Wednesday, 18 May 2016

EU Referendum – A Christian Response



In just over four week’s time, the country will decide whether it wants to stay in the European Union or leave.  Coming to an informed decision on how to vote is not easy, especially when you hear conflicting and contradictory messages coming from the rival ‘Vote Leave’ and ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ campaigns. As Christians what should our response be to the EU referendum vote?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question.  We can’t ask ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ as if we could determine how he would vote, and there isn’t a single ‘right’ way to vote as Christians.  In St Martin’s there will be those who think Britain will be better out of the EU, and those who think we are better staying in (a helpful website exploring different Christians positions on this issue can be found at http://www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk/eufocus/). But I do believe there is a Christian approach that we should all take as we think about how we are going to vote on June 23rd.

·    Reject politics of fear

First of all we need to reject the politics of fear, which both ‘Vote Leave’ and ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ are guilty of.  Basing decisions from a position of fear is never wise. The Lord says to Joshua ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ (Joshua 1:9) Instead we need to….
·    
     Look for facts

No one really knows what the impact will be if Britain chooses to leave the EU, but it is worth taking time to consider the benefits and draw backs of belonging to the EU. Full Fact (fullfact.org/europe/) is a very helpful independent, non-partisan, fact checking charity that seeks to provide the public with the best information possible without the political spin! If you are confused by the claims and counter claims made by the various groups in the EU referendum debate, then this website can be extremely helpful.
·    
     Ask questions

Very often when it comes to making decisions, the question we ask ourselves is ‘How will this affect me?’ However, as Christians we need to think outside of ourselves and consider others. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3 ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.’ And Jesus calls us to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’ (Mark 12:31)

So with the EU referendum we need to think about what impact leaving the EU may have on others.
Some important questions to consider include:

o   What financial impact would Brexit have, especially on the poorest within society?
o   Would the nations of the EU be more prosperous, more just and more secure with Britain inside it?
o   What impact would it have on the current migrant crisis?
o   What impact would Brexit have on the future of the United Kingdom re. Scottish independence?
o   Will it lead to isolationism?

·   Conduct debates with respect

    There is a lot of mudslinging and personal attacks that go on in politics, and it’s ugly and 
     unnecessary. As Christians we need to always show respect and understanding to those we are debating with, even if we don’t agree with them. As the Apostle Peter instructs: ‘Show proper respect to everyone’ (1 Peter 2:17).
·    
     Pray!

Prayer should underpin everything we do as Christians, and we need to be praying about the EU referendum, and if you are still undecided on how you are going to vote then pray about it!  The Church of England has released the following prayer for the EU referendum campaign:


God of truth,
give us grace to debate the issues in this referendum
with honesty and openness.
Give generosity to those who seek to form opinion
and discernment to those who vote,
that our nation may prosper
and that with all the peoples of Europe
we may work for peace and the common good;
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.