Unless you have been living on another planet over the last month or so, it would have been impossible to miss the EU Referendum; the Leave and Remain campaigns, the electioneering and the ultimate outcome.
The written press, TV, radio and social media has been dominated by not only politicians, but by ordinary people whose opinions have been applauded, vilified, destroyed and championed – almost in equal measure. Never, well certainly not in my lifetime, has a political campaign so polarised the country. And never has the outcome created so much division and hostility that it has divided families, friends, neighbourhoods nd political parties. What is more astonishing though, is that it has revealed to me where the heart and minds are of the people who voted – or perhaps didn’t – and how they now see their futures.
Firstly, let’s consider how the Leave and Remain campaigns so divided the nation and why, frankly, it was a hard one to call.
If, like me, you grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the political lines between Conservative and Labour were very clearly drawn. You knew where you stood – right or left, Thatcher or Kinnock. There was no ambiguity. Over the years, undoubtedly, the lines have become more blurred. Conservatives, disillusioned with the Tories of the ‘90s, voted for “New Labour” - more right wing, more attractive, more appealing to a new generation of voters. More recently, the coalition government of Cameron and Clegg further muddied the waters. At that point we had a government that was neither right nor left; no clearly defined policies, a mix of right and a little bit left and no significant progress as the government tried to appease both sides. And then to the Referendum, where the political lines could not be more faint. Probably for the first time in history, the country was not divided along political lines in a political race, but along lines of age, race, class and financial wealth. And even our Christian brothers and sisters were divided along the lines of their faith – those believing that Europe would see the ushering in of End Times and those whose understanding of Revelation in no way stirred their belief that the New World Order was coming any time soon. So where were you?
Watching the referendum campaign play out on social media was perhaps the worst aspect of this whole campaign, but for me, the most shocking part was after the result was announced. It was only then that the true hearts of people were revealed. It was here that I saw where the people believed their future lay and how they believed the choices of others impacted their lives. Suddenly those who were over 45 became bigoted, worthless, selfish and racist. The younger generation, probably many of whom had never voted before, became self-righteous, judgmental, more intelligent and more worthy than anyone else. Comments such as “Anyone who is white and over 45 should die”! “All you Leave voters are racist bigots; no better than Hitler”! Where on earth did that come from??
Personally I believe it all comes from fear and lack of belief, although I doubt very much if anyone of these under 35s would admit to that. And for those over 35 they may reluctantly agree, but might not want to give you the real reason they are afraid. But before you disagree let me tell you why I believe this and why faith in Jesus, no matter whether you voted Leave or Remain should make you optimistic for the future.
Let’s start with the youth and those born after 1975. Here we have at least two generations who have never known a United Kingdom without the EU. Who cannot imagine a UK that initially went into two world wars alone, fought valiantly and won. That fought against slavery and won. That significantly influenced the world from a technological and scientific point of view and was highly respected for our standards of education and engineering prowess. A UK that stood alone in establishing a National Health Service, which even today, despite is failings, is the envy of the world.
Of course, I’m not suggesting for a moment that the UK hasn’t made its mistakes; like our people it is far from perfect. But the UK has stood alone for far longer than it was part of an economic and political union. In fact, hundreds of years longer. So what are you guys afraid of? You tell us you fear for your futures or the futures of your children? Why? Are your lives, or the lives of your children determined by a political and economic system or by what you or they can personally achieve through hard work and effort? Why are you limiting your future and the future of your children through a misplaced belief that not being able to travel freely or have EU handouts make or break the future? Where has your sense of optimism and hope gone?
For those of you who are Christians it strikes me you have put more faith in a political system than faith in Jesus. He told us numerous times “Do not be afraid…” (Luke 12:32 is one example) – a command, not a suggestion. What happened to Him being “the God of the Impossible” (Luke 18:27) and “I can do all things through Christ which gives me strength” (Phil 4:13)? Do you believe this for yourself and your children or is that only for Sunday church?
And if you’re not a Christian, PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!! You might not like the outcome, but are you going to whinge and complain and play the blame game? Surely you have more to accomplish than that!
And what about the racism card? It’s a bit of a sweeping statement to suggest that everyone who voted Leave is racist. Simply because the Leave supporters didn’t want freedom of movement for all EU citizens doesn’t mean they are xenophobic. Could it be that, in fact, people of different nationalities and cultures do not integrate easily and some people understand this implicitly? The Turkish Gastarbeiter in Germany are a perfect example, where Turkish families live in German cities without ever learning German. Even when a people share a language, economic and social reasons may prevent total integration because their frames of reference and experience are very different – the reunification of Germany is a good example of this. There remains to this day, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a social and economic divide amongst the East and West Germans.
The Bible also tells us that the Lord separated nations (the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11) and that He gave each nation their own boundaries (Acts 17:26). He also said we should love our neighbour, as ourselves (12:31). However that doesn’t mean your neighbour has to live in your house with you!!
And then there’s the class and economic divide. Perhaps these are the most difficult to fathom as, for many, this is deeply rooted in our upbringing and current social status. As far as the political pundits were concerned they were completely unprepared for the divisions that, in no way, seemed to be along the traditional right/left divides.
We watched the BBC’s Referendum night’s coverage up until the votes closed. The BBC were convinced that, although the campaigns were closely fought, that the traditional political divisions would be a significant determining factor in the result. Newcastle, for instance, was a Labour stronghold. For that reason, the BBC decided that the vote would be significantly remain. As it turned out, the vote was almost a 50:50 split. This caught out the BBC, who admitted on the Friday morning that this was the first indicator that the vote was going to be too close to call because all typical predictors had flown out of the window. But why was that?
For me, I believe that the pundits complete misread the heart of the nation and that this vote was more emotional than logical. Regardless of which way they voted, the “men in the street” voted where their hearts lay. If they believed their wealth was more secure within the EU, they voted Remain. If they felt their money was better spent on their home nation, then they voted Leave. For Christians, even this wasn’t necessarily clear cut. Younger Christian voters could not imagine a UK as being economically stable outside the EU. But doesn’t it say in The Word “… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matt 6:25). Doesn’t the Lord also tell us that He “… shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”? Where’s your faith, guys? Pinned to the mast of the EU flag or on the cross?
For older Christians, maybe with economically more to lose potentially than the rest of us, where is your faith? Doesn’t the Bible say, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also?” (Matt 6:21). So where is your treasure? In the bank, in property, in your pension? Or is it faith in Jesus who wants to bless us abundantly.
Whatever side of the divide you are, there is hope for the future. Whether you see this as disastrous for Britain or an amazing opportunity, there is always a choice. Of course, you can choose to blame others and demand justice until you get the result you want. Heck! Clearly none of you have ever lost a job or been for an interview and didn’t get the job. Did you just roll over and say you’ll never apply for another job again? Did you demand repeated interviews until you got the position? Of course not! You moved on and probably got a better opportunity – because no one is going to keep you down! And if you think your future depends on someone or something else, or if you believe the future of your children depends on anything other than themselves, then that’s scary. Just pack up and go home now!!
On the other hand, if leaving the EU is an amazing opportunity, then be sure to grasp it with both hands. Make the most of every chance and don’t be afraid of failure. Regardless of your age, if you can see a bright future then a bright future you will have.
So, in conclusion, whether you were Remain or Leave, there is always hope in the Lord. He will never leave you or forsake you; He will provide; He will bless you; and He will bring you hope. Never forget your source and know that He is God. Because ultimately, the political landscape may change, the economy may stutter and the world may not always feel a safe place, but He never changes and is with you always. Alleluia!