Krish Kandiah on 3 Ways British Churches Can Turn Brexit’s Separation Into Reintegration

A countdown to Brexit timer and the colors of the British Union flag illuminate the exterior of 10 Downing street, the residence of the British Prime Minister, in London, England, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Krish Kandiah is a UK-based speaker and author. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.

Today the UK moves to the point of no return with Brexit.

There will be no marches on the streets to stop it, and no more votes in the Houses of Parliament to delay it. The UK remains a divided kingdom on this issue; however, after the landslide victory of the Conservatives in the general election, there’s been a stoic inevitability that has perhaps dampened the zeal of both Leavers and Remainers.

To mark—not celebrate—the occasion, a commemorative 50-pence coin has been minted, with this inscription: “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.” A bold hope for the UK’s new relationship with the world? Or salt in the wounds for the 48 percent who voted to remain in the European Union?

What does Brexit mean for the church? Considering only 1 in 10 UK Christians told pollsters last month that they have prayed about Brexit, does it make any difference at all? Or does it signal a fracture for many of us between our spiritual lives and our political lives?

I believe Brexit offers us three unique opportunities to reintegrate our faith and politics:

1) An opportunity to model a unity that transcends political diversity

Too often Christians struggle to find a unity in Christ first and in culture and political ideology second. We too easily join in with the polarization of our culture, and our churches end up divided along ethnic, class, and political lines indistinguishable from those of our neighbors. We were called to something higher. We follow the Jesus who welcomed both Levi the tax collector and Simon the Zealot into his family of disciples. These men represented diametrically opposed political visions: One sought to collaborate with the Roman Empire, while the other sought to overthrow it through violent means. Both found challenge and welcome from Christ.

In Christ, there is neither blue nor red, Brexiteer or Remainer. In Christ comes a willingness to see the best in the other’s political vision and to recognize the flaws in our own. In Christ, we might agree that there is a common hope and vision, and accept that we have different tactics in order to get there. In Christ, we choose to see beyond political point scoring and prejudice and instead engage with the best articulation of our opponent’s position.

In Christ, we renounce the cheap, unhelpful stereotypes that see Brexiteers as hard-hearted xenophobes and Remainers as naïve fearmongers. In Christ, we model a unity with our brothers and sisters that overrides our position on Brexit, forgives mistakes in the past, and looks together to the future. In Christ, we can—and should—pray for our political leaders and our political opponents, especially when they are also our spiritual brothers and sisters.

2) An opportunity to model a generous internationalism

Traveling within Europe since the UK’s 2016 decision to leave the EU, I have felt the need to apologize. The referendum result has given the impression that the UK wants a divorce from the wider continent so it can pursue new global bedfellows. Some of the rhetoric has demonized Europe, while the UK has been portrayed as a lone ranger with no interest in contributing to the wider collective good of the European project. The final European Parliament meeting that UK members were eligible to attend saw some colleagues in tears, while others in a group led by Nigel Farage bid farewell by breaking the rules on flag waving and chanting “no more being bullied.” Have we hung our European neighbors out to dry, or have we shot ourselves in the foot? Or is there yet the possibility that the UK could initiate an improved global set of relationships where poorer nations are not excluded and all can benefit?

However it lands, the church within the UK cannot afford to be aligned with any kind of nationalistic separatism. Whatever our relationship with the European Union, we are first and foremost Christians and members of the global body of Christ. Indeed, biblically we recognize that we have more in common with brothers and sisters in Christ in Europe than we have in common with those from the UK who don’t share our Christian faith.

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Source: Christianity Today