No, I will not keep calm and move on

It started about 30 nanoseconds after the Referendum result was announced. A new phenomenon (though we saw a little of it after the last election, it's back much stronger) that seems to have become the default setting for well-meaning Christians on social media. You've already seen it, I'm sure.

Posts about how, regardless of the way you voted, we must all now knuckle down, heal divisions and work not just for unity, but to make the new, post-EU reality a success. Messages and comments saying that God is in control, so those disappointed with the result should not be upset and, if they are, they should not be vocal about it.

Move on. Get over it. There's nothing you can do about it, the people have spoken, so cheer up.


Honestly, these posts have made me angrier than the actual result. And not just because I voted to Remain and think Britain has made the biggest mistake since the last election. Because, while they masquerade as impartial, righteous and enlightened pleas for calm and forgiveness, I think most of them are at best hopelessly naïve and more than a little insensitive. At worst, they are holier-than-thou, self-aggrandising claptrap.

And before we examine some of the ways this fashionable self-righteousness expresses itself, let me first say that I understand democracy. I get that my side lost. This is not sour grapes. I understand that elections and referendums, like sports matches and the lottery, do not have to turn out the way I want them to.

What I don't understand is people who don't get that this was not the same as your sports team losing a big match. This was not your favourite singer on the X-Voice (the one with that sad story about his nan) being voted out of the Big Bake-Off house. This wasn't even a general election. This was a vote that will have irreversible and serious consequences for millions of people. This has already emboldened racists and xenophobes in this country in a profound way, legitimising their hate, whether that was the intention of the campaign's leaders or not. This, as a friend of mine put it, is how wars start. How economies collapse. How nations slide into fascism. And as such is worthy of some emotion. Some anger. Some grieving. And telling people to 'calm down and accept the result' like this was a sack-race at a preschool is not just unbearably smug, it's as politically disengaged as those who realised too late that they didn't really want to vote Leave.

As one commentator pointed out, if those of us expressing anger and sadness online had broken up with boyfriends or girlfriends, we'd have been tolerated for months. But have we in the Remain camp received so much as a U alrite, hun? Xxx? Nope. We've got the equivalent of "Geez, you got divorced yesterday, aren't you over this yet?" Worse, we've also got: "Yes, I know your partner cheated on you, but what are you going to do to reduce the national divorce rate?"

It's all lovely advice, but it feels a little glib. A little self-serving. Like: "Hey, guys, I know you are all unable to rise above petty differences, so let me offer my wisdom. Come unto me and I will lead," followed by a children's talk (with puppets). Stop talking about racism, let's all just hold hands and sing Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.

Sadly, the Christians doing this have been the most grating. They have, perhaps inadvertently, dressed up this naïveté and faux-righteousness as a spiritual value. But asking whether those who are upset about the result have forgotten that God is in control does not strike me as spiritual wisdom. It strikes me as Job-comforting of the worst kind, and a misuse of Scripture.

Yes, yes. I know. Many of those calling for unity, calm and to move on are doing so because they are peacemakers. They're doing Jesus' work. But, is it really too much to ask to let those of us who are disappointed, worried, angry and, yes, grieving, have more than a weekend to work through our feelings?

Let's pretend there are no theological questions at all to do with the statement that "God is in charge, so everything must be cool." If you hung around cemeteries shouting that at grieving widows, I'd call you a ghoul. If you said that to anyone disappointed or worried about something moderately important to them, I'd suggest you were taking risks with your witness.

So it's fine to keep on telling people not to be upset because 'Jesus wasn't surprised by this result.' As long as you're also saying He's not surprised by abortion, sex-trafficking, homelessness, heresy or marriages you don't approve of. Sure, you're effectively saying: "Don't care about anything, because, you know... God," but I can live with that, up to a point. Saying "Don't care about this specific thing that I am not upset about," and justifying it with Jesus, while continuing to get passionately upset about other things Jesus is perfectly capable of fixing – well that's what we call silly. Or hypocrisy.

So. To those who want to know what I plan to do about the stuff I'm angry about, other than complain online, my answer is: I don't know. I didn't cause the problems that will flow from Brexit. I tried to avoid them. Perhaps you should be asking that of the people currently rejoicing about the result. What I will say is that I make no apology for expressing anger, lamentation and naming sin as sin where I see it. Disagree with my analysis? Be my guest. But tell me it is inappropriate to do so and I will point you to Scripture, starting with the Psalms and the prophets and finishing with Jesus and tell you that you are wrong. David calls for the death of his enemies. The prophets pick political sides sometimes and Jesus comes to bring a sword, not some vague concept of 'unity' that effectively means pretending we all agree.

Now, I'm not going to take up arms. I'm going to stand by the referendum result as far as I must. I will not, if my party wins the next election, call for the imprisonment of the leaders of the Leave campaign. I'm not hoping for the crucifixion of Nigel Farage at Wembley and I will not be taking to the streets to wash lamb's blood off lintels. But I will also not applaud. Calling for people to moderate their anger and sadness to avoid a descent into dangerous or hateful divisiveness is fine. But doing so in a way that suggests that we should simply not express our disagreement, difference or dissent is ludicrous. And it is socially and psychologically (not to mention philosophically) unhealthy to expect resignation and warm acceptance too soon.

I think the referendum result was an appalling mistake. I think it will have terrible consequences and I think it was largely motivated by (and will increase the boldness of) some of the least righteous prejudices in the human heart.

And to those who don't like what I've just said, I have some wise, impartial, righteous advice. Move on. It's been said. There's nothing you can do about it, so don't make a fuss. What's really important now is unity. Just get over it.

Feel better? Thought so.

Jonathan Langley is a Christian writer and journalist who also works for a mission agency.