the hokey cokey referendum

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There has been a lot of heat generated by the EU Referendum in the UK. The official campaigning period started last week but the rhetoric has been flying for many months beforehand and, in my humble opinion, has generated more heat than light. The news has been full of headlines that I summarise as ‘hokey cokey’ – “in, out, in, out, shake it all about”!

So this little bloggage is my attempt at offering some reflections that are not intentionally ‘yes’ or ‘no’ biased. It is intended to ask some Bible-based questions that may help me make up my mind: to consider what the issues are.

“What is truth?”

This question is not from Jesus, but was a retort from Pilate when he was questioning Jesus after his arrest (John 18:38). It’s a pertinent question, though. What is truth?

There has already been and will continue to be plenty of spin – so much so that our brains will be dizzy by the time we come to vote. One campaign will tell us that there are benefits to voting their way, or that there are negatives about voting the other way, and the other campaign will respond by telling us that this is not true.

In response to a lot of spin and conjecture about his identity Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) The ‘truth’ he’s talking about here is himself – the truth about God – but for those who seek to follow him we seek to hold to his teaching and then we will know the truth that liberates.

So much of the rhetoric and discussion is about an unknown future. We don’t know what life would be like if Britain voted to leave the EU any more than we know what it would be like if we voted to remain. The future is uncertain and unknowable. So I ask myself, “What is truth, what is conjecture and what is spin?” And I will try to make my decision based on truth. And what aspects of Jesus’ teaching can help me?

What is the most loving option?

This is not about romance! This is about agape – the Greek word used in the New Testament to describe God’s love for us, and the way that he wants people to love one another (especially, but not limited to, followers of Jesus). Jesus taught about this love being a radically different way that seeks the best even for those who oppose us (Matthew 5:43-48).

Agape is gracious not greedy; servant-hearted not power-hungry; and selfless not selfish. My question about the EU Referendum from this is two-fold: “Who are we to love, and which outcome will enable us to be most loving towards them?”

Who is our neighbour?

When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) he shocked his listeners by making the hero of his story someone whom they hated by virtue of his nationality. This was in response to a question, “Who is my neighbour?” and that in turn was in response to a summary of the Old Testament Law: ‘Love (agape) God wholeheartedly and love (agape) your neighbour as yourself’ (my paraphrase).

At the end of the story Jesus bounced the question back at the person who’d asked it – “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The (perhaps reluctant) answer was “The one who had mercy on him” and Jesus told his listeners to go and do likewise. So my question about the EU Referendum is, “Which approach enables us to show most mercy on those in need?”

“I have come that they might have life… to the full.”

Jesus made this statement (John 10:10) when he was teaching about himself and contrasting himself with people who were only looking for what they could get out of life and of others.

What does ‘life to the full’ look like? Many of the arguments I have heard so far are about economics, but there is much more to life than money. Accepting that part of what Jesus was talking about was a relationship with God (which neither ‘in’ nor ‘out’ can offer), but also that Jesus was talking about more than that too, my question is: “Which approach will enable people to have life to the fullest?”

“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Jesus said this in response to an attempt to trap him into a position that polarised opinion (Luke 20:20-26).  He refused to allow people to label him or push him into a corner. He refused to allow himself to be manipulated.

My question here is not about taxation. It’s based on a recognition that a ‘yes/no’ referendum is, by definition, polarising. However, deciding to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ does not mean that you have to agree with everything that is associated with that campaign. “Which outcome is least likely to mean that you feel manipulated into a position that you do not wish to be associated with?”

 

These few questions are not intended to be the exhaustive list of questions I am asking myself about this referendum. But they are intended to help me think beyond the rhetoric, beyond self-interest and beyond economics and think about how I can engage helpfully in the politics.

Be blessed, be a blessing

the parable of the good…

Some thinking required
Some reflection required

If Jesus was telling the parable of the Good Samaritan to a church today (recognising that he had a religious audience) who would be the characters in order to have the same shocking impact as the Jewish victim and the Samaritan hero? It’s worth noting that even though the Samaritan was the hero of his story that does not mean that Jesus agreed with him on every point. He was merely a shocking illustration to show what a good neighbour looks like.

The parable of the hoody Samaritan? An old lady is mugged in the street and the hero turns out to be a hoody-wearing teenager who has previously been making fun of her.

The parable of the good muslim. A racist man throws a petrol bomb at a mosque and is injured by the explosion. The Imam takes him into his home and tends his wounds.

If these are not sufficiently disturbing for Christians, let me try this version:

A fundamentalist Christian was preaching in the street. He was denouncing all kinds of evil in society: especially condemning the British Government for introducing legislation to legalise same sex marriage and being particularly scathing about gay men and women.

As he spoke he suffered a sudden serious heart attack and collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

“Serves him right,” said one onlooker. “He should not be such a bigot.”

“Thank goodness that he has stopped preaching,” said a passing vicar. “He’s ruining the reputation of Christians.”

But a gay couple stopped where he lay. One gave cardiac massage while the other called for an ambulance. The man regained consciousness and one of the couple took off his coat and made a pillow on the ground while the other spread his coat over the stricken preacher to keep him warm until the ambulance arrived.

Jesus said, “Which of these do you think was a neighbour to the man who had a heart attack?”

[insert your answer here]

Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

If that does not make you feel uncomfortable (which may or may not be a good thing) how about this question for reflection: Is the ‘do likewise’ about being kind and nice and helpful?

Or is it actually about asking for his Spirit to help us to overcome our prejudices and living graciously?

And if you want to feel really uncomfortable, try this question for size: who might Jesus make the hero of the story if he was telling it to you?

Be blessed, be a blessing.