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Truth be told - a reflection on the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union by Dean Simon

31 January 2020

Truth be told

At 23.00 this evening the United Kingdom will cease formally to be a member state of the European Union. For some this will be a time to mourn; for others it will be a time to dance; for all of us it ought to be a time to reflect on what has been and on what might be to come.

The campaign in the months leading up to the 2016 referendum was characterised by an unpleasant debasing of our public discourse. This gave rise to occasional violence and indirectly, through the murder of Jo Cox, bloodshed. The conflicting narratives about our four and a half decades in the European Union too frequently (and often deliberately) occluded any seeking after objective truth, which was sacrificed on the altar of unexamined assumptions and prejudice.

In St John’s account of Jesus’s trial before Pilate, Jesus says to the Roman governor, everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice (John 18.37). Pilate’s three-word response gave rise to a sharp remark by Francis Bacon in his essay ‘Of Truth’, written in 1625: What is truth?’ said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Bacon is reflecting on the fact that, like the angry crowd whom he was seeking to pacify, it was more expedient for Pilate to dismiss the notion of objective truth than to spend more time with the one who embodied the truth that could have liberated him. As Lenin (approvingly) said: there are no morals in politics, only expedience. In the months to come our politicians have a responsibility to prove Lenin wrong. As so often, the Bible provides a helpful pointer.

The story of how Solomon came to succeed his father, David, as king of Israel is a fast-moving tale of adultery and intrigue, family tragedy and rebellion, violence and murder. It ends with Solomon finally being anointed king, but not before two of his rivals, both also sons of David, have met bloody and untimely deaths. It is not bedtime reading. But when Solomon’s succession is finally secure the writer of the narrative adds a hopeful coda. Offered by God, in a dream, the opportunity to ask for whatever he wants, Solomon makes this request: give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil (I Kings 3.9). Solomon realises that the times call for wisdom rather than the pursuit of personal advantage, and for good governance marked by a seeking after truth rather than the chaos of lies and uncertainty. As we travel into God’s future together, we must pray for such understanding minds both for ourselves and for those whom we have elected to govern us.

With prayers and best wishes,

Dean Simon

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