In a matter of days the people of Scotland will be voting in a referendum to decide whether or not they want to remain part of the United Kingdom. I have my own view on this but I don’t get a vote (as a sasanach) so this bloggage is not about my opinion.
It’s about the difficulty of making a campaign out of a negative. The campaign in favour of independence has a very simple slogan – ‘yes’. The campaign for keeping the Union has had to use ‘better together’. The ‘yes’ campaign can speak of new, exciting things – of freedom and possibilities whereas the ‘better together’ campaign can only say that it’s better now than it will be. You can’t spin ‘now’ as easily as you can spin a possible future because people know what it is like now, we don’t know what it will be like in the future.
Thinking about this was complicated further by an email conversation yesterday about whether or not to join an organisation. One of the participants was already a member and had considered leaving whereas others were not members and were wondering about the message that would be given by joining. It seems to me that publicly leaving or joining an organisation (or a country) will make a statement that others will interpret whether or not we intend it: voting in favour of Scottish independence is also a vote against the UK. Voting against Scottish independence is also a vote in favour of the UK. You might only intend one of those messages, but the other can be inferred along with it.
Christians are often portrayed as having a negative message. 7/10 of the Ten Commandments are expressed as negatives: ‘Thou shalt not’ (to use archaic language). The puritanical / Victorian approach to life based on Christian foundations was ‘no’ to most things that looked like enjoyment. The inferred message from a lot of Christian pronouncements on moral and ethical issues seems to be ‘no’ – we are against a lot of things that are an accepted part of our wider culture.
But when you look at Jesus he was not a negative person. His most famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) starts with a series of blessings. He continues by affirming people before reframing the Ten Commandments as a way of reflecting on our attitudes to others rather than a legal framework. He said that God is not interested in religious robots who follow their programming as in radical relationships with us (I paraphrase a bit). He was rather down on religious hypocrisy, admittedly, (a warning for religious people) but he suggested we replace it with a prayerful relationship with our Father in heaven. When he had a negative comment it was usually about how people had thought God wanted them to be and he replaced it with a freedom about how they could be with God.
Perhaps Christians could take a lesson from the Scottish referendum. Perhaps we could summarise Jesus’ message as both ‘yes’ and ‘better together’ and emphasise the positives. When God looks at us, the ones he created and loves, he looks at us positively, optimistically, hopefully not negatively and condemnatorily (is that a word? It is now – another new word from my bloggages). He wants us to know the joy and freedom of being in the relationship with him for which he designed us – what Jesus described elsewhere as ‘life in all its fullness’. In case you think I am saying that is a life that is a bed of roses, well I am because it contains thorns as well as fragrance and beauty. But it’s not all thorns!
Be blessed, be a blessing