Europe Politics

The EU Referendum Code – What Christians Really Mean!



Todays article in Christian Today – The Referendum Code

Those of us who are Christians know that words matter, and those who have been observing the EU referendum debate know that how they are said matters, too. As I observe the Christian responses ahead of Thursday’s vote, I see how we as Christians so often use our words badly.

Some are less than subtle. I heard of one Irish Presbyterian minister who warned his congregation not to vote for the EU, which he called the “whore of Babylon”. Then there’s the Anglican vicar who suggested those who vote to leave are “a bit racist”. Not to mention church leaders who struggle to decide whether Jesus actually died for our sins but seem to have no doubts that he would definitely have been pro-EU.

However, most Christians are more subtle than that and I have noticed that evangelical Christians have developed a particular code that I will attempt to decipher, and offer an alternative in plain English…

“God is a God of love and unity”

I doubt any Christian is going to disagree with that truth. But it’s the implicit application that is made which concerns me. The Trinity and love of God is not a reason to support the political project of the EU. Indeed to suggest it is, is somewhat blasphemous, just as it would be to suggest the opposite. It also manages to combine virtue signalling (‘look how loving I am’) with passive-aggressiveness. Those who vote to leave the EU are clearly not the kind and loving person that Jesus would want them to be.

“I want to work together with our neighbours”

In the Scottish referendum we witnessed the same passive-aggressiveness: We are ‘better together’. Those who vote to leave are narrow-minded nationalistic separatists who hate the French, despise the Germans and want to abandon the Greeks. But this referendum is not about leaving Europe (despite all the misquotes of John Donne), and it is not about whether we should work with our neighbours, but rather the best way to do so. What if being part of a undemocratic corporate political entity is not the best way to work together?

“As children of God we should not find our identity in nationality”

Well, amen to that. But does that mean that those who believe a nation should govern itself are finding their identity in nationality? And why so Eurocentric? One of the reasons that I am voting to leave is because as a Christian I don’t want to see Fortress Europe, where there is freedom of movement for (mainly white) Europeans, while Africans, Asians, Arabs and Americans are restricted.

“I am for peace”

Whereas those who don’t want to join a European army are for war? Is it really the case that the EU is the cause of peace rather than the result of it? Maybe Nato had something to do with it? Perhaps the creation of world superblocks is more likely to lead to serious conflicts than the continuation of separate smaller sovereign states?

“No one is perfect”

Often used to defend the EU from those who would point out its many faults, as though they were claiming perfection was elsewhere. The doctrine of original sin can be easily misused.

“They are not very nice”

The reverse of ‘no-one’s perfect’. This time we forget the doctrine of sin and instead point out how horrible it is to identify with nasty people such as Farage/Gove/Boris. I personally don’t know these men and so can’t really comment on their characters, but then I’m not voting for them in the EU referendum. I’m voting for whether my country should be governed by those we elect, or by those who are appointed from elsewhere.

“Think of the poor”

Amen. Preach it brother. But what were you thinking? That the reason most of the major multi-national corporations, billionaires and elites are for the EU is because they are concerned for the poor? Hallelujah, the Millennium has arrived! The Kingdom of God is here!  Or maybe one of the reasons those of us who are voting to leave is because we too are concerned for the poor, for the increasing atomisation of society into the haves and have nots, and about the development of a Europe where the rich can get their wage slaves ever cheaper, without having to import people from far away countries?

“Think of the gospel”

Of all the reasons I have heard this is the most surreal and out of touch. Does the gospel need the EU? Is the Holy Spirit restricted by British Christians having to get visas (the worst case scenario)? Does the Roman road mean Easy Jet flights to Milan, or is it not about the power of the gospel to overcome all obstacles? We are not voting for a mission strategy for the church, we are voting for a political deal for all the peoples of Europe.

I realise that there are Christians who disagree with my stance. That’s fair enough. I don’t want Britain to be part of an anti-democratic, autocratic, European Super State designed for the benefit of the corporations and the elites, while they think we are making the mistake of leaving EU Utopia for a little nationalistic island. Let’s make our votes prayerfully, humbly and considerately, but please spare me the passive-aggressive Christian jargonese!   I much prefer plain speaking.   The Lord’s will, will be done!

David Robertson is the moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and director of Solas CPC, Dundee. Follow him on Twitter @theweeflea.



  1. David, I like most people believe that how they vote on any matter is private and not for public consumption. Enjoy Australia and the grandchild! Glad to hear the passport issue was resolved.

    1. And I, like most democrats, have no problem with people discussing politics and putting forward a particular political position in public! Loving being in Oz!

  2. Claim: The EU preserved the peace of Europe. It is possible to argue that the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, a precursor of the EU, helped to avoid war as it helped to integrate the French and German coal and steel industries. However, the single biggest factor was the threat (real or imagined makes no difference) from the Soviet Union. Countries will always unite against what they see as a common threat. Witness Churchill’s comments about Stalin’s USSR when it was invaded by the Germans. When the Americans finally woke up to what Stalin was up to they couldn’t be quick enough to rearm Germany.

    “As children of God we should not find our identity in nationality”.
    Maybe so but that does not mean that we should despise or ignore our nationality.
    Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. (Revelation 14:6)
    But it is interesting that a lot of Churches were founded in the sixteenth century and afterwards which were centred on nationality. The Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, and so on. The founders of these Churches clearly saw their identity in nationality.

    1. There is a measure of truth in what you say, Mike,
      because, even if putting the country name in the church title originally had more to do with national location than it had to do with national identity, there was an inherent temptation to appropriate the national church as part of the national identity right away.
      David’s slight confusion over the Burns brothers – – got me curious about Islay Burns and his writings. In the life of his father, Wm. Hamilton Burns, minister of Kilsyth, Burns Jr. remarks that before the Disruption that formed the Free CoS, his father was very much inclined to talk in terms of his parish but after the Disruption he was much more inclined to talk in terms of his congregation. Renewal among Christians is much more likely to have us view ourselves as being the people of God in a certain location or, better, as part of the people of God in that location, don’t you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: