Families 'trapped by inequality'
Leading figures in the Church of England have called for an end to "income inequality" and questioned how Britain is being governed in a new book to be published before the general election.
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, whose new book is called On Rock Or Sand?, said the UK faced a "deep, deep economic crisis" during the last four and-a-half years and said inequality trapped "hard-working" families on "poverty wages".
In a video to launch the collection of essays, which includes a contribution from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, Dr Sentamu admitted the Church was making a political intervention but said it was not trying to be party political.
But in an interview with the Daily Telegraph he appeared to criticise parties for focusing on voters in Middle England and appealing to the cult of the individual, giving rise to a society under the "rule of the jungle".
He said: "Some people who read this book may ask themselves, 'Why should the church involve itself in politics?' Well the book itself is not about the church engaging itself in party politics but politics as far as I understand it has to do with public deliberations on how society should be governed. It if for the whole nation to engage itself in deliberations on how we should be governed."
During a three and-a-half minute YouTube video, Dr Sentamu likened the UK economy to a household, claiming no one member should have "too much" when another had "too little".
He said: "The book addresses crucial questions about the moral principles that undergird the way Britain is governed. It is about building firm foundations for Britain's future and setting out the essential values we need to build a just, sustainable and compassionate society in which we can all participate and flourish.
"We need to rediscover the true meaning of the word economy - it means a household, a community whose members share responsibility for each other. The giant that must be slayed is income inequality - where some few have far too much and the many have too little."
Speaking to the Telegraph Dr Sentamu criticised what he called "rampant consumerism and individualism" embodied by events such as Black Friday.
"This marrying of justice and self-interest is deeply unfashionable in a political scene where parties rush to outdo each other in enticing and beguiling the swing vote of Middle England not with a vision of justice but with appeals to individual preference, interest and consumer choice," he told the paper.
"If it is the survival of the fittest that's what I call living in the jungle and I don't want to live in the jungle - this is supposed to be a civilised society.
"It is nothing to do with being socialist of whatever. What it has got to do with is, 'Is this how God created us?' Has he created us to be people who go to Black Friday to fight with each other because they want the biggest bargain? No, that's the rule of the jungle, we left that behind."
An extract from Archbishop Welby's essay, published in the Telegraph, also criticises the "un-Christian" principle of of what is known as Social Darwinism - "every person for themselves", and said while London and the South East are growing economically, "entire cities are being cast aside" and left to decline.
It mirrors a similar intervention 30 years ago, when the Church of England published a report entitled Faith in the City: A Call to Action by Church and Nation, which highlighted social and economic inequality as a result of the political championing of the free market.
The book is to be published next week with contributions from experts in economics, politics, and religion, including Labour peer Lord Adonis, Sir Philip Mawer and economist Andrew Sentance.