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Confusion and chaos, or a country crying out for hope?

As Christians we are to be people of hope in uncertain times

Within 24 hours over Tuesday and Wednesday, the government’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement, which would see the UK leave the European Union on 29 March, was defeated by a historic majority and Theresa May’s government survived a no confidence vote triggered by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after the Prime Minister’s deal was voted down.

Following parliamentary votes in recent weeks, the government is now required to return to parliament by Monday, 21 January with proposals for what they will do next. Theresa May has said she will consult with other parties and seek to find some form of consensus about what should be taken to Brussels to try and achieve a revised agreement that will be acceptable to the EU and command the support of parliament. 

The two-and-a-half years following the referendum has seen the divisions exposed by the vote come to the fore of public consciousness. As with families and communities across the UK, the decision to leave the EU, the discussions about how we leave, and whether we should have a People’s Vote, has shown that differences of opinion run deep through churches as well. 

The Evangelical Alliance has held a neutral line during the referendum and thereafter, but sometimes this neutrality can appear more like silence. While as an organisation we are neutral, as individuals within the staff team, we have different views. Some think Brexit is more called for than ever, while others believe a People’s Vote is essential and there are those who are still thoroughly confused and uncertain. No doubt this same diversity of opinion is present in churches throughout the UK, and as a result it has sometimes been hard to know what a coherent and unified message from the church can be.

As Christians we are called to be people of hope at all times. At times of uncertainty and division, this need is more pressing than ever. We get to be the people who can declare there is hope for all the world, and His name is Jesus. But, unless we know this truth for ourselves, we will struggle to know how to show hope to others. 

Framing everything around the hope we find in Jesus is not a copping out; it does not stop us from the opinions we hold and the passion with which we hold them. Nor does it stop us from taking action. But, as organisations, whether as a membership charity such as the Evangelical Alliance or local churches, speaking about hope allows us to focus attention on what is needed above all else. Hope does not disappoint, but neither does it ignore disagreements; it is what happens when we fix our eyes on God.

One concerning trend that has been demonstrated throughout this political debate is the tendency for disagreement to be mistranslated into hate. Disagreeing with what another person says or believes does not mean that person hates you or even your ideas. On the contrary — attempting to banish disagreement by suggesting there is an all-encompassing position that all should agree is the best for the UK, and other views are not worthy of consideration, is the very attitude that creates resentment, pushes people and their ideas underground, and fuels division in our society. 

We disagree about the best way forward in many areas of life, and the Brexit debate has perhaps caused us to think seriously about how we manage disagreement in public life. No platforming ideas creates echo chambers, and false unity is the icing on top of an iceberg. In this and many other debates we cannot have a public sphere that shuts out disagreement, as our democracy thrives on being able to handle disagreement well. We need a plural public square that respects difference, more than just tolerates ideas with which we disagree , but knows that their very presence is integral to the functioning of a free and democratic system. 

There is a place for the church to model what this looks like in local communities, showing that within the community of a church we can disagree but still love one another. Hope spills out when we show the love of God to all people, when we demonstrate how He is the One who changes lives. 

Jesus came to make all things new. He came to seek and save the lost. And we, His people, are called to follow Him and make disciples of all nations. Brexit will not stop that, and the political debates of recent days, weeks, months and years will not change that. We are not resigned to inevitability of forces outside of our control, but we are in the hands of the One who holds the whole world in His hands. 

We are to be people of hope in a world crying out for a way out of chaos and confusion. 

About the author

Danny joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2008 and has held a range of roles in the advocacy team. He currently looks after media relations and oversees advocacy programmes and projects including public leadership. Before working for the Evangelical Alliance, Danny, who has degrees in politics and political philosophy, worked in parliament for an MP. Danny is passionate about encouraging Christians to integrate their faith with all areas of their life, especially when it comes to helping them take on leadership outside the church. He frequently provides comment on current political issues, both in Evangelical Alliance publications and to the press.

See more from Danny Webster

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