Blog from Australia – no.2
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone – Colossians 4:6
In the providence of God I find myself on the other side of the world as my country has made the biggest decision in 50 years and the political and chattering classes have gone mad! I am profoundly grateful to be out of the irrationality, and it is profoundly interesting to observe from afar, and to some extent, through the eyes of others – “O that God would gie us, the gift to see ourselves as others see us”.
I have also decided to take a three-week fast from interaction on social media – which for me is just as well, because it seems as though a collective hysteria has gripped many people, including Christians. And this has really set me thinking. Are we as Christians supposed just to reflect the agendas and perspectives of the culture or are we supposed to be different? If the latter, in what way?
As we (eventually) flew over here I wrote an article about how I felt about the UK voting to remain in the EU – something which I expected. To be more accurate I had two articles in mind. The first was the kind of ‘how could you?’ angry article. What a bunch of idiots/cowards/selfish swine we are to have voted to have stayed in a corrupt mega corporate institution. But to be honest that was an emotive not rational and not helpful article. So it was replaced with what I hope was a more Christian response, expressing disappointment, but acknowledging the sovereignty of God, and the need for us to accept what had happened and work together both in politics and especially in bringing the gospel to the people of Europe. I was prepared for disappointment (I am after Scottish!) but was thankful that in the grand scheme of things, this was only a ‘drop in the bucket’.
And then it all went right. In the most astonishing political surprise in my lifetime the British people voted to leave the EU. The cynic in me says, ‘aye right, we’ll see if they allow that’, but the optimist radical rejoices that change is possible. So what should the reaction be of those Christians who supported Brexit? It should not be a kind of triumphalist ‘we won’, that is so often associated with your football team winning the cup. Nor should we react as if the millennium had come, and the kingdom of God arrived. That would be to give a political change the king of spiritual seismic connotations that it cannot deserve.
My own response to this vote is one of immense thankfulness that so many people voted against the Establishment and were prepared to take a risk. But it is a risk and it may not work out. I recognize the fears and sorrows of those who perceive they have the most to lose (in this case people who have benefited most from the system) and also the danger of giving false expectations to those who think this change will bring them great benefit (essentially the losers under the present system). Justice and equality are never easy and cheap. I am glad to see that whilst I have read some triumphalistic comments, they have been few and far between, and most Christians I have read commenting on this have been somber and sober. As they should be.
Some of the comments from Christians who were on the Remain side have also been sober, reflective and asking for prayer and unity. Again as I would have expected. But what I did not expect are the number of comments and posts which have reflected a very different spirit; bitter, cynical and full of contempt and fear. It seems as though the passive-aggressive posts have quickly morphed into aggressive-aggressive posts.
The passive aggressive were those who stated that their reasons for voting Remain were because they wanted international co-operation, peace and they loved their European neighbour, the not so subtle implication being that those who intended to vote Brexit did not share those altruistic motives. When the result was announced it was astonishing how quickly that desire for ‘peace, love and unity’ expressed itself in anger, hatred and disunity. Some of the vitriol has shown up the worst of Facebook/Twitter, or to be more honest, the worst of humanity. But I have been genuinely shocked at how many Christians have joined in with the mob.
I have seen posts/retweets about how dumb Britons have become (as bad as Americans supporting Trump), about how it is the end of the world (markets collapsing etc. – which by the way they have not), how those who supported Brexit were a bunch of working class racists or just too dumb to see that they were supporting racists. There seems to me to be an overwhelming identification of the church with the governing middle class ethos/values of Western society. How could working people have been so stupid and gone against the ‘experts’ (ie. those who agreed with us)? Sover There is an anger, rage and contempt that makes David Cameron’s petulance seem moderate and mature! Why?
