How did we get here, who is to blame and what is the solution?
Would you say that Christianity is more left or right leaning, more socialist or capitalist, more Labour or Conservative, or more Liberal Democrat?! To be topical with all that is happening, does Christianity point towards favouring a ‘Brexit’ of looser ties to the EU (either with a deal or no deal) or to ‘Remain’ with the existing arrangement? What if any wisdom, does Christianity have to give?
From Christian truths and values, I think a case can be built for either direction, or should I say something of both. The commandment to ‘Love our neighbour’ and other bible verses would seem to support the case for being as close as possible to our geographical neighbours, for example not to walk away, but rather to work together on difficulties by being in regular contact, talking and having as close a relationship as possible. However, other Christian truths and values, for example around ‘freedom and sovereignty’ of people and cultures, would seem to point to a limit on the extent of having an overarching European identity/organisation diminishing individual nations. Do we already have the right balance despite some difficulties, or if not, what should a looser arrangement be?
In my view there is a fine balance in the argument. On the economic front there are enormous benefits to being in a closely integrated EU, but what of those who are excluded on the outside of the EU? With regard to people and freedom of movement, it does provide opportunities for individuals, but what of the difficulties caused in the sending communities e.g., of losing people and skills, and in the receiving communities e.g., the speed of change leading to poor integration. I don’t have clear answers like any of us, but whatever the final outcome (a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit, a resurrected Theresa May Brexit or possibly eventually remain as we are) these are the substantive issues that need to be fully thought through and addressed.
Leaving the issue of Brexit/Remain itself to one side, it seems to me given the amount of time that has passed and the depth of feeling/division that have been generated, we now are now wrestling with something even bigger than Brexit/Remain itself: how did we get here, who is to blame and what is the solution? G K Chesterton has some challenging quotations that give insight and I think are worth reflecting on:
“Abolish God, and the government becomes the God.” – perhaps we are going wrong because we have given up on God and his values, made ourselves and Politicians into God (and our saviour) and so we go around in circles! In my view we need to re-think what kind of Democracy would be more pleasing to God.
“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” – perhaps our answers lie not so much in our system of Politics (progressive or conservative) but much more in who we are as people, whatever the system.
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” – perhaps in our personal attitudes and actions, we need to get back to the kind that Jesus modelled, the importance of the individual, but individuals living a tolerant and loving kind of community.
In summary, I don’t have all the answers to my own questions, but I am coming to the personally uncomfortable conclusion, that we perhaps need to stop blaming others so much for the situation we are in (politicians and other institutional leaders) and instead look more to ourselves. Isn’t this the truth?: we get the politicians and politics that we deserve…they are a product of what we are like. If this is true, it must be the case that until we start changing ourselves (or allow God to change us) we are unlikely to become more of the society we need to be, and so regain the kind of politicians and politics that can move us forward.
My prayer for October is that we would all wake up to seeing how we got here, that we are all part of the problem, but with God’s help things can turn around for ourselves and our nation.
Revd James Hunt – Rector St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham and Blessed Mary Upham
15th September 2019