A Scottish View on Scottish Independence

Should Scotland remain in the United Kingdom or become an independent nation?

Although the majority of Americans have way too romantic ideas of Scotland and its current spiritual state, there are still godly and faithful ministers, Christians, and churches throughout Scotland. Yes, they are a tiny proportion of the population, but they are a praying people who continue to plead for revival and reformation.

 

It’s been quite “interesting” over the past week to see various Americans weigh in on whether Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom or become an independent nation, with most American journalists and bloggers favoring the unionist status quo.

There was virtually no mention of Thursday’s vote until the last week or so when a couple of opinion polls showed a surge in support for independence, bringing both sides neck and neck. That probably has nothing to do with North Korea coming out in support of an independent Scotland!

As you have to be resident in Scotland to vote, I cannot participate. At first I was a bit miffed about that, especially because tens of thousands who have come to Scotland from other nations can vote, even if they are not Scottish citizens and even if they’ve only stayed there for a few days. However, as I’ve made my home in Grand Rapids for the past seven years, and hope to apply for American citizenship as soon as is legally possible, I can’t really complain about being voteless.

Spiritual Dimension
Having said that, I do still have strong spiritual ties to my homeland, and I’m deeply concerned about Scotland’s spiritual welfare. The spiritual dimension is rarely if ever mentioned in the increasingly heated debates. The deciding factor for the vast majority is purely economic – will union or independence put more money in my wallet? For others, the primary consideration is political power, the argument on the one side being that Scotland will have more political clout standing on its own. The other side argues that an independent Scotland will no longer have a voice at the top table of nations, and England will have a weakened voice too. And then there are those who are motivated by sheer hatred of the English, especially of English politicians, and others just want change, any change.

But for the diminishing number of Christians in Scotland, the biggest question is “How will it affect the Kingdom of God?” The church I used to be a pastor in has produced a booklet that attempts to explain the negative spiritual ramifications of independence. I’m not that impressed with the booklet, neither with its logic nor its layout, but it will give you an opportunity to see how some Christians are trying to think through the spiritual implications of Independence.

How would I vote?
So how would I vote if I was allowed to? Although I was a member of the Conservative party, the most strongly unionist party in the UK, and I even campaigned with Winston Churchill’s grandson in one utterly hopeless election, I must say I’ve been inclined towards independence at times, especially as I’ve seen the way Scotland is often sidelined and belittled by the English upper-class twits that seem to rule the roost in the Westminster Houses of Parliament.

However, I keep coming back to the spiritual implications and asking, “What would be best for the Kingdom of God?”

I agree with the Christians who argue that the evidence from the devolved Scottish parliament since its inception in 1999 is that Scottish politicians have tried to outdo and outpace their London counterparts in stripping Scotland of its Christian heritage and replacing it with a rabidly secular agenda. Yes, I’m ashamed to say, Scotland has led the way in the UK in legislating for gay rights, gay adoption, gay marriage, etc. Having said that, London has only been a step or two behind. So, whether Scotland stays in the union or votes for independence, I don’t see either arrangement making that much difference to Christians or the Church of Christ.

So, given these pros and cons, I would probably reluctantly vote NO to independence, mainly on the grounds, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Also, from my understanding of biblical and non-biblical history, I don’t believe Christians should campaign or vote to upend the status quo of civil society without having extremely good moral reasons to do so. I’ve not been convinced that such reasons exist.

My Prediction
My prediction? I predict that Scotland will vote narrowly against independence, mainly on economic grounds, with enough fear-mongering having convinced enough people that independence will cost them too much money to take the risk.

I also predict that the current secularization of British society will continue apace north and south of the border, the gay rights movement will adopt an increasingly persecuting agenda, hate-crime legislation will be used to suppress criticism of all non-Christian religions, and radical Islam will increasingly threaten Christians and churches in many parts of the UK.

Unless God returns to Scotland in reviving and reforming power, I further predict the continued numerical decline of Scottish churches. Due to the devastating influence of the secular public school system in which 99% of Scottish kids are educated, the demographics of most Scottish churches looks disastrous. Of the small proportion of kids attending churches, the majority leave church in their mid-late teens. If you were to look out over many (most?) churches, you’d see a hugely disproportionate number of gray hairs, which can only mean the accelerated closure of multiple churches throughout the land in the next 10-15 years.

Of course, there will still be faithful churches that enjoy the blessing of God, especially if they do five things:

  1. Maintain and strengthen the essential spiritual core of faithful biblical preaching and reverent biblical worship, with an emphasis on communicating and worshipping in modern language, “the vulgar language of every nation” as the Westminster Confession puts it.
  2. Break out of the pervasive defensive posture and courageously evangelize, especially in populous and often dangerous inner-city areas.
  3. Re-build a culture of Christian education, beginning with homeschooling, but aiming for Christian schools (of which there are only a tiny handful in the whole of Scotland).
  4. Prayerfully depend on the Holy Spirit for blessing rather than importing and aping some of the worst of the North American church scene.
  5. Stop fighting the ecclesiastical battles of the past. Over the years, there have been many church divisions in Scotland, some of them very necessary. But some Christians are still bitterly fighting the wars of the 20th and even the 19th century instead of opposing the current spiritual enemies that are overwhelming the land.

Although the majority of Americans have way too romantic ideas of Scotland and its current spiritual state, there are still godly and faithful ministers, Christians, and churches throughout Scotland. Yes, they are a tiny proportion of the population, but they are a praying people who continue to plead for revival and reformation.

Let’s all use this time of renewed focus on Scotland to prayerfully remember that historically much-blessed land, and to join with our brothers and sisters there in giving God no rest until He again establish Scotland as a praise in the earth (Isa. 62:7).

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.  This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.