Ethics & Morality

Kirk: "We're not telling you how to vote, but a vote to leave the EU would be sin"


The Rev’d Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, didn’t use the ‘s’ word. In fact, he told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme that such an interpretation of what he has said is nonsense. But (for those of us who are dim-witted, weak of faith and slow of learning) could someone please explain how it is possible to deny humanitarian compassion and moral values and not be in a state of sin? Because this is precisely what he said:

To walk away would be a denial of the very humanitarian and moral values for which we stand as an active participant in global civil society. In this global world, there is no “them” and us, only “us”. One of the most common human characteristics is to blame other people for misfortune – a scenario that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. In their case, they blamed the snake for tempting them to eat forbidden fruit”. In the case of those advocating an exit from the EU, it is common to hear people blame faceless bureaucrats in Brussels or a mighty onslaught of foreigners waiting at our borders to overrun our way of life.

In Adam’s sin, we all died: in Christ’s salvation, we were made alive. Christian ethics are concerned with the ordering of the whole of life in accordance with God’s order. Christian moral judgments are founded on reality as God has prescribed: they may not be arbitrarily opted out of. The way God orders his kingdom is the way Christians ought to live within culture and influence society, bound by moral principles which are objectively true, noble and virtuous.

Is it possible to deny humanitarian compassion and not offend God? Would that not be a denial of love? Is it possible to deny moral values and not offend God? Would that not be a denial of the life-giving Spirit? Is it possible to eat of the forbidden fruit and not offend God? The Rev’d Dr Richard Frazer appears to think so. Or perhaps it’s just the ‘s’ word he has a problem with? Either way, the Church of Scotland is definitely not telling people how they should vote. No siree. “What is important here is not to tell people how to vote – that is for everyone’s individual conscience,” Dr Frazer says. But if you vote Leave, you are inhumane, uncompassionate and morally delinquent – just to make that absolutely clear. Those aren’t sins, though, so you’re alright. A vote to leave the EU won’t send you to hell: it just means you won’t feel particularly welcome in the Kirk, where humanitarian compassion and moral values abound.

Last month the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland reaffirmed its support for the European Union – a position it has held for 20 years on the grounds of promoting peace and security alongside its ability to address issues of global injustice such as migration and climate change. Membership of the EU, they believe, is the only way of achieving the common good. Forget the fact that 20 European nations aren’t in the EU. Forget the fact that the Vatican State isn’t in the EU. No, the EU is God’s instrument on earth for achieving his kingdom. Not that that should influence how you should vote. No siree.

Dr Frazer takes the view that Leave campaigners who claim that the immigration crisis and loss of sovereignty was the cause of the country’s woes are “playing a dangerous game”. Can you play dangerous games with people’s lives and not be in a state of sin? Not that he’s telling you how to vote. No siree. This is all impeccably neutral stuff.

The European project is far from perfect, but in as much as it has successfully replaced bombs with bureaucrats it has enabled European citizens to enjoy unprecedented peace, stability and opportunity since the Second World War. The issues we face are ones that, we have in part made for ourselves and, remaining within the EU, we have the influence to be part of the solution rather than simply standing in the wings and laying the blame with the ‘other’… In this global world, there is no ‘them’ and us, only ‘us’.

It’s good to have replaced bombs with bureaucrats. Far better to be smothered by reams of paper than blown to smithereens by a mortar shell. Does Dr Frazer think that Christians who want to leave the EU prefer bombs? Does he think we prefer war to peace, problems to solutions, or impotence to influence? Funny, isn’t it, how a minister of the Church of Scotland can so decry the evil of diving the world into ‘them’ and ‘us’, and yet do precisely that by pitching the enlightened, progressive, compassionate and moral Remainers (‘us’) against the backward, uncharitable, ignorant and morally-delinquent Leavers (‘them’). But he’s not telling you how to vote. No siree.