From the Vicar, July 2016
From The Vicar, Revd Paul Cawthorne
When you read this, the result of the great E.U. in or out debate will be known and we will all be digesting the implications. On one view "the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels" seem far removed from leafy Oxfordshire and the world will continue to turn whatever the result is, but the operating framework set by some of the regulations from there which we receive into British law have a profound effect on our working lives and our lives as consumers (ugh) and citizens.
We all have many levels of identity and move between them within different areas of activity and at different stages of our lives. On the football terraces, I can be a Stokie, an England fan, a Wales supporter "against" Russia. We can support the British Lions when they are playing rugby down under, while in the Ryder Cup be rooting for Europe against America. Other identities are not geographical and can be problematic - in cricket, which of us would now admit to having a particular allegiance for the 'gentlemen' against 'players'? Identities are not always as fixed or exclusive as we may like to feel. I use the word feel because a lot of this goes beyond the rational to a deeper place in our psyche, a place of turbulence where we crave reassurance.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs puts safety as the second level and I do wonder how much of our location of our self's identity is sometimes part of that search for safety. So its no wonder that much of the recent E.U. debate has been about 'us' and 'them', fear-based reflection with not much constructive positive visioning involved.
The more we look outward from our selves towards our common humanity, the more we can see the world with a sympathetic eye. If we see the refugees from war and those seeking a better standard of life as fellow-humans trying to cope with life's difficulties rather than the 'other' before whom we must pull up the drawbridge, then perhaps it is easier to have compassion. If we have sympathy for those fallible people working within the inevitable inefficiencies of the big E.U. bureaucracy and credit most of them with decent motives rather than assuming 'they' are out to fleece 'us', then we may have more patience.
On the other hand, the more conscious we become of how much the green fields of this sceptred isle recently seem to be getting more covered in brickwork the more we may feel prompted to reflect on what some people call the carrying capacity of the land. The more removed decisions about regulations get from the ground level at which they are being applied, the more danger there is that they will seem too restrictive - what is called subsidiarity in Catholic social teaching. These are a tiny selection of issues affecting different parts of our lives and in the face of them a yes or no vote seems a very blunt tool.
The E.U. is one level of identity which has been ours for over forty years. St Paul wrote about our common identity and it was turned into hymnody as 'in Christ there is no east or west'. Whichever of 'earth's proud empires pass away', we will still be faced with these matters to ponder for generations to come.
The Revd Paul Cawthorne is Team vicar for The Baldons with Nuneham Courtenay, Berinsfield and Drayton St Leonard.
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