I know that I’m not alone in reaching Thursday’s choice to stay in or leave the European Union (EU) a bit bamboozled by the fear-inducing spin and counter-spin from both sides of the political divide. What I am sure of is that, whichever way we step, in or out of the EU we will still be well short of the neighbour loving society Jesus calls us to and died for.
MP Jo Cox’s tragic death at the hands of someone with alleged mental health issues who violently disagreed with her on the relationship between Britain and the EU, has heightened attention and sharpened focus on where unrestrained prejudice, anti-Muslim hatred, and pure racism can lead.
Robina Qureshi (Positive Action in Housing) writes, “Racially aggravated crime is the most common of all hate crimes. In the most recent police statistics in Scotland, racist hate crime has increased (again). Anti Muslim hate crime has doubled. When you have the Prime Minister of this country talking about “swarms” of refugees and “a bunch of migrants” it is to be expected.”
I like my friend James Cathcart’s (DIY #euroref) guileless and aspirational approach to avoiding apathy and taking seriously what, we’re told, is a critical decision. He suggests we try to engage with the issues but above all go with our gut, “Travel with your decision. Tune out of the soap opera and carry meaningfully your thoughts and feelings about life and sovereignty and cooperation. Let the vote itself change you. Not the petty in-fighting. Instead of feeling numbed by it all we have the opportunity to feel more. It’s hard because there isn’t much time and what we have been offered hasn’t been that inspiring. But nonetheless we are being invited to participate in a vastly complex and important issue. And we can reclaim the process.”
Another sure thing (for me) is that beyond Thursday the challenge remains: ‘to hear God’s voice above conflict and clamour, recognising ‘God’ as The central authority (not parliaments in Brussels, London or Edinburgh), and to follow Christ’s clarion call to sacrificial service and full living in him. Jesus’ words (Matthew 5 / Message):
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”