In the long distant past of the referendum campaign, the Archbishop of Canterbury came out on the side of the Remainers, warning Christians against “succumbing to our worst instincts”. Of course, the CofE would not dream of telling us how to vote, but it was clear they thought that a good Christian would be one of the mainstream elite who voted Remain. Many Christians think the whole idea of a referendum was a mistake. At the Christian Responsibility for Public Affairs discussion group, who met last week, it was suggested that on important issues the State should follow the rules of the Synod and only allow a ‘win’ with a two thirds majority. With a close result of 48:52, that would have meant a draw and maybe a re-think about the whole process.
So what do Christians think about Brexit? Some are still upset, and were reminded by the discussion chair Lord (Brian) Griffiths of Fforestfach of the importance of a spirit of understanding not division. Brian is good fun, but some Christians are unutterably smug.
There was a pervasive idea that if you voted leave you must be racist or at the least approve of hanging and flogging. This comes from a BBC anti-Brexit story, where we were told that if you answered ‘yes’ to questions such as, ‘Do you think criminals should be publicly whipped?’ or ‘Are you in favour of the death penalty?’ it was a predictor of you voting ‘Leave’. As pointed out by David Keighley on this site, the BBC had misrepresented the research, but it is still deeply galling to be bracketed as someone too stupid to know what they were voting for.
The Christian Remainers had some interesting insights. Stephen Beer, who ran the Christian Socialist Alliance and is Chief Investment Officer for the Methodist Church, pointed out that our leaders do not have a belief in their own narrative anymore, but he thinks the UK faces inflation, higher prices, stagnation and unemployment that will further affect the poor. He had the old narrative of fear mixed with a call for truth and reconciliation. The ordained Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint suggested that we should be more honest about our past, perhaps we would not be so confident in going it alone if we remembered our horrible colonial history and countries like Iran where we have made unforgettable mistakes.
But the Brexiteers had all the best tunes. Tim Montgomerie of The Times, who in a previous life ran the Conservative Christian Fellowship, and Iain Duncan Smith, who set up the Centre for Social Justice, pointed out that we are all Europeans – but not part of a European nation where one tiny country can veto progress. More to the point, although Christian Brexiteers know Jesus would have said. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, Tim believes we can be good neighbours without wanting to remain a corporate tenant.
I am not a member of the Christian Responsibility in Public Affairs discussion group, but I am hoping that they might invite me again because applying Christianity to Brexit was a great discussion. Particularly so, because Christians not only have interesting ideas but serve a fine glass of white wine post-debate.
(Image: Mick Baker)