SOBBSITD - sick of Brexit but still in the dark


Earlier in the year, I began a short series of blog posts about Brexit and how one Christian - me! - approaches it. Some of what I said provoked a very angry response from some quarters of the Church but, by and large, those posts went unremarked. After two years plus, I guess most of us are either BOBs - Bored Of Brexit - or SOBBSITDs - Sick Of Brexit But Still In The Dark . Analysis shows that (probably) most church-going Christians voted Leave in the referendum, a wake-up call if one were needed, to those who thought that the Church was full of well-meaning liberals who would want to remain.

After the spectacle of last night in the House of Commons, we have woken up, literally and metaphorically, to the mess the country is in. This still leaves me to wonder, in the middle of this mess, is there something the Churches can or must speak into this situation? It is enough for organisations with diverse memberships, like the Church, to simply offer to pray because to say anything else would upset some or most of its members? In this context, has diversity become a barrier to prophetic ministry?

So what do I think the Methodist Church could say? Well, the first thing is to go on challenging the hate. The debate over Brexit has unleashed the kind of intemperate rhetoric that paves the way to physical violence. We have witnessed the kind of ‘dog-whistle’ politics that insinuates that an individual’s views can reliably indicate their sense of patriotism or loyalty. Expertise can be dismissed if it argues for the ‘wrong’ answer. Not that Christians are that great at ‘good disagreement’ - look at our debates over women’s ordination or same-sex relationships. But there are tools in the gospel toolkit that we might want to make available to all.

Secondly, the Methodist Church could adopt the same radical economics of its founder, John Wesley. Though he was a social Conservative, his economics were radical. He took, as his base line, the effect on the poorest and most vulnerable as the criterion by which to judge the policies and practices of the market. That led to his campaigns against the liquor trade, but because he despised alcohol, but because the use of grain in distilleries drove up the price of bread for the ordinary poor. The last letter he wrote was in opposition to the slave trade, a moral abomination to humanity. It is entirely reasonable to ask questions about how the decisions around Brexit will affect the poorest in this country and around the world, many of whom are Methodists. How will the new immigration policies, based on income, affect current and future migrants, including those who worship in our churches Sunday by Sunday? How will services to the poorest and most vulnerable in hospitals, care homes, social services, be affected by the changes? How will protections for workers on minimum wage change as a result? Will the trade deals being sought with the rest of the world be better or worse for the