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Churches urged to talk about country’s financial inequality more

by Cara Bentley

A religious think tank has said Christians have Biblical reasons to fight excessive economic inequality and should not ignore it in the pulpit.

In a new report by Theos, the research group argues that the UK already has one of the highest levels of income inequality in Europe, creating a range of social problems that could get worse but also spiritual problems.

On the social concerns, it says households in the highest income brackets receive a disproportionate share of total disposable income in the UK. In 2017/18, the top 20 per cent of households in terms of income received nearly half of the total share, while the bottom 20 per cent received less than a tenth.

Theos argues that as the country rebuilds the economy, economic inequity should be addressed by politicians and churches.

Author of the report Bridging the Gap, Simon Perfect told Premier why churches should mention the nation’s wealth disparity more often: “Most of the use of arguments against inequality are based around its negative impact on society and these are very valid and very strong arguments.”

For example, “empirical studies show, as economic inequality rises the level of social mobility and equality of opportunity decreases because children of rich parents stay rich and children of poor parents stay poor. Other negative impacts are the levels of trust in democracy tend to be lower in societies that have got higher levels of economic inequality. Now, these are the kind of standard secular arguments against inequality and these are important, but what we're arguing is that Christianity has got deeper and more fundamental arguments against economic inequality which we want churches and Christians to return to, to try to refresh what can often be quite a stagnant conversation.”

Mr Perfect writes in the report that Christians need to recall the spiritual disadvantages to having a large gap between the top and the bottom, such as: "inequality breaks down the bonds between the rich and the poor, it means that the rich can isolate themselves and lose sight of their interdependence with the poor. Inequality can also engender sin as well because it can encourage pride and defensiveness among the rich and jealousy in the poor.

“It can also mask the truth of human worth from individuals because it encourages people to measure their value based upon their material success in comparison with other people and that obscures their true image in the nature of God.”

He explained that the think tank is not calling for any particular economic system, but for churches to use their “moral voice” to call out governments, discourage hoarding, scrutinise their own investments, and support local financial equality through campaigns like the National Living Wage.  

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