Post-Referendum: Redemptive choices, unparalleled changes and a call to prayer
So it’s done – but anything but done and dusted. Here’s to rolling up our sleeves as watchmen for the Lord and playing our part in this highly volatile situation!
In this edition I will be sharing various perspectives concerning the referendum following the somewhat unexpected win by the Leave Campaign. You will find some seriously thoughtful perspectives here that we hope will both fuel your interest and your desire to continue in prayer.
If you are not naturally inclined to attempt to bring the Lord into political decisions, please be patient with us; we will not always be treating such themes; and if you find yourself disagreeing heartily with various points, (as a goodly percentage are sure to do) then this is definitely a chance to practice unity in diversity!
A Pointer and a Vision
I was out walking the dogs last Thursday morning when the Lord quietly spoke to me and told me that Britain was voting to leave the EU, and that I would see this by the following morning.
I then met with a man who I pray with regularly in Malvern, and whose prophetic acumen I have long learnt to trust. He had had a picture of two runners engaged in a race. They were more or less ‘neck and neck’ until a ‘bump’ happened, which caused the race to come to a stop. While they were regrouping from that unexpected incident, one side took advantage and gained a lead as a result. This left the other runner having to work extra hard to catch up, but there was a sense that they were receiving special aid to do this.
The most likely interpretation of the ‘bump’ is that it reflects the brutal murder of Jo Cox which, because of the virulently nationalistic attitude of the murderer, rather took the wind out of the Leave campaign.
I asked the Lord specifically if I should go to bed on Thursday evening or stay up for the results. He pointed firmly to the sofa, saying that I would miss the action if I didn’t stay to watch.
Within a few hours the Lord had turned the predictions of the initial YouGov poll around, the final result being a direct reversal of those figures. The figures in our own district of the Malvern Hills exactly mirrored the national figure: 52-48%.
In our family, as in many others, we were clearly led to put our cross in different boxes and to vote in opposite directions. As another friend wrote,
I voted to leave but love Europe and am all too aware of the impact on pulling out from supporting Europe. In my ideal world, we would leave the EU but still send financial help to Europe and start to welcome asylum seekers and refugees on a bigger scale. I haven’t gone public with my vote because I have far too many liberal, educated, non-Christian friends who would feel utterly betrayed. I do understand their grief and the pit in their stomachs, I am horrified by the xenophobia unfortunately attached to Brexit, and I have been on the fence throughout the whole decision-making process. My final decision was my belief that the EU was being deliberately secular, deliberately anti-God, and deliberately underhand in its aims…
We are going to need courage, wisdom, faith, love, honesty and humility on all sides in the road ahead.
To any of my lovely EU friends in the UK who may be feeling a little bit unwanted or rejected, and who may be feeling helpless that you had no say yesterday, it is a real privilege to be friends with you. You play a rich part in the fabric of our society. I hope you feel completely free to choose to join hands with us on this unknown roller coaster ride.
In the aftermath of the referendum, I have heard from many who are in a state of shock and even mourning. Several have said that they just cannot stop weeping over the disunity, anxiety and uncertainty that the result has caused.
One friend has been telling me that the Lord has been speaking to her for some years that that an unexpected storm was on its way – and that when the election result was announced, she understood this to be it. All of which is to say that the Lord knew it was coming – and that everything now depends on how we respond.
The fall out began immediately. The camera was trained on the front door of Number 10, but the only one who came out for ages when the door was opened was the well-known figure of Larry – a cat well known to Dominic! As David Cameron made his dignified speech of resignation, the strain and sadness on Samantha Cameron’s face were a powerful testimony to just how deeply affected their family have been by this campaign.
The gentle tone set by both the Labour Chair of Leave, Gisela Stuart and her colleague in their campaign, Daniel Hannan, a Conservative Euro MP, was measured and hopeful, and inclusive as opposed to exclusive. It particularly blessed me that Gisela chose to deliver some of her message in her native German. It felt like a prophetic act: that we are not here to set ourselves up or apart as a nation or that we have turned our back on our fellow Europeans.
Brussels itself is deeply disturbed at the prospect of Britain leaving, and is pushing hard to get the ‘divorce’ through quickly so as to avoid other nations rethinking their own position in the European project.
As yet we are still at anchor waiting to set sail and to launch out into the deep. No good will come from simply regretting the decision; the fact is that only 36% of young people (18-24 year olds) got round to voting, and no amount of blaming the result or the referee can take away from the fact that, er, England lost to Iceland!!
Some pointers for prayer
Many details will change from day to day, but it is never too soon to pray for the outcome of leadership elections, rather as the General Election one year ago removed a whole crop of leaders from office.
