21 July 2016
What happens next?
After a frantic few months in Scottish politics, summer provides a chance to take stock and for us as Christians to consider how to engage in the ever changing context.
On a Friday morning a few weeks ago we woke up to a new political reality. A reality that would shape the nation for the coming years. As this is Scotland that reality had a significant bearing on the constitutional questions that have come to dominate our public life and debate over recent times. Old certainties were swept away and the unthinkable had happened.
The SNP no longer had a majority in Holyrood.
More than that Labour had been replaced as not only the main party but the main opposition party by a resurgent Conservative party running on an anti-independence platform. As for independence, with the polls still very narrowly favouring staying in the UK and the SNP majority eroded, the issue was on the back burner. Five years of ordinary day to day politics beckoned.
Of course that was back in May.
Now with the EU referendum result triggering realistically the only possibility for another independence campaign everything is back 'on the table'. Nicola Sturgeon has been travelling to Brussels looking to 'safeguard Scotland's place in Europe'. The language is deliberately vague, as with so much else it's still far too early to tell what will actually happen in negotiations over the coming months, on a UK-EU, UK-Scottish or Scottish-EU level. There's no definites about what happens next. A second referendum is paradoxically the greatest opportunity and the greatest threat to the cause of Scottish independence so the caution is understandable.
So what are we to make of all this and how do we engage well as Christians in a political climate of constant uncertainty?
Firstly we need to consider our citizenship. As Christians we have dual citizenship. We're part of our own nation (and for now the EU) but we're also crucially part of God's family meaning we're citizens of his Kingdom. It means we have solid hope and certainty when around us is uncertainty. We build our house on the solid rock of Jesus that enables us to navigate the storms (both personally and nationally) that come our way. So we shouldn't be launching into tirades on social media as those who have no hope. And we should model in our citizenship as a church, a community of grace, reconciliation and hope, even when we have profoundly different views on the EU or Scotland's place in the UK.
Secondly we must engage. The EU referendum brought up a whole host of divisions, challenges and fault lines across society, including in Scotland. We can't forget that 1 million Scots voted to Leave the EU for varied and different reasons. Racial challenges exist including in my local area of Glasgow and as the church we have the opportunity to show radical hospitality and grace both locally and nationally. The values of the Kingdom are the values that Scotland needs – love, grace, truth, generosity, selflessness, forgiveness and now is the time to show our communities what they mean.
Finally we are called to community and public leadership. We need to ensure that the tone of the public debate is raised including in any future independence referendum. The Gospel calls us to reconciliation both vertically and horizontally and it is the Gospel that can put divided families and communities back together. For this to happen Christians need to find their voice and step up to lead, both locally and nationally. How can you do this in your church situation, in your community, or at a national level?
There's a lot to take stock on as we look ahead to the coming months in Scotland. At the Evangelical Alliance we're engaged in significant ways in both public policy and public leadership work in Scotland. Much of it is necessarily quiet but we will be sharing some of our plans in these areas after the summer. In the meantime please pray for us in this work and also consider how you might speak into your own context with the wonderful, solid hope of Jesus in these uncertain political times. When no one quite knows what happens next.