The polling stations have just closed and we await the result. It still seems astonishing that the United Kingdom has voted today in a referendum that could affect the course of our history so significantly, one way or another.
History is made all the time, but this is one of the bigger moments in the nation’s political life. It is remarkable that the decision has been made with such a lack of reasoned and thoughtful public discussion, with so little attempt to weigh up the wide range of important considerations that ought to be taken into account.
There has certainly been passion in the public debate. Other than that, the two campaigns have adopted a scattergun approach, blasting out claim after claim, regardless of accuracy, in the hope that some will hit the target. This has done the country no service at all.
In this context, the heart-breaking murder of MP Jo Cox has caused many people to pause for thought.
When we do think, though, perhaps the whole referendum campaign is not so astonishing after all. Isn’t it just ‘business as usual’?
Exaggerated claims are par for the course in our political process. The party system has led to a culture in which winning is much more important than having clear and consistent principles or treating opposing arguments fairly. The result has been a public campaign that has failed to grapple responsibly with complex issues.
There is great danger in this. At its worst, giving the impression that every Leave voter is a racist, for example, or every Remain supporter unpatriotic, has caused deep dissatisfaction among many people who have tried to think carefully about the issues. This sort of distortion, in what could well be regarded as a ‘dirty’ campaign, may prevent those on the losing side accepting the validity of the result.
Christians have been just as exercised as everyone else about the referendum. There are reasonable arguments to be made on both sides, and there is no incontrovertible Biblical wisdom supporting one side or the other.
And yet we have one advantage. All sorts of prophecies have been made by the two campaigns about how disastrous life will be if they lose. Many fears have been raised. Uncertainty is the order of the day, even if we will soon begin to discover how accurate some of those claims prove to be.
But Christians don’t need to worry. We know that we can trust God with our future. Whatever the outcome, he rules over the nations and will have his good purposes in all that takes place. It takes faith to believe that, but our claim is that faith in God has a much stronger basis than faith in any of the politicians.