To misquote the well known maxim, “There are lies, damned lies, and things politicians will say to get you to vote one way or another in the Brexit referendum.”
If you believe the headlines, voting to leave will lead to the price of our holidays rising, widespread economic catastrophes, and ultimately, war. Which makes you wonder why the government is prepared to give us the opportunity to leave!
However, if you believe the headlines, voting to remain will lead to Britain being overrun with foreign people, who will steal our jobs and wealth and erode our national identity, whilst faceless bureaucrats in Brussels make laws on our behalf. And eventually there will be war.
It all sounds like we are being asked to vote for which way we’d like to face the impending, inevitable Armageddon - as part of the EU, or not.
There’s a lot of hot air emanating from politicians and the mainstream media, and it is difficult to see through the fog that it creates.
But behind the fog, there are some real issues that Christians ought to consider before casting their votes on 23 June.
The question is: how should a Christian approach this important decision?
A good starting point is to remember something important about our true citizenship.
Philippians 3:20 tells us that “our citizenship is in heaven”. That means we belong to a different Kingdom.
Whether or not Britain remains in the EU has no effect on this.
And having a heavenly citizenship means that different rules and considerations apply when we ponder how we ought to use our vote.
It is easy to pick holes in the arguments of both sides, because both make cases that attempt to appeal to our inherent greed, or play on people’s fears to create divisions between people. And these are principles that ought not to be a part of the decision-making of someone who professes to follow Jesus.
It is not about my prosperity, but the good of others
When we are told that voting a certain way will leave us out of pocket, the response of a heavenly citizen is not to vote for the way that will make me wealthier, but to think about the outcome that will benefit society as a whole. Even if that makes me worse off.
Because my prosperity is less important than the needs of others.
This is especially true when we contemplate those who are marginalised in society - the poor, the sick, the outcasts, refugees, those that society has forgotten. Because often, the outcome that is best for them is not the best for me.
It is impossible to read the Bible and not see God’s undeniable bias towards these very people.
And when we consider sacrifice as the correct response to selfishness, we remember that Jesus himself made the ultimate sacrifice for us - forsaking the comfort and riches of heaven to die a criminal’s death on a wooden cross.
It is not about fear, but love
When politicians and the media attempt to spread fear, the response of a heavenly citizen is to remember that God’s perfect love casts out fear. That divisions between people - particularly racial divisions, is the very antithesis of a gospel that is for all peoples of the earth.
We are not called to live in a spirit of fear. Instead we are to be propelled by a love for people around us. We are not to build walls that divide. Instead we are to build bridges that unite.
Ultimately, as followers of Jesus we are called to love everyone around us - even our enemies. And we remember that Jesus, our ultimate example of sacrificial and perfect love, didn’t just love those that opposed him, but he died for them.
It is not about nationalism, but a Christ-centred identity
When the issue of national identity and ‘British values’ is discussed, the response of a heavenly citizen is to recognise that our identity is not tied to our nationality, ethnicity or history, but rather it is tied to Christ. We remember the eternal truths that we are God’s children, adopted in to his family. Heirs. Sons and daughters of the King. That we are living temples of God’s Spirit, called to bring hope to the world.
How much greater is that as a root for our identity than any vague concepts of ‘Britishness’?
This is not to say that patriotism and being proud of a national heritage is wrong - there are many aspects of British culture for which I am incredibly thankful for. But to see ‘my tribe’ as better than others - to love my nation at the expense of others, only leads to territorialism because that sense of superiority means ascribing a lower value or worth to ‘outsiders’.
But for those who are citizens of heaven, we see no-one as more or less valuable, because we see that every person is made in the image of God, and therefore has dignity and worth.
Which way should I vote? The answer is…
The purpose of this blog is not to persuade anyone to vote one way or the other. The Brexit question is morally neutral, but the issues that are being discussed by both sides are not. The challenge for Christians is to think about these issues with a different mindset. To be truly countercultural in our thinking and, as heavenly citizens, to put the values of God’s Kingdom first. Then we can go to the polls on referendum day armed with a decision based wisdom rather than fear.