Its only a few days now until the referendum, the debate on the merits and failures of the EU have been at times inspiring or a cause for despair. I know what way I will vote but at the same time have felt inspired by the fact that this vote feels like the ‘most’ democratic thing I’ve ever done. The vote has cut right across party lines and shaken up a lot of the core parties. Things are actually different in this election and people are revealing a lot about themselves in how they articulate their reasons for voting.
Myself? I’m fairly sure now I will be voting to leave the EU. I don’t think the EU is democratic, we did well out of dodging the Euro and I think the EU’s handling of both Greece’s debt, their relationship with Ukraine and the handling of the migrant crisis have given serious cause for concern. I also think their are massive swathes of the UK that have been left neglected after the collapse of our national industries (fishing, farming, mining and manufacturing) and see a chance of that changing outside the EU which currently undercuts or legislates against it (although this is perhaps rather naive). I also see the EU as an increasingly neoliberal institution that is particularly susceptible to lobbying by multinational corporates (TTIP alone is enough to vote out for me). It is also increasingly infringing on the basic freedoms afforded to its citizens in policing ‘hate speech'(and getting technology companies to do the same). I also think its not even really done that good of a job at upholding workers rights as the existence of zero-hour contracts highlights. I also think we could better off interacting more fully with the world at large without a EU lens changing our view of trade and diplomacy.
I am a European, thats a fact not a matter of perspective. I love Europe and would gladly sign what we did in the 1970’s again but for me the issue is precisely that we didn’t sign up to anything like what we have today. Despite all of that I feel like this vote could possibly be one of the most important things I vote on in my lifetime. In some ways right now is a unnerving time of great change but it is also one of great opportunity, for society and also the church. The recent murder of MP Jo Cox highlights the deep divisions appearing our society partly as a result of this rapid change and the Church has a big job in simultaneously staying faithful to God, his word and those who laboured for the sake of the Kingdom of God before us in this country and adapting to speak into these situations. Massive debt (public and private), decreasing social liberty, broken communities, individualism, materialism, state surveillance, idolatry and heresy are abundant. We need to be conversant with these things and generally speaking I feel the church has done a good job at dealing with Brexit in a way that doesn’t give way to ‘Project Fear’ and gives me hope for these other areas.
The other thing I am grateful of is that unlike other ideologies out there, Christianity is transcultural. What started off as a minority sect of Judaism is now the worlds largest religion, and that is in no small part due to its ability to praise and emphasise the best of the cultures its encountered whilst denouncing and standing against that which would gives ground to sin and idolatry. Whatever way the vote goes, theres going to be pain and upset but the church will find a way in the UK wherever it is. Whether a state of an increasingly federal EU system of government or a independent European island nation looking to the world. The Church has evangelised Europe several times in its history, each time Europe looked fundamentally different and the approach to evangelising it changed in kind. God willing we will do so again and irrespective of the vote British christians will have a part to play in that.
For a good debate on the subject I recommend the recent Unbelievable? broadcasted debate on Brexit from a Christian perspective. Should we stay or should we go?