Brexit is greatly to be feared. At the mere possibility of the UK leaving the EU, the markets are in turmoil: shares have slid, sterling has slumped, and money is fleeing to the safe havens of the yen, dollar and German bonds. Some £98billion has been wiped off the FTSE 100 in just the past four days. The Chancellor George Osborne is in no doubt that Brexit would cause him to ditch all of the tax-and-spend pledges he made in the Conservative Party’s 2015 General Election Manifesto. Being prudent and wise, he must plug the £20billion black hole in public finances which leaving the EU would cause. And so we get the Brexit Tax.
In the Christian life, decisions of the magnitude of who governs the nation ought not to be taken on the basis of mundane matters like money. George Osborne frames the whole debate with financial ambition and greed: vote Remain or you will be poorer, and in that base threat is the inducement of fear. Brexit means impoverishment, torment and suffering.
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness… (1Tim 6:5).
The desire for wealth represents conformity to the gods of this world, for that desire can be seductive, that seduction idolatrous, and that idolatry dangerous:
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (vv9f).
The Chancellor threatens with money because we are a nation in love with it. Our wealth is not enough: our little must be more, and our much must be augmented. There is no end to the pursuit of banknotes and coinage: gain has become godliness. But, for the Christian, if we have food and clothing, we must be content (6:8). If we are not content, we risk becoming lovers of money, and that is the root of all evil, including the permanent surrender of accountable government and the nullification of democratic sovereignty. Our attitude should be one characterised by modesty and generosity:
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (vv17ff).
We can quibble over whether leaving the EU would precipitate economic apocalypse: economists are divided, so what do theologians know? George Osborne’s threat sounds spiteful and vindictive, but would a Brexit tax be such a bad thing? If it restored the people’s sovereignty, revived democracy and galvanised a new social reality, wouldn’t tuppence on the basic rate of income tax be a price worth paying?
Our kingdom is not of this world: George Osborne’s Treasury is not the Kingdom of our God and of his Christ: our treasure is in heaven, and the Lord will reign forever and ever. George Osborne will be gone tomorrow. Our personal sovereignty is provisional in the sovereignty of God, and our national sovereignty is not independent of God or immune from his judgment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer can wield his earthly power and punitive injustice, but the Christian must remain transcendent, for our citizenship is in heaven; not the European Union. There is no cultural activity or or economic event which can subjugate our faith to the totalitarian threats of liberal, secular man and his post-political apocalypse.