Boris Johnson appears to be positioning himself as a statesman to lead the Conservative Party, and thus the country, although there is a strong attempt by many Conservatives to come up with ‘any candidate other than Boris.’ (Does that sounds familiar re the situation in America?!) Many are mentioning Theresa May; one friend wrote to me that he had had a ‘sense’ out of the blue to pray for her to take hold of a rudder while Johnson and Gove took the oars across the channel. Another outsider contender who is being touted in some quarters is Stephen Crabb, the Minister for Work and Pensions who took over from Ian Duncan Smith. He is a humble and gentle man, and a bold Christian, born in Scotland and living in Wales, who sought to ‘Remain’ in order to help pensioners etc.
Give it time!
May things not happen through pressure or on the bounce but wisely and carefully!
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.
After hearing some thoughts from Tim Finch yesterday, the sense is that what has happened may perhaps be likened to a blow having been struck to the base of a wall, knocking out the bottom brick – a sort of Berlin Wall in reverse, in that it was the top stones that were removed there first.
If this is a true analogy, then there is an obvious chance that this hammer blow will release others to follow suit, rather as a breached dam begins to release water faster and faster. Some would see this as a good thing, as it would effectively overturn the whole apparatus of the EU; others would see that as an extremely dangerous and damaging development at this time when many in the Netherlands are calling for a NEXIT . . . and in northern Italy . . . and in Denmark…. Even Germany is said to be only about 50-50 in favour of staying in. As for France . . .
So once again, whatever our perspective on all this, this is not a time to take the foot off the pedal in terms of praying for Europe. I have been praying especially for Poland* and its people: many are worried – I hope unnecessarily – that those who live in Britain will be obliged to leave.
What is the Lord saying? “Launch out into the deep – but keep a sharp lookout for pirates!”
A friend who is closely connected with the major European intercessory leaders passed on to me the clear perception that the leaders of these prayer networks are remarkably united in sensing that the UK urgently needed to seize this opportunity to leave. This is because they perceive the EU as a sinking Titanic. Linda Entwistle also saw the EU as a large ship that was going down. She saw that people were getting into lifeboats – but warned that there are many pirates all around. An obvious interpretation would be to pray that the Leave Campaign does not get hi-jacked by the extreme right wing, but I suspect that there are numerous other ‘pirate’ streams to be aware of. This is a time of both opportunity and of danger.
In one sense the ‘In’ or ‘Out’ vote that really matters is whether someone has yielded their hearts to follow the Lord Jesus unreservedly in this life and for all eternity; we are, after all, called first and foremost to be citizens of Heaven – and the Lord is more concerned with the elect than with elections.
In another sense He is intimately concerned with all that happens, down to the finest detail, and we have a prayerful responsibility towards the UK and Europe. This is emphatically not the time to take the foot off the gas pedal and to stop praying! Even the English football team has spectacularly (prophetically?) mirrored the political situation in a shock and humiliating ‘out’ from the European Championships, which led to the loss of its leader! (Social media was full of the thought that only England could contrive to come out of Europe twice in one week!)
At the ground level, however, the aims of the new government (in the light of the vote to Leave) must of necessity be complex – to stabilise the economy, negotiate collectively and individually with the countries of Europe, to guarantee the security of Gibraltar, to maintain a sensible working of the Houses of Parliament, whether we remain part of the Single Market, what “controlling our borders” is going to look like, and so on.
As my father wrote,
“I remember in an MFOT conference in The Winter Gardens in Malvern praying passionately for each of the European nations to be able to concentrate on being what God wanted them to be and not to be bound by external pressures to conform to alien standards. I can hear myself still crying out after all these years for the Portuguese to be good Portuguese and so on.”
Rather than allowing any taint of Western arrogance to overlay our view of world events and our place in history. As Tim Finch wrote this morning, ‘We are witnessing not just political history, but are seeing the effects of distinct spiritual battles for future of nations, set against the gradually unfolding backdrop of the working out of end time biblical prophecy. Spirits of fear and intimidation were much in evidence during the referendum campaign and have been notably dominant since the result too. The great need of the time now is not only for courageous leaders but for leaders who are prepared to look beyond their own narrow interest groups.
It is not so easy these days to avoid bureaucratic entanglement. Increasingly politically correct America, for instance, the so called land of the free, has imposed a staggering number of new laws and regulations on its people in the last seven years. Norway meanwhile is apparently obliged to comply with something like 80% of all European legislation in order to be allowed to trade with the EU – which would appear to make being out of the EU at best a half-way house.
