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How Should I Vote?

EU Referendum
Article posted on 18 June 2016 Leave a Comment

The EU Referendum

I expect I am not alone here in being utterly weary of the daily bombardment for months now about the EU referendum.  As we get closer to 23rd June, the voices on both sides of the debate have been getting more and more strident. The debates have to my mind been all too negative with great prophecies of doom if we make the wrong decision as a nation. The whipping up of fear to sway us has been unseemly too; we’ll be swamped with migrants; we’ll be much worse off financially, and so on.

Into the mix and not acknowledged enough is the fact that we each have natural internal leanings. Some of us here are more right and others more left in their leanings, some instinctively nationalistic and others see themselves as more European or global citizens. As much as anything else this will equally affect how we choose to vote.

But, how are we to respond to all this as Christians? How should we vote in the referendum as Christians? What has the church to say by way of guidance? Should we be voting in or out?

As a first answer, I expect you’re aware that both the CofE and the Roman Catholic Church have publically stated that they are not going to be taking a side in this debate. But that’s not to say that the church has had nothing to say on the matter. I’ll come back to that in a moment. I would encourage you to be wary of any Christians or church that are saying that the Bible clearly directs us on whether to vote in or out. I’ve read dubious arguments laying heavy weight on small portions of 3,000-year-old Old Testament text, comparing Israel’s relationship to its neighbouring nations as an argument for separating from Europe. Some tell us confidently that God wants us to vote to stay and others to vote to leave; if we are to listen to these voices, God is clearly rather internally conflicted!

There’s also the easy temptation for me to stand here and be boringly Anglican, balanced but awfully bland. So let me lay out some clear Christian foundations to our questions.

In baptism, we gave ourselves before all else to Christ as our king. Our first loyalty is to God’s kingdom before any national or international structures. Jesus modelled for us in his earthly life what it means to live in the world but within his Father’s kingdom. Jesus was a Jew, living under Roman occupation. Some were hoping for a nationalist freedom fighter; they were to be sorely disappointed. Jesus is silent, seemingly ambivalent about who is ruling the common people. In a discourse not dissimilar to today’s referendum debate, people tried to force him into a corner with a question about paying the Roman taxes. Jesus replied, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’. Clearly money, taxes and whether they go to Westminster or Brussels isn’t his interest. Pay your taxes, but much more profoundly than that is your very life; your life is God’s and you are to live under the rules of God’s kingdom.

So what does it mean in practical terms to live under God’s rule with human rulers. This is where we turn to what we might call kingdom values?
Here’s an obvious list that all comes from Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom…
To love our neighbours, to love the foreigner too, to love even our enemies,
To act and to seek justice,
To seek and work for reconciliation and peace,
To seek the common good and to unpack that term, ‘The common good’,
It’s not communism but it is a call for greater equity,
For the poor to be lifted out of poverty and for the excessively rich to have less that both become less burdened and might have greater freedom and life,
For the marginalised, the despised, the lonely, the outcast and the refugee to be welcomed to belong,
For the oppressed to be freed, the sick healed,
For the prisoner to not be forgotten but honoured as a child of God and visited in prison,
For the weak, the vulnerable, the widowed to be protected and supported,
The grieving comforted.
The list could probably go on, but you get it. This is what we are to live for. These are the things that have attracted people to Jesus through the centuries.

It’s about us all working together to welcome God’s rule and reign, and that kingdom seeks for all people of every race and nation to be offered love and life in all its fullness. Jesus said, I have come that you might have life in all its fullness.

But we are human beings. And we need to be honest and humble enough to say that there is a perpetual brokenness about our nature individually and corporately as businesses, institutions, governments and nations that forever drifts away from God’s kingdom and that we need rescuing from ourselves. We need saving again and again. Left to our own devices, we head to greater and greater inequality, we judge, reject and are ruled by selfishness. The simple reality is that whoever is in charge, however power is shared, by Westminster, Brussels or both our leaders are and will always be human beings, full of wonderful and awful potential. The Church has always and will always continue in its role of speaking out for love, peace, justice and mercy to the powerful.

When people say that the Church should stay out of politics, they really don’t understand Christianity.

For all of these reasons, the Church of England has not taken a side in the referendum. Although we fail often, the Church’s desire is, as much as possible, to be siding with God’s Kingdom. That is why our Archbishop has spoken as he has.

Listen carefully to the words of the CofE’s Referendum Prayer,
“God of truth, give us grace… 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”

Please do vote. And however you vote, please don’t be ruled by fear, or by money, by self-interest or a narrow nationalism. However the vote goes, whoever our law and policy makers are in the future, our calling doesn’t change.  We are God’s people who live under God’s reign. We are eternally people of hope who have a vision for the greater good for all God’s children.

The question then isn’t,
What’s there for us to gain or what’s for us to lose if we are in or out of Europe, but rather, the Kingdom question is,
What can we give?

Amen

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