So I decided to write on Brexit and religion for this month’s topic of multiple perspectives, and immediately was presented with a problem. How do I do justice to this topic? It would be very easy to come down on one side of the debate from a theological perspective. However, as a Christian, I’m obliged to give God’s perspective on the matter, not my own.
What I’m not going to discuss
I’m not going to discuss whether Brexit was a good thing to vote for Biblically speaking, there are some things that I think the EU does that are fundamentally unchristian, such as supporting abortion. I also think there were deeply Unchristian viewpoints on the side of the Brexit campaign, often being disguised as supporting controlled immigration. The rhetoric surrounding Brexit is so toxic already, that I refuse to add “God is on my side” statements to the mix. Instead, I’m going to discuss how a Christian should respond to the Brexit debate. Ultimately there is a fundamental truth that Christians on both sides need to realise:
There were many good, faithful Christians on both sides of the Brexit debate
Often in political discussions involving religion, you get people trying to say that God and Jesus Christ would support Brexit or Remain. This is not the case. I actually find it disgraceful when someone attempts to produce a hackneyed, anti-Biblical position in favour of their political ideology. While there are times when Biblical positions do need to be taken: Abortion, for example is clearly something a Christian should be against. Communism and Fascism are incompatible with Christianity. Governments have God given authority and therefore a responsibility to God to enact laws supportive of Him (Romans 13: 1-7) . However, for many positions, the Bible simply does not have a position. As the Bible was written at a time when the EU wasn’t in existence, there is little application we can make to the Brexit debate directly with it. However, that does not mean scripture has nothing to say on the topic. We’ll get to that later.
The Christian make up of Brexit
We do know how most Christians voted, which will give us some idea of the diversity of Brexit opinions in the Church. 60% of Anglicans voted to Leave, just over 50% of Roman Catholics voted to Remain, Presbyterians had slightly higher votes to Leave than Remain than Roman Catholics, Baptists and Methodists had a 50/50 split, and Other Christians voted to leave by a small margin. People who were not religious were more likely to vote Remain than Christians, being 55% in favor of Remain. This clearly means that there were Christian people that voted with their biblical conscience on both sides. We should remember that before declaring the other to be non-Christians, or indeed causing division over trivial matters that distract from God’s commands to us.
How then to respond to the Brexit debate, or indeed any other political viewpoint that the Bible does not explicitly state an opinion on? Well, let’s go to the Bible’s statements on political matters, and see what it says.
The Biblical Perspective
One of the first examples is to be found in the Gospel of Luke. When Jesus was asked by a man to force his brother to divide his inheritance, Jesus made a very clear statement: “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14) . Thus, it is not for us to say that God wants us to vote one way or another, unless the Bible explicitly condemns or supports it. Jesus is the Son of God, King of Kings, and ultimately the King over us all. Not a Brexiteer or a Remainer. However, the Bible also comes with a warning for those who attack the government:
“Let every soul be subject to governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordiance of God, and those who resist will bring judgement on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2)
While this does not mean for one moment that we shouldn’t criticise the government if they handle Brexit poorly, it does mean they ultimately have the authority to carry out government. They also have the responsibility to be competent and hard working in doing so. Thus, resisting the government violently is explicitly condemned. This is by the way, a passage written to the Church of Rome during Nero’s reign. Hardly a peaceful regime towards Christians. Thus, if the government does something we do not like, one has to acknowledge their authority in respects to worldly law, so long as they do not rebel against God.
The bottom line
As a Christian I therefore believe we have a duty to pray for our government to carry out Brexit wisely. We must call them to repent should they fail to govern wisely, and that includes going against God’s law in the Bible. We must, as Jesus said “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21). Governments and Church figures also cannot ignore the fact that Christians in large numbers voted for Brexit, and this was not divided in terms of how theologically liberal the denominations are. Those who are abusing religion by implying either side are unchristian (I’m looking at you Justin Welby) must by necessity stop. Further, Christians need to lobby the government to do the right thing in regards to a number of different issues from abortion to the family to freedom of religous speech and expression.
Clearly, the Brexit debate was not an easy decision for Christians on either side. To put it in a personal perspective: I voted for Brexit. Many of my Christian friends, including my girlfriend, voted Remain. This has not come between us, for ultimately the God of the Bible is not interested in us causing division between two sides of a political debate. He is interested only in us “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing in one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:2)
Source for all Stats: Ben Clements May 11 2017 <http://www.brin.ac.uk/2017/how-religious-groups-voted-at-the-2016-referendum-on-britains-eu-membership/>
Bible verses from the NKJV