Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit and other divisions.

It has been a momentous week. Britain held a major referendum. I’m sure everyone has heard about it as it made the headlines in most of the Western world. However, in case someone missed the news, the referendum, nicknamed Brexit, was about whether Britain should remain part of the European Union or become independent.

Although I became an American citizen in 2012, Britain is still my home, it is where my extended family and friends live. I try to go home every year. My roots are deep. So the referendum was important to me. Personally, I hoped we would remain. I feel both British and European. As I watched the results come in, first it seemed Britain would leave the EU and then it swung to remain, then finally back to leave. I felt sad and unsettled. I felt a slight loss of identity. As a referendum is only advisory not law I cannot, at the time of writing this blog, offer the ramifications of the outcome. The media has given many alternative scenarios to choose from. I will not go into all the reasons why I think leaving was a bad decision. This blog is not an invitation to discuss the pros and cons of the Brexit vote. This is not the forum to do that.

The question I want to pose, hypothetically, is how can we be people of peace in countries that are divided?

We see divisions everywhere. Regardless of one’s opinion on the subject, the referendum showed a nation divided. There is a huge disconnect between different areas of the country. It is exactly the same in the US and in other parts of Europe.

I have already seen great disharmony caused by the very close result. Even families are divided. I was shocked at the hostility shown publicly to those who held alternate viewpoints. On Facebook I belong to several groups for British people living in the US. Topics are usually limited to British food, British TV programs and the occasional cry for help as people negotiate the legalities of living in a foreign land. After the Brexit referendum the climate on the lists changed. People insulted each other. People called each other stupid and used bad language. One person posted a fairly good summary of the economic repercussions, the first person to respond simply said, “You’re a silly cow.”

It is not just the Brits, I have seen and read the same sort of hate speeches and demonizing of the other in the US political arena. In my opinion, this is not okay. There has to be a way to respect and care for people with opposing views. In our community, there are members who hold different views on Brexit as on many other important issues. My hope is that our community can hold conversations in a loving and respectful manner.  Each person may feel strongly about their own position but the aim of conversation is not to try to convert the other but to be open-minded and learn from others’ differing ideas. Often as spiritual people we have read the Scriptures, allowed them to challenge us and come to different understandings. It is in discussion that growth can occur, dialogue enriches us all.

In the Lindisfarne community we have done just that. We have dialogued on various issues and remained strong and united. We are comfortable in being different. Now, maybe, as individuals, it is the time to carry that beyond the community and remain a people of peace in a time national disunity?

In today’s lectionary gospel reading one verse stands out. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house’.” (Luke 10:5)

Perhaps, that is a good starting point. How could the discussion become heated or unkind or reduced to name-calling when a blessing of peace is pronounced (even inwardly) over with whom you enter the conversation.

Peace to this house.