You think American politics is polarized and paralyzed? Take a look at the United Kingdom, which has become Disunited in its battle over Brexit. The issue of whether or how to leave the European Union is spilling over into other issues. For example, the nationalists in Scotland and Wales do not want to leave the European Union, but they do want to leave the United Kingdom.
I came across a piece by an Australian Christian named David Robertson, who gave a succinct and lucid explanation of what is going on, then reflects on the role of the church in such divisive times, reflections that would seem to apply also to us Americans in our own political divisions.
From David Robertson, What Can the Church Do About Brexit?:
Here is my favorite takeaway line, alluding to the pro-EU sentiments of the liberal Church of England establishment, which I present in bold so as to help sear it into your memory:
What is going on? The basic situation is that we have an impasse between a parliament which largely does not support leaving the EU and as a result is struggling to implement the decision the electorate made to leave. As a result there is confusion and division with the parties.
The Conservative Party seems to be tearing itself apart – with 21 MPs having the whip withdrawn and the government thus being in a minority of 28 and unable to govern.
The Labour Party says that it will negotiate a deal with the EU and then hold a referendum on that deal, which they will then campaign against!
The Lib Dems want another general election – but not just yet. They, like the other opposition parties, see an opportunity to further humiliate and destroy the Prime Minister.
The Scottish and Welsh nationalists want a second EU referendum for a UK which they want to leave. They are prepared to ally themselves with parties who want to prevent their main aim, the break up of the UK, in order to prevent the EU being broken up.
The political and media bubbles are getting enormously excited about the whole thing, but I get the impression that the vast majority of ordinary people are just fed up with it all. It’s a confusing, depressing and dark mess. Can the Church shed any light on the situation?
I find it ironic and sad that churches which apparently cannot discern what God’s will is on marriage, salvation or the Trinity have no difficulty in discerning what the Spirit says on Brexit – which conveniently seems to be the same as their own political opinion.
Robertson goes on to say that while individual Christians are right to get involved in these political questions, the church, as such, should not get embroiled in temporal politics.
The church, however, is enjoined to pray for its nation’s political leaders, including those we disagree with.
The church can also use the occasion of the instability of this world to point people to the true source of stability in Christ.
The church, in not putting its trust in princes (Psalm 146:3), can also “moderate expectations,” emphasizing that neither staying in the EU or getting out will solve everyone’s problems and usher in the utopia, as is implied in each side’s political rhetoric.
I don’t think America’s polarization is exactly parallel to that of Great Britain. Our moral and spiritual conflicts have taken political forms. The church should teach moral truth–regarding abortion, sexual morality, etc.–despite its political consequences.
Still, see what else Robertson has to say. To what extent does what he say about the British situation apply to us in the United States?
Photo: “Baggetts, not Regrets: Brexit Protesters March in London,” by David B. Young via Flickr, Creative Commons License