My dad is very wise man. My 34 years on this planet has been guided and directed by much of this so far. But the particular nugget that perhaps sticks most in my mind is this: “Every action has a reaction.”
Growing up, this was frequently reminded to my brothers and I. Often in celebration, occasionally in sadness, and from time to time, as a gentle warning about the path we were about to embark on. Perhaps it’s frequency is why I remember it, but I think there may be more to it than that.
It’s one of those annoyingly simple truths that we can become complacent about if we’re not careful. We can know it, and yet still act in certain ways and then be seemingly surprised when the reaction comes.
This morning I, like everyone else in the UK and beyond, has woken to news that changes things. For some it brings hope and cheers, for others despair and tears. But however you feel today, there is an undeniable truth that we have to face.
We. Did. This.
I’m not just talking about the mechanics of democracy. More people putting their cross in one box than another. It goes way beyond that.
Our actions of not just the last 24 hours have led us to this point. And if we don’t get to grips with that, then we can’t be surprised when it happens next time, or the next time, or the next time…
And as I take a long, hard, look at myself in that light this morning, some things are uncomfortably staring right back; if I choose to denigrate our politicians, labelling them all “dishonest” or “self-serving”, then I can’t be surprised when people don’t trust what is being said by them. Or refuse to take part in the process at all.
If I disengage from politics from election to election, headline to headline, only diving in a few hours before or after the next big thing, I’m not adding or shaping the discourse. I’m just clanging at the last minute in the hope my pithy tweet or couple of paragraphs on Facebook will really make a difference.
If I make villains out of those who stand up for what they believe in – even if I don’t share their belief – I push others away. Afraid to appear in agreement with those I so clearly find laughable. Making them too nervous to ask why, or start conversations that might help bring clarity to us both.
If I rush to caricature those in my communities who hold different opinions, I stop seeing them as my neighbours. I write them off with broad brushstrokes, and make it clear that my walls will always be built and my borders firmly in place.
And so today I, and we, get another choice. Not leave or remain. Not in or out – that ship has sailed.
Today I get the choice to act. To love our politicians, not just in the face of tragedy, but in recognition of their service and duty. To engage in the reality of politics, local, regional and national. No matter how tedious, frustrating, or seemingly pointless it might appear. To resist the temptation to paint those who lean in opposite directions as “ugly” or “racist”, “traitorous” or “naive”.
I can choose to widen my networks, and find ways not just to engage with people who think differently to me, but to build relationships, make room for conversations and allow space for us both. I have much to learn and I won’t do it with mere self-congratulation or singing to the choir.
The truth is, we did this, all of us. And while that might be hard to read – it’s not easy to type – this presents itself as an incredible opportunity.
You see, what happens next, the shape of our country, the future of our relationships, the hope of our communities, we get to act all over again.
And how we act now could, sorry dad, WILL have a tremendous reaction.
To find out more about Christians in politics and how you can get involved with the Show Up campaign here, supported by the Evangelical Alliance.