Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Belly Buttons – Innie or Outie?

Whoops! I got mixed up.  It’s not about belly buttons. It’s a European Union Referendum.  Mind you the quality of the debate hasn't been that spectacular and arguably there has been plenty of navel gazing.  Innie or Outie?

I have found the posturing and shouting statistics at one another a pretty poor way to handle something as important as this.  Yah boo politics which we still see far too often in the House of Commons really does not work within the outside world of public engagement.

I am pleased that locally we had a debate that was a very different flavour with great respect for each other from both sides.  Try listening to it if you like Portland European Union Referendum Hustings

As a Christian I try to come at the question of whether we should be part of the European Union prayerfully and mindful of some general principles in the Bible.

For what it is worth I share those thoughts here.

Jesus seems to have been about breaking down barriers rather than setting them up.  In John’s gospel in Chapter 4 Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman.  The Jews and the Samaritans did not like each other.  In this case though Jesus crosses many cultural and religious boundaries as he talks with the woman. This was a theme that was picked up in the letter to the Church at Galatia where we read “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

God deals in community not just individuals.  We see this throughout the Bible.  God meets individuals and individuals express their faith in him.  Yet God also raises up a people for himself to be his representatives and to be a light to others.  In the New Testament of the Bible Jesus called disciples to himself.  One might have thought that the Son of God could have gone it alone, but he does not.  Instead he shares with others.  God relates to communities as well as individuals.  Similarly we need to place great value on communities.

God created a world.  We are told about that in the book of Genesis.  (Whether you think that literally is not the point.)  The principle is one world.  As such we need to find ways to be connected and to care for the world as a world.  We are called to care for the world whether rich or poor.  By distancing ourselves from others, as individuals and nations we may undermine that.  Maybe we need the challenge of many people wanting to come to this country to remind us of the way that we have helped to ruin so many others countries in so many ways that the people that live there do not want to do so any longer! The world is global is to state the obvious.

The Kingdom of God is a space for all to rest.  In Mark’s Gospel Jesus speaks about a mustard seed growing and becoming huge so that the birds can rest in the shade (Mark 4:30-32).  If the Kingdom of God makes room for people to rest and shelter then that is a good example for us to follow.  How hospitable are we?

Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbour.  It seems quite hard to me to love and neighbour and hold them at arm’s length – well Channel’s width in our case!  It is partly about a mind-set.  As Christians should we be looked for ways to hold out a hand of friendship wherever possible or to push people away?

For all these reasons and more I shall be voting to remain in the European Union.

I do not vote to remain in the European Union because it is perfect.  Cleary there are things that might be improved. It is easier though to work for change from the inside.  This is what Jesus did.  He came to Earth, born as a man so he could change things form the inside.  When Jesus did it he dealt with sin and death and brought change and victory in those areas.  Working from the inside!  It’s not a bad model.   Jesus could have stayed separate from us safe in heaven in case he was soiled by us or in case it was not in his best interests (arguably it wasn’t – he was crucified).  But that risk was worth taking because it is always easier to change something from the inside.

The Church needs to act responsibly and not align itself with scaremongering or spurious unsubstantiated claims – particularly the type that circulates around Facebook.  The linking of the European Union with various Bible texts about End Times and the Devil are usually not open to serious scrutiny.  Many of the links they make have been used routinely over the years with many other things that equally have proved not to be about the End Times or the Devil.

There is nothing wrong with understanding and valuing our own tradition, culture, country or religion.  However it is good to then build bridges with others rather than barriers.  To leave the European Union would mean burning a pretty big bridge, and one that will not be rebuilt. For those who think they will take back control.  You won’t.  It will be the politicians that have control.  Just as they do now.

My greatest worry is that people do not vote and whatever the result is it will remain contested in conversation, minds and politics with attempts at an early revisit of the question because there is no clear mind or decision.  That would be a mess.

When someone leaves a marriage and there is a subsequent divorce even the most amicable are long drawn out affairs, expensive, and usually painful.  There is no reason to think that leaving the EU will be simple.  It will be long, drawn out, divert resources to the work that will have to be done, create confusion and not create independence because the world is interlinked in so many ways already.

So I am an Innie.  Might I invite you to be an Innie also?  But whatever you think please do not be a navel gazer on Thursday.  Do vote.  May God guide and bless us.