Because there is a lack of spiritual perspective. No, this is not the end of the world, or the victory of Satan, or the forces of evil taking over. Hitler has not come to power, Boris is not the Anti-Christ and the Stockbrokers are not the Masters of the Universe (whatever their own self-perception). Christ is still on the throne. And please let us stop treating the Sovereignty of God as some kind of runners up prize! ‘Oh, we didn’t get what we wanted because of those idiotic racists, but never mind, God is still sovereign”. God would still have been sovereign if you had ‘won’. And his sovereignty (and goodness) should be our foundation, not our back up plan. If it were we would avoid a great deal of the anger, fear and self-righteous loathing that we have of others who don’t have the sense to see as we do.
Tied in with this, there is an over identification with one particular political point of view. We far too often equate our politics with the Kingdom and its just plain wrong to do so, even when our politics are right!
There is also a genuine concern for others. We are concerned about racism, about our European colleagues and friends and the direction we perceive the country to be going. That is commendable. But we also need the wisdom and humility to realize that even the best of our motives are mixed with selfishness and sin. Sometimes it is very direct. We belong to, are paid by, and benefit from, institutions that are financed by or dependent upon the EU in some way. So we are afraid about our personal circumstances. Good. That should help us understand how millions of the ‘have nots’ feel. It’s one thing for us to express ‘solidarity and sympathy’ with the poor, its another for us to have to face the same insecurities and fears, especially when we are so self-confident, self-reliant and self-assured.
There is also ignorance combined with arrogance. The truth is that we don’t know. Despite the Bible’s very clear warning that we are mist and do not know what will happen tomorrow, we think, act and write as if we do. We make our pronouncements and then we have this wonderful facility that allows us to Google articles that confirm our worst fears, which we then share as some kind of independent authority. Christians of all people should know that we cannot stay with certainty what is going to happen in our own lifes, never mind the variations of the casino that is known as the stock market! Since when did Christians base their guidance, politics and hearts on what computer algorithms do on Wall St, the City or the Borse?
Please, please, please, stop the passive aggressive and the virtue signaling. Let me mention just one example. The person who writes “I would like to reassure my European friends and colleagues in the UK, that we love you, welcome you and want you to know that we are standing with you”. It’s like the Scottish government grandiosely pronouncing that they will protect their EU citizens. From what? Are we talking about forceful repatriation, UKIP storm troopers at the door in the middle of the night, anti-French mobs patrolling the streets? It is ridiculous scaremongering – deliberately feeding fear and creating prejudice. I don’t think the French, German, Dutch, Italian, Irish, Greek and Spanish people in my congregation are in any more danger now than they were before. They are in no more danger than the Malaysians, Chinese, Africans, Americans and Australians. In two years time, if Brexit actually happens, it is not about closed borders and throwing out foreigners. I suspect that we will end up with something very similar to what we have today (with the one big difference that our elected politicians will be the ones that determine the policy – not unelected commissioners in Brussels), and even if we don’t, those who are already here, will be able to stay.
We need to calm things down, not create more rage. There is a great danger that we could be part of stoking up an atmosphere which will do a great deal of harm. There are already those who are seeking to get the result of the referendum annulled because the result did not suit them. Blame the old, blame the poor, don’t let them destroy our economy. If you really want to see chaos and the end of democracy in the UK, then watch that happen if some kind of Euro-Coup were to be staged by MPs, the City and the Middle classes.
We need to learn to be silent. To stop emoting our rage, frustration and fears in public. We need to stop stoking up fears, prejudice and ignorance. Yes – there is a place for sharing things – but we need to be aware of the teaching of James 3 – 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Lets make sure we are not adding to the collective poison of the human race by injecting even more into the Internet.
We are neither nationalists nor internationalists. We are Christians working for the Kingdom of God, working for the good of all humanity and seeking that Christ may be glorified on earth. Lets not get things out of perspective. And lets ensure that our interaction with each other and with non-Christians on social media, fulfills the scriptural injunction given by Paul in Colossians 4:
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
PS. In case you missed it – I forgot to put up our podcast on the EU vote – pre the day –