Reader Writes - January 2019
There are some benefits coming out of the present political and constitutional turmoil, not least of which is a brilliant crop of satire. I have a nice 50 Guinea note from the Imperial Bank of Brexit with a picture of Jacob Rees-Mogg wearing a topper and promising “to pay myself more than you”. This may be unfair on poor Rees-Mogg but he has certainly contrived to make himself unpopular amongst Remainers with his fogyish suits and Dickensian market capitalism.
The argument, which a second referendum might not settle, can be simply put. Brexiteers want the freedom to buccaneer in the global markets without too much friction (rules to you and me). Remainers see towering global challenges in a world of emboldened pirates where the nations of Europe with strong civil and democratic institutions (and truly terrible 20thC history) need to work together in close alliance. And the very fractious nature of the argument turns out to be one of those entirely unanticipated benefits. Parliament is facing down an over-bearing King, or a besieged cabinet in this case. The 48% (highly representative of the young) are angry for being ignored; the 52% have been promised something that can’t be delivered. In the fallout most of our Members are now feeling compelled to argue and vote according to the facts and their consciences.
So Parliament coming to life and asserting its authority and exercising its responsibility as our representative voice must be celebrated. The democratic repercussions in a dangerous world may be a sound and growing dividend. Hasn’t our post-War generation been both enormously fortunate and indefensibly complacent? Peace, economic hope, health is just the start of a weighty list of good things we have enjoyed, but it brought us to an angry Referendum where inequality and worry erupted. If the pace isn’t too bumpy I want to step back and seek a spiritual perspective. An obvious thought is Jesus’ famous words “to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and render unto God that which is God’s”. Jesus was pointing to the wider and eternal reality of his sovereign lordship over the world and the affairs of man. There is something bigger and more enduring than our fractious squabbles in this world. The good news for us in 21stC Western Europe is that we have been bequeathed a civil society that allows us to fashion and elect the Caesar we want without the threat of being thrown in a dungeon.
Yes! We render unto Caesar but we also follow a revolutionary God who cares deeply about our pain and about our hypocrisy. By God’s standards we are all at it. There is the famous parable about the division of sheep from goats; “what you did for the least of one of these you did for me” and vice versa. The radical man Jesus, the Messiah who came and promised never to leave us, calls us to engage with society. Politics matter and the fractious Brexit argument matters. Some are called to withdraw to the silence of the desert and pray, but most of us must be activist followers of our Lord and King in a noisy world. The prophet Micah gives us a good sound bite that we should store in our hearts and consult regularly. “What does the Lord require of you O man, but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8