“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”! Really? “The Government is upon His shoulders …. and He will be called the Prince of Peace”
I have tried to avoid personal public comment on the Referendum, until today. My instinct has always been to want people to listen to my preaching rather than my politics. And taking a view on whether we remain in or out of Europe has always seemed to me to put that in jeopardy.
However, I respect those Christian and Christian leaders who approach things differently. And I am grateful for their contributions, especially those like me, who in reality come to rest on the conviction that all political systems are human and therefore flawed. The City of God alone will remain when all Empires fall, as they will, whether civilisations built on votes or those founded on violence. That does not mean that all systems are equally bad, there are some that are better than others. But it is always a relative judgement.
Winston Churchill was supposed to have said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried”. He’s right. The freedom of speech and expression which attaches to the democratic world view is a precious thing we need to preserve and uphold. It is the foundation of so many liberties.
I’m quite sure that the 51.9% of the UK citizens who voted “out” applaud democracy today. But they must allow the 48.1% who voted “in”, to disagree with them.
For the latter group, the vox populi has troublingly produced, at least initially, an uncertain vacuum in which Boris may now become King of England, Nicola Queen of Scotland, a society is divided, and the City and financial markets panicked.
What we all need in this moment is to reach out beyond the rhetoric of both sides and find a voice that heals. We need, among other key things, to find a credible language that says to all who live, work or seek true asylum here in Britain from other countries, “you are still welcome ”.
Democracy is a curious thing. It is the darling of Western liberalism, particularly the British parliamentary variety. And so today it has enjoyed exalted status as the “sacred flame”. This seismic result has even merited comparisons from secularists with the 16th Century Reformation.
As a student of political history, I find such perspectives amusing. They illustrate on the one hand how little history we actually appear to know. Nigel Farage and Martin Luther are theologically and politically miles apart. On the other hand, if this victory by a tiny majority opinion on a complex economic, political and cultural issue , impossible to reduce to a simplistic “ yes or no”, is described in such glorious terms , we really are worshipping an idol with feet of clay. For all ideas, even the greatest ones, have the potential to become idols.
Nor does my silence mean that I am apolitical or that I failed to vote. I stood in the rain for ten minutes last night and got very wet in the exercise of my democratic duty. And I do have a political point of view informed by theology, history and culture. But to express that in the measured, nuanced way required by this subject matter, would take an essay not a blog post !
Nor does my stance mean that Christian faith has nothing to speak into the world of politics. Jesus said “render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s”. And he also commented to Caesar’s representative, “my kingdom is not of this world”. In other words, His Kingdom is the result not of a ballot box, much less the barrel of a gun, but the carrying of a cross.
So from the Sovereign will of the people, we are pointed to the higher throne of heaven, to the King who rules over all. To those fearful that post Christian Britain is drowning in a sea of moral relativism and intolerance of Christian truth and therefore needs politicians to rescue its Judaeo Christian heritage, we say, the gospel will triumph, the Kingdom will come and the King will return.
It is the Word of God and the Spirit of God which will renew the people of God not a referendum. A revived Church will save the nation. Politics cannot do that.
This is a day then to rejoice in our freedom to proclaim Christ to the nations and to pray for all those in authority. It is a day for the believer and the Church not to play politics but to be the good news.