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Disagreeing well on the EU


At the launch of the Reimagining Europe blog, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, warned that the EU Referendum could leave the UK “dispirited and divided”. In an article published on the blog, he made the case that Christians need to learn to “disagree well on Europe” so that the debates surrounding the EU Referendum leave us “energised and revitalised” instead.

The EU is already a divisive topic and this polarisation is only likely to increase as the Referendum draws closer and arguments for and against UK membership become more prominent and prevalent. There are people, including Christians, with thoughtful views on both sides of the argument, and many hold these views passionately. It is an important issue, with far-reaching consequences. Indeed it can be argued that the outcome of the EU Referendum will have more of an impact on the UK than a General Election.

With such high stakes and such passion on both sides, the debates surrounding it are likely to be very heated and very divisive. We as Christians should seek to be a part of the debate, thinking through the issues and coming to our own conclusions, but we should do this in a way that is honouring to God and to each other. This is an excellent opportunity to shine a light into the situation and make an impact, not by shrinking from having an opinion or expressing it, but by learning to disagree well.


Love our neighbour as ourselves

When questioned on what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replied that it is to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). Loving someone does not mean that we have to agree with them on everything. Indeed it is often not that hard to love someone who we agree with – where we can be distinctive is in loving someone even though we strongly disagree with their views. This neighbourly love can shape how we disagree. We should avoid personal attacks on people, seeking instead to keep our critiques purely to their arguments. Likewise, we should avoid a ‘them-vs-us’ mentality which does more to sow division and discord. It is important that we try to recognise the good in someone else’s arguments, as well as critiquing them, and reject the call to separate out into different tribes and sling mud at each other from the distance.


Remember our ultimate allegiance

Ultimately, we should remember that what unites us is greater than what divides us. As Christians, we are all citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and we are all children of God (Galatians 3:26). This is our primary identity and our primary allegiance is to Jesus. This does not mean that we cannot be loyal to our own sides on the issue of the EU, but it does mean that we should not take this loyalty to the extreme and get so caught up that we will do anything or say anything to win the argument. Instead, we should learn to disagree in a way that honours the other person and which points to a unity which transcends earthly political divisions. It is by loving one another that we can be distinctive and set apart, as it is by this that everyone will know that we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35). It is striking that in this we can learn a lot from the motto of the EU: “unity in diversity”. Yes, we will have a diverse set of opinions on the EU and the UK’s future within it, but we should nevertheless remain unified in our identity as a part of God’s family.