Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire
The socialist cleric, avowedly old Labour, who led the seminar on faith and politics at our diocesan development day was rather taken back when I expressed support for the return of capital punishment. When I argued in favour of lowering the higher rate of tax, the consternation among this assembly of Anglicans was even greater.
Is there a Christian-based moral argument for cutting the higher rate of tax? I would like to try to advance one.
As an Anglican Christian deeply concerned about the morally corrosive effect of long-term unemployment, I would argue that there is an urgent need to encourage a culture of risk-taking and entrepeneurship in the United Kingdom in order to create jobs. If such an enterpeneurial culture allows some people to become as rich as former Prime Minister Tony Blair or former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, then that is an expected outcome in a society where income is perceived as belonging in the first instance to the earner, with the state having the general right to levy taxes.
According to the biblical principle that the rich are the God-appointed stewards of the wealth they have earned, the likes of Mr Blair and Lord Mandelson should be perceived as having a spiritual and moral responsibility to reflect the character of the God to whom they are answerable in compassion and generosity. They should not be forced to reflect the divine nature; they should voluntarily choose to.
In the UK currently, there is an urgent moral imperative to create jobs, particularly for our young people. Idleness according to Christian teaching is socially and morally destructive and is specifically forbidden by the Christian Scriptures. The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, issued this admonition to the voluntarily idle: "Such people we command and urge in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat" (2 Thessalonians 3v11 – New International Version).
According to the New Testament, people made in the image of God should want to work. If they cannot work when they want to, because there are not enough jobs to go around, job creation becomes a moral imperative within the nation state in which God in His Providence has placed individuals. Because of the biblical importance of the work ethic, if a society fosters idleness, then in Christian terms it must be percieved as being in an advanced state of decadence.
It is a fact of human experience that risk-taking leaders are the individuals capable of spearheading job creation. The growth they generate in turn generates more growth, as the young people they employ gain experience which then enables the leaders among them to start their own businesses. Arguably, a lower tax regime is now needed to create a culture of job-creating entrepeneurship in the UK, rather than our country losing its natural leaders to countries with a lower tax regime.
That is why I as a Christian minister in the Church of England, who would not get a tax cut under the reform I am proposing, would like to see the top tax rate reduced back to the 40 per cent level of Mr Blair's administration.