Some people have asked me if Christians should vote a particular way in the Brexit referendum.
My answer is YES: we should vote REMAIN, and for the following reasons.
1. Protection of the poor and vulnerable. Regardless of whether you are politically on the left or the right, it is clear that the policies of those leading the Leave campaign do not favour the poor and vulnerable in our society. Those of us who work among people in such situations know how difficult life has become in recent years with the threats to Human Rights, slashing of benefits, the destruction of Legal Aid, the unjust rise in Home Office fees, the Right to Rent, and so on. Under a government led by those favouring Leave, indeed under any government operating in the political climate of a Leave result, things would only get worse for those who are most vulnerable.
Christians, along with Jews and Muslims, have an explicit Scriptural duty to protect the vulnerable as a matter of utmost importance, (Ps 82:3).
2. Peace. The European Union was borne out of a desire for peace. Being part of it would never be easy, but Remaining is the Peacemaker’s option. 70 years of peace in Europe has been a wonderful gift, but let’s not forget that our hunger for war has merely been displaced to other arenas: notably Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. The EU has not stopped unnecessary war, but it remains a major force for peace in Europe – a peace that should never be taken for granted.
Christians, along with Jews and Muslims, have an explicit Scriptural duty to “seek peace and pursue it”,(Ps 34:14). Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” When I look at the two campaigns in this referendum, I do not see peacemaking on either agenda. But the Leave campaign in particular is not one which makes for peace.
3. Collaboration. The EU is all about collaboration – and of course this is not always easy. The Leave campaign talk about losing our sovereignty, but of course we do have representation at the EU; and let’s not forget that every international treaty is by definition a curtailing of sovereignty: Think of the start of WW1 – a war which we “were obliged” to enter because of an alliance with Belgium. Sometimes the Leave campaign seem to want Britain to exist in “Splendid Isolation”. But there is nothing splendid in isolation. It leads to weakness and lack of options.
Collaboration can be challenging. We don’t always get what we want. But collaboration is how God has created the world to flourish, so leaving the table is a retrograde step in living up to the human calling God has for us.
4. Immigration. Difference is may be challenging from time to time, but above all it is enriching. The bottom line on immigration is that it is a very good thing. British culture has been built upon it from the earliest times. There are specific challenges arising from immigration. But the real problems we face in this country are not caused by it, even if they are exacerbated by it in localised situations. When Boris Johnson paints the spectre of “70 million Turks” arriving here, he is deliberately appealing to our fear of difference; by calling them “Turks” rather than “Turkish People” he’s using a word that emphasises this further.
The Christian vision to which we are called is one in which the gifts of all nations are celebrated together., (Rev. 21:24). We need to rise above using migrants as scapegoats and create a culture in which we rejoice in thriving together.
5. Reality. The option to Remain is firmly based in the reality of here and now. But the Leave campaign is fueled by nostalgic dreams of a past that we cannot return to – even supposing that it ever existed. An example of this is the belief that by leaving the EU we can “make Britain great again.” Does this mean rebuilding a global empire? Such an enterprise is both questionable and impossible. It is not only a fantasy, but one based on avarice and pride. Other more specific examples are beliefs such as that leaving will “solve” immigration, keep terrorists out, deal with the housing crisis, fill the black hole in the NHS. None of these assertions have any real credibility, but are largely wishful thinking.
The Christian faith is all about living in the real world, (1 John 1:1). In Jesus, God was enfleshed in human history. His life and death were real. As Christians, we continue to practice our faith by serving real people in the real world. Our faith is not about isolation and domination, but about playing our part and taking our place. We have no interest in fantasy.
To Conclude: In sharing the thoughts above, there are countless other arguments and angles I could have taken, joining the speculation on winners and losers. But, as a teacher of the Christian faith, I have chosen to focus on five principles which I believe should at least inform, if not guide a Christian vote.
For me, the issue is very clear – but you must decide for yourself.