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

do the hokey votey: in, out, or shake it all about?

X In CheckboxIt was an election day yesterday. I had the opportunity to put my kiss* on a piece of paper to declare my democratic love for a local council candidate and some candidates for the European Parliament.

I was surprised when I was handed the ballot paper for the European Parliament to see just how long it was. They almost had to give it to me as a scroll! Alongside the traditional mainstream parties were some new parties, some single issue parties, some extremist parties, and some parties I have never heard of before. We’ll have to wait until Sunday before we find out who has won as the rest of Europe is still voting in their own European Parliamentary elections.

But based on the local election results so far there is an expectation that the UK Independence Party (UKIP) will have done well. I am not going to tell you exactly who received my electoral love* (it was one of the older established parties) but the long list got me wondering. And the success of UKIP in local elections crystallised my wondering into pondering:

Is it just me, or do you see the irony of a party that was founded to get the UK out of Europe sending candidates to participate in the European Parliament – the very organ of democracy they want us to leave? How can you be engaged in the EU if you don’t want to be a part of it?

And that’s when it hit me. That’s just like the way that some Christians see ‘the world’. They see it as inherently evil: to be shunned, avoided, and only engaged with at arm’s length. They see it as something to come out of and withdraw from. They see it as something that will tarnish them.

But that’s not what I see Jesus doing when I read the gospels. In fact, I see him doing exactly the opposite. He throws himself in headfirst. He engages with and confronts evil. He seeks to undermine and destroy injustice. He affirms the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalised. He criticises the religious people who want to withdraw. He goes all out to affirm (as Genesis 1 does) that God’s world is inherently good. Yes, it is no longer as he intended it. Yes we can see evil things happening and evil people at large. But God’s idea, embodied in Jesus, is to redeem and renew his world not to abandon it.

Jesus came into the world not to bring us out of it but to shake it all about so it could be more like God planned it to be, and one day that work will be complete. He asks us to get involved in that process today. What might that look like?

Be blessed, be a blessing