
Mark Scott heads up communications for Christians in Politics. He tweets at @markpwscott