There is enormous confusion about what ‘Leave’ will look like; what will get through our own Parliament, let alone what Europe will accept. There is everything to pray for therefore concerning the details and timing of how politicians, the business world, and we as individuals all respond etc. etc.
There is a proverb that says that “If you’ve forgotten the language of Gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness.” Whatever our perspective, we all have so much to be grateful for as we wrestle to make sense of mighty changes sweeping the political face of the continent and seek to bless every country in Europe. May the Lord keep every trace of pride or the wrong kind of separatism from our hearts.
With his usual wisdom and concern Martin encourages us to reflect that our first inclination as to who to vote for may not be the right one. He writes,
“We can and should make the one we consider is the most redemptive one. The one that can help facilitate the best future for society, and making that choice is not an easy one. My view of what is redemptive and the best future might well not align with someone else’s call on that.
Politics, and in particular, political parties are never going to bring in the kingdom of God. We might never be able to cast the right vote, but we can always think redemptively. The jury is out on the Brexit from a redemptive point of view – and it would also be out should the vote have gone the other way. What remains (no pun intended) is the positioning of the body of Christ within the UK in relation to Europe, and the response to the Gospel mandate of openness to the alien, orphan and widow.
If the Brexit marks the end of an era for wider European co-operation under the EU umbrella that will be sad, unless in the messy aftermath it provokes a new way of co-operating together and serving one another. It will probably be difficult for that new way to surface in the immediate future, but the trans-national, alien present body of Christ holds the keys to that. It will have to begin, as always, with a response to neighbours, and the embrace too of the ‘other’ that is close to hand.
Now, of course, back on the table comes the Scottish possibility of a further ‘leave / remain’ referendum. Their part is important at this time. Martin Scott wonders aloud whether “Scotland needs to lay down her rights for the time being in order to serve in the current instability?” Or will Scotland merely pursue her own self-interests aggressively?
David and Sarah Bowen will be walking St Cuthbert’s Way along the Scottish Borders from this Saturday. They moved to North West Scotland in 2014. Sarah came to the Fire from the North conference in Shetland, where David originally came from. She has a degree in Icelandic.
They had already got this planned from months ago as a holiday, but the timing seems very apposite as a stimulus for prayer. As our mutual friend Sheila Francis wrote to me yesterday,
“There’s a rumbling of Empire spirit in all that’s going on at the moment. The quote “not all who voted Leave were racists, but probably all racists voted Leave” is not without foundation. As with the fear, I would see this as a spiritual thing, not just human reaction. Some of this empire spirit is coming from the hardliners in the European Commission, but it’s also in some of the Leave reaction – “let’s take back control”. There seems to be a “principalities and powers” element which is infesting right across both sides of the referendum.”
“If we bow at the foot of nationalism as our identity, or in signing up to make our nation great again then I do not think we have considered at any depth the new identity that we have in Christ. I would love to see a new style of politics arise, not a putting down of the ‘opposition’ but a journeying together for the common good. A new media that does not shut down the minority voices but speaks from and for the margins. So still with hope for Europe, still looking to the first century seed in the ground to spring up. If it does we know that there is healing for the nations.”
I will leave the final word to our friend the Revd. Howard Porter:
The words and picture I was getting over the weekend was of a ‘perfect storm.’ So much seems to be in place to unsettle the UK at this time: e.g. the Scots seeking independence; Sinn Fein pushing for Ireland to be one nation; internal divisions in UK governments and political parties; not least the continuing tensions between the Remain and Leave camps. There is clearly a huge danger of nationalism emerging (not least in Scotland); for xenophobia and racial intolerance to raise their heads.
We need, therefore, to pray protection from those who are attempting to make political leverage out of this situation: in other words, who are seeking to make this their platform, thereby creating even more confusion and division in our nation.
We need to be watchful for an enemy backlash that may come upon our nation, and pray for wisdom and insight (for ourselves and our leaders).
Just because the vote didn’t go ‘our way’ does not entitle us to lick our wounds and feel sorry for ourselves; on the contrary, this is most certainly the time for Christians to take arms, and be alert and watchful. As Christians we have been granted a pivotal moment in history to reshape our nation through prayer and intercession; seeking God’s mercy and grace upon our islands, whilst seeking nothing but blessing for the rest of Europe.
* Poland has blamed Brussels for Brexit and said the leaders of EU institutions should admit their mistakes, “suffer the consequences” and step down, allowing untainted others to work on what is best for Great Britain and the EU. They suggest a new EU treaty is needed to strip power from the ‘unelected bureaucratic’ European Commission and give it to the European Council. Jean Claude Juncker comes in for particular censure over his direction of the EU project.
This is a real encouragement to pray for all the people and issues concerned.