On the 28th of August 2020, the BBC’s medical editor Fergus Walsh published an article asking the public whether it was “time to move on and get back to normal life?” Now, as I write this blog on the 19th of January 2021, having not left the house for more than an essential shopping trip for a number of weeks, I think it’s safe to say the answer was no.
But that is simply to answer the question on a surface level, taking it as a question of whether It is time to return to the norms of family life, the norms of meeting with friends over dinner or enjoying a drink in the local pub. In many regards, though the time is clearly not yet, I do long to see a return to those norms. However, I want to challenge the shallow nature of Fergus’s question, as I propose what we should really be asking ourselves is whether pre-COVID life was ever really normal at all?
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the surface a plethora of inequalities throughout our society, but it hasn’t created most of them. It may have exacerbated them, but many existed before this pandemic began and if we’re not careful, they’ll continue to exist long after it’s over. Even if you just slightly lift the lid of pre-COVID society, you begin to see deep rooted inequalities, unprecedented environmental challenges and so much more. Our broken systems and structures dragged society on, increasing inequality and fuelling a climate crisis. Normal was never really that normal. So to answer Fergus’s question, no, I don’t think it’s time to return to normal. Not now and not ever. I believe it’s time to create a new normal.
As Christians we are called (according to Micah 6:8) ‘to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’. Christianity regularly guides its followers down the path of justice, righteousness, fairness and equality. We have a rich history of being at the forefront of social justice, whether that be through Equiano and Wilberforce’s fight for the abolition of slavery, or John and Susanna Wesley as they pioneered UK children’s education through the Sunday School movement. The call to do good, to seek justice and to correct oppression is a call the Church has diligently heeded throughout its existence.
The Christian fight for a more just, equal and fair society is something we’re powerfully reminded of as the world remembers the struggles of Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement in America on MLKDay last week. Here at Church Action for Tax Justice, we believe that the Christian vision of a just and fair society is one that we need to once again set our gaze upon as we begin to contemplate life after COVID and hope to shape this new normal.
Our name really does give away our game. If you hadn’t guessed it already we’re a Christian organisation encouraging the Church in the campaign for tax justice. We believe the tax system can play a vital role in building a more just and sustainable society, one that falls more in line with the Christian vision we previously mentioned.
We believe that tax should not be seen as a burden: it’s a way of showing love for our neighbour and creating the type of society that as Christians we hope for, one where poverty and inequality are a thing of the past. As an organisation we seek to raise awareness throughout Churches and faith communities of the fundamental relationship between taxation, equality and public services. We are currently in the middle of our Fair Tax Now campaign. This campaign highlights the stories of those most impacted by our unfair tax systems and encourages individuals to email their MPs for fairer taxes. Additionally, next week the house of Lords will be debating our Fair Tax Now report.
We would love you as individuals and as churches to join us in our fight for Tax Justice. You can find out more by visiting our website, keep up to date with our work by following us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, join our campaign by emailing your MP or host our programme director Dr Justin Thacker as a speaker at your online service.
We are also running a series of Bible studies exploring a number of topics. The studies are free and can be booked here
Author: Bryn Lauder
Dr Justin Thacker is the National Coordinator for Church Action for Tax Justice