Emily Parker spoke with Andy Flannagan about the most unlikely of campaigns.
Paying tax is something we're used to hearing people moan about and most of us pay our taxes grudgingly. So it was with surprise that we heard that #patriotspaytax was trending on Twitter! Emily Parker spoke with Andy Flannagan, the director of Christians on the Left about the why the campaign is important and his desire to see a better funded HMRC department able to call corporations to account for tax evasion.
Emily: What do you mean by the phrase, 'Patriots Pay Tax'?
Andy: It's a phrase that emerged during one of our events last year. People started tweeting it and it actually started trending on Twitter.
It was not long after the Panama Papers scandal, which exposed the industrial scale of both corporate and personal tax evasion. There was one particular law firm that was encouraging and aiding and abetting folks to be evading tax on a huge scale. Some people were avoiding tax, but not doing anything illegal, just avoiding tax with various schemes. That doesn't serve the common good though.
Some people said things like, "These people aren't doing anything illegal". At which point you kind of want to say, "Adultery isn't illegal either, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's helpful for individuals in the community.
We want to encourage people in the direction of serving the common good. It's sadly an indictment of our age that our standard is that leadership is just not doing anything illegal, rather than acting in a way that sets a good example and actually serves the common good.
Emily: Tell me about the video you created to go alongside the campaign.
Andy: It's been done by an incredible animator called John Bowen, who's done a lot of work in the last few years for various Christian agencies. I can only describe him as an absolute genius. He takes my words and turns them into beautiful animation with lots of great illustrations that help make a point.
One of the key points in this video that he's helping us make, is from the story of Jesus in Luke chapter 20. That's when he famously says, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesars and render unto God what is Gods". The simple Western way to hear His words, is to think of a Venn diagram with a big slice down the middle. One side is 'render unto Caesar what is Caesars', which means the political, logistical stuff like taxation, roads and healthcare. Then on the other side is 'render unto God what is Gods' and that's all the invisible stuff, like Sunday morning hymns and prayers. We see that that is where and when God has authority, when actually what Jesus is saying is, 'render unto Caesar what is Caesars' - a small little area of authority in the context of God's overall authority in 'render unto God what is God's'. It's like a little circle within a huge circle.
If we believe God is supreme over everything, then obviously He cares about everything, so He cares about war and the environment and taxation and health care. Sadly, in a lazy way, we've read those verses and said, "Religion and politics shouldn't mix". We believe the opposite of that. We believe that His integrity and truth needs to invade the world of politics.
Emily: In the video you mention something called the 'Jubilee Principle', what is that?
Andy: It's the Old Testament principle whereby at the end of 50 years, debt would be repaid and slaves and land would be handed back. It reminded the children of Israel that everything they owned was not their own, but it was a gift from God.
In the same way that the Sabbath is intended to release our grip on our functionality and business, so that one day a week we remember that working and doing things isn't the sum total of what life's about.
Sadly in our present capitalist system we have a very strong grip on the things that we own, especially property. Materialism keeps the world economic system ticking over. It means we all have far too much stuff.
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