I will never forget this day one year ago. Friday 24th June 2016 was a day of shellshock in my office – much more so, in actual fact than 9/11 fifteen years before it. But as we’ve since been told many times ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and for good or ill, that which seemed preposterous has become a kind of normal.
As followers of Jesus we’re compelled to see such momentous times through prisms other than political and economic lenses. Our goal at Contemporary Christianity is to empower ‘Biblical faith in a changing world’ and three themes that recur in the New Testament are particularly relevant to the times we live in.
The first is truth. Jesus said that he himself is the way, the truth and the life, and that knowing the truth shall set us free. The very antithesis of our good and pure God is the devil, who Jesus tells us is the ‘Father of Lies’.
So to now be told that we live in a post-truth society should trouble us deeply, and at a reflexive level, it would be so easy to think post truth is just about raking over shameless pro-Brexit falsehoods such as that £350m per week on that bus and dystopian claims of 70 million Turks flooding into the EU. Those things matter and should concern us but truth has other angles as well.
Living faithfully to truth has to be about getting away from emotive, splenetic and visceral discourse, and engaging with issues on the basis of evidence and facts. Truth means that when the heat cools from our arguments, there is some clarity and light left on the table.
Truthfulness also means we shun shallowness and admit to complexity; that we acknowledge that Brexit is not going to be easy, and the reality that our country must give concessions and – in ways – will be materially worse off as a result of this process.
The second key biblical theme is reconciliation. The New Testament deals over and over with the difference and division between Jews and Gentiles, and as well as winning our salvation, the Cross also accomplished a ‘putting to death’ of enmity between these groups. Reconciliation and peace making is not ‘leftie’ or a ‘nice to have’ bolt on to the Gospel; it is fundamental to the Gospel.
All of us who love Jesus have to challenge ourselves about the fact that it’s time to get out of our small corners and trenches; that we need to leave our social media echo chambers. How many of us have a genuine willingness to listen to and understand the other person with the opposite point of view?
And in engaging with God’s imperative to be reconciled to each other, it would be enormously helpful if we could actually name these issues within our local congregations and have them addressed from our pulpits, rather than bury our heads in the sands about the differences that exist within any fellowship.
The third biblical theme is hope. Remaining was no cause for hope: the EU wasn’t working and the status quo was failing to deliver for far too many people. But leaving is no basis for hope either: we can’t pull up drawbridges and wish away the harshness of globalisation. But we do have reasons to be hopeful because we have a different identity that is rooted in Jesus Christ.
Much of the EU Referendum campaigning seemed based on an oppressively bleak view of the world. Read The Guardian and it can seem that every Leaver is a jingoistic, narrow liar. Read the Daily Mail and it seems every Remainer is a Remoaner from the ‘liberal elite’, and every migrant is a parasite with the capacity for crime. But to follow Jesus is to believe that every person is made in the image of God and worth the life of the Son of God.
Hopefulness doesn’t mean we disengage, but it does mean that whether the UK is in or out of the EU, Christians are making choices every day, because they follow Jesus, to be gentle, kind and loving people.
And neither does a call to hope mean that we’re glib. God is not a failsafe guarantor of happy endings, and Brexit may yet be very damaging – especially to large swathes of those who voted for it – but as followers of Jesus we must never forget that we’re to be people of the light, always generous whatever meanness prevails around us.
Colin Neill is a Board Member of Contemporary Christianity and the author of Turas – A Story of Strangers in a Strange Land.
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.
I thank Colin Neil for remininding us of the three biblical perspectives for viewing contemporary economic, political and social events. I agree with him that in 2016 referendum on EU all three became severe casualties.
Both sides played fast and loose with the notion of truth. What was depressing and disturbing was not that blatant lies were told but that half-truths were told, and for a very good reason. Most voters would have easily spotted total and blatant lies; but it is very diffcukty to recognized half-truths, espdecially disguised as statistical facts.
Both sides, especially the “Leave”, gave primary emphasis to “Them-Us” divide rather than how to reconcile our diferences. No wonder, most of the discourse centred around finacial and monetary benefits and losses, with occasional talk of freedom in the very narrow sense of individuakl freedom. “Leave” side hammered home the view that Britain can only be a free and democracatic country, if and only if she was allowed to impose her views on important matters on all other members. Not only the Euro politicians and civil servants but also european judges were portrayed as narrow-minded anti-British.
As for hope, it could only be expected either as full member of EU or totally outside it. And it centred on very narrow economic and political considerations; considerations of brotherhood, solidarity, cooperation etc. were hardly mentioned.
A large number of Christains, of all persuasion, seemed to have subscribed to the narrow agenda of either side. I feel this is so because most Christains seek their well-being and security in the economic. political and social structures of the world we live in rather than living according to Christ’s injunction that our kingdom is not of this world and that we are here to preach his gospel amd to be witnesses as his disciples. It is mind-boggling to imagine the difference this perspective would have made to the whole referendum-debate and the current climate of suspicion, bitchiness and distrust in which we are living now.