This morning the face of our country changed; it turned its head to the right and its bemused expression spoke a thousand words. Like a disaffected teenager, it “screwed the world” to be alone; but only half its heart was in it. 

This morning my heart sank and my stomach churned. I cried actual tears over something I didn’t realise I cared that much about. I’m not one for politics, see; I don’t get the ins and outs (pun intended). But I am one for people… And if “the people have spoken” this morning, then I’m afraid I’ve lost my voice. 

Forgive me, while I attempt to recover it now. 

A week or so ago, I was only  half-heartedly decided. Things just seemed less risky with Remain- and with the list of names pledged to that campaign. But then something happened. A woman; a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend; was slaughtered in the street. Her offence? Compassion. Idealism; hope; and a passion for social justice. A woman who stood for unity, love and mercy was assassinated on our soil, in the name of our soil. A few days later, graffiti scrawled the boathouses of our pleasant little city; this woman deserved it, and so did our own MP. We were therefore urged to leave. Radicalisation and extreme hate- in a form less often reported – had struck again, and I realised just how associated with the idea of Brexit this kind of ideology had become. So, as a woman, mother, wife, daughter, friend, idealist and firm believer in compassion, hope and social justice… I felt compelled to put my cross where my heart was; where it is; and where it will remain.

That’s not to say this vote was a pitting of good and evil; nothing is ever that cut and dry. The arguments on both sides of this campaign have been flawed with lies and shady propaganda; whilst I’ve also seen friends on both sides of the fence put forward their prospective decisions with grace and good intent. However, the reactions on social media this morning do little to veil the other, ugly truth. Bar one or two well thought out responses, the rest express immeasurable sadness at this loss of unity, or else elation for this new, real BritainMy fears and my heartache today are not for the economy, or even our international identity. My sadness is for what this divide suggests about the state of our nation.  What the loudest voice says about the fear and the hatred, (whether fuelled by dissatisfaction or not), underlying a vast proportion of our society. Not for all, but for many, this voice doesn’t just say “get us out of Europe”; it says, “get Europe out of us… And take the rest of them with you!”

And herein lies our challenge.

In a previous post, (Big Church), I wrote about loving louder; about being kind enough to outshine the darkness that may have gone before. It strikes me that, in the tragic case of Jo Cox, this challenge comes with more risk than anticipated and that there could be even more to come. Nevertheless, we need to do it anyway. If Jo Cox was targeted for standing up for people, imagine the animosity those people themselves must face? Imagine also, if you will, the helplessness and rejection experienced by those expressing such anger. Why do such a large number of Britons feel so disconnected from the country they “want back”?

A divided country, now without a leader, breeds disaffection, hopelessness and a sense of unbelonging. Remember the riots of  2011? Or the runaway teenagers, off to bear baby jihadists and cut off a few heads?  This is the type of climate in which people search for something else; somewhere to belong; something to believe in. Without any sense of unity, both sides are in real danger of radicalisation; pillars of hate to follow and an ideology to commit to. 

As the fallout of such a narrow margin unfolds; watch out for the vultures. 

Move fast enough; wave hard enough; love loud enough; we might just ward them off. 

Maybe this all seems a bit dramatic. Maybe because it occurred in the bloody month of June, and I already feel sick of all the darkness. A politician slaughtered; sexuality massacred; all in the name of hate. And, while  I don’t have all the answers to reconciling politics with religion, sexuality, nationality, employment, economy, race or rights… I do know that for the rest of us, the obvious response to hate is love.  The Bible says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing…”. (1 Peter 3:9).

Once again, if we want to drown out the hate in the world, we need to love harder, louder, stronger, wiser and more intentionally than ever before. I don’t know or care if you’re right, wrong, left, right, straight, gay, faithful or faithless … While you cross my path and share my air, you will be loved. Because love doesn’t have to mean agreement or approval. It doesn’t have to mean the giving up of our own rights, beliefs or identity for the sake of someone else’s. But it does mean kindness. It does mean compassion. It does mean being the face and hands of welcome in an atmosphere of rejection. It does mean small acts of solidarity in the face of anything contraryOnly in this way can we say to the graffiti ‘artist’ down by the river; “no matter what happens now, you will be outnumbered on the ground.” 

Haters, we may not outlive you; but by God, we will outlove you. 

And Haters, we refuse to hate you; because by the grace of God, we’ll love you too.