EU or not EU – that is the question?

Why should Christians care about the EU referendum?

Don’t worry – I am not telling you which way you should vote, but that you should care.

If you strip away some of the politics, especially the extremes, and try and avoid the clumsy terminology like ‘Brexit’ and ‘Bremain’, what we’re left with is an incredibly important moment in our nation’s history. It is a decision about which direction we want the UK to head in for the foreseeable future. The outcome will affect how we address international aid, human rights and the environment. It will also affect sovereignty and where power is focused.

We may already be tired of the politics but we cannot get away from the fact that what happens on June 23rd will impact the 500 million people that live in the European Union, and the ripples might well effect many generations to come. And as Christians, whether you’re a Brexiter or a Bremainer this is also a unique opportunityto demonstrate what it means to ‘love our neighbour’.

While in Jesus’ day there were Jews and Samaritans, today – in the run up to the referendum – we have left and right, Europhiles and Eurosceptics, with disagreement bubbling over at dinner tables, in pubs, and of course, on Facebook. Archbishop Justin Welby recently warned, the European referendum has the potential to leave the United Kingdom ‘dispirited and divided’.

Loving the neighbour that we don’t necessarily agree with is an important way the Church can be distinctive during this important time. Neighbourly love can shape how we disagree, avoiding personal attacks as well as a ‘them-versus-us’ mentality, which does more to sow division and discord.

We can also practise loving our neighbour by the very act of voting on June 23rd. The European debate gives us an opportunity to learn and reflect on the bigger picture. Making a decision requires us to consider refugees and migrants as well as our local communities, and to think about how laws are made and how resources are spent.

So, I am not telling you how to vote – but I am saying that you should. I am also saying, much more importantly, that it matters how we vote and how we conduct ourselves through these weeks of campaigning and in the days that follow.