My colleague Graham Tomlin, the Bishop of Kensington, just wrote a book about Life Beyond Brexit. His central argument is that there are four kinds of love.
The first is self-love. It’s important – you have to take care of yourself, or you’re no good to anyone else – but it’s not enough. Then there’s love for friends and family and people like us. Thirdly, there’s love for neighbour – our neighbour being whoever happens to be close to us at the moment. And finally, there’s love for people very unlike us, and perhaps a long distance away.
The problem, my colleague says, is that in the Brexit debate, on both sides, there was an idea that these loves are incompatible, as though if we love one set of people there won’t be enough love to go around to the others. So some people are afraid that those who like the freedom to travel and work in other countries, and are pleased when lots of people from around Europe travel and work in Essex, will end up belonging nowhere, and not caring about the existing community. And others fear that people who prioritise the cultural and economic life of their neighbourhoods as they are, and seek to protect them from too rapid change, will end up as racists, or having closed minds.
But the truth is, love isn’t like a pizza to be divided up; it’s like a lump of dough which can grow and expand. If we do it right, loving any one set of people will train us to love the others. And there’s no better time to practise growing our love – and believing the best of other people’s loves - than an election campaign.