There is, it seems, only one thing on the nation’s mind at the moment – Brexit! Yes, on the 23rd June we are invited to vote in the EU Referendum, answering the question – Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? It’s a simple question, but one that has been branded as the most important question we will answer in our generation. A simple question it may be, but the issues are many and complex with no shortage of ‘spin’ and emotion attached which leads to a rather confusing picture. Both sides of the argument are currently trotting out report after report, claim and counter-claim, figures and statistics all of which support their position, so trying to make an informed choice based on facts rather than myths and half-truths is proving rather difficult – and there’s still nearly a month to go!
So what are we to make of all this? Does our faith in Jesus give us a particular angle from which to approach this issue? Whilst the outcome of the vote might not affect us directly as a church, there are certainly issues that, as Christians, we must care about.
In response to this, the Joint Public Issues Team of the URC, which speaks on Church and Society matters, has produced a booklet called ‘Think, Pray, Vote’ with some notes and resources to aid with reflection and conversation as we approach the Referendum. I have found this helpful as it sets out the main issues and considers some of the biblical and theological perspectives that are raised by them.
The starting point for these reflections is the greatest commandment as recorded in Matthew Ch22 – “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”, while the second is to “love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments, we are told, hang the law and the prophets (Matt 22:36-40).
In his blog on the JPIT website, Andrew Tomlinson points out that Jesus places our relationship with other people alongside our relationship with God – and the command to love our neighbour and to love God are both non-negotiable. He says ‘Our relationship with our fellow human beings is both informed by and part of how we relate to God. The two are intertwined.’
At the heart of the Referendum debate is the question about our relationship with Europe, as a nation – yes, but perhaps also as individuals too. Last month we asked ‘who is my neighbour?’ in the context of Christian Aid Week. This time we ask the same question but about our neighbours in Europe.
Andrew Tomlinson asks – ‘To what extent… does the European Union enhance or hinder our ability to love our neighbour, and in doing so our God?’.
There is, of course, no single answer to this, but it is certainly one worthy of thought as we approach the vote on the 23rd June, the impact of which remains largely in the realm of conjecture and speculation.
Think, Pray, Vote and Andrew Tomlinson’s Blog are available from the JPIT website – www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/issues/eu-referendum/