This week Britain and France signed a unique defence cooperation pact that will see, of all things, the sharing of aircraft carriers for many years. Given aircraft carriers represent important mobile extensions of sovereign territory, providing important and economic presence and permitting expeditionary warfare far away from our own coasts, this is quite a major long-term pact. It is significant, too, because it is unlikely to end there. Sharing major pieces of kit like this will likely lead to military cooperation between the two countries at lower levels too.
The reason for this remarkable pact? Economics, pure and simple. With a massive deficit, a Coalition government coming to power and finding no money left in the kitty, and a global austerity drive, this kind of pact saves money, big money. After all, it makes sense economically (though not so sure it will do so militarily further down the road). Ironic, too, that it is a Conservative-led government which has delivered it. Thus, the European Coal and Steel Community eventually gave way to the EEC, the EC and finally the EU. But far less known in the process was the attempt to establish a supranational European Defence Community (EDC) in the 1950s. Yet this new pact between two of Europe's biggest military powers could, conceivably, result in resurrecting the aims of the original EDC, that is, closer EU military cooperation, and who knows, maybe a precursor to an EU army. If the demise of the Cold War and the waning importance of NATO made it possible, the economic situation is the trigger that makes a future EU army quite likely. But who would have thought so, and especially the UK's involvement, less than a decade ago? In short, as with nearly everything, it all comes down to economics.
Which, EU armies and politics aside (and regardless of one's views concerning the feasibility of an EU defence force), the power of economics to change everything isprecisely what I'm getting at. Whether espousing Marxist materialism, Clinton's famous soundbite which pointed out how ultimately it is economics that wins - and loses - elections ("It's the economy, stupid!"), economics is a powerful determinant of human behaviour. As such, it represents a fundamental challenge to Christianity and a Christian worldview. Whether anti-Christian Marxist materialism, the worse excesses of Capitalism such as greed and exploitation, or issues such as poverty, and so on, I suggest it is impossible for Christians to avoid this central plank of modern culture, society and human behaviour. It drives human endeavour, while its excesses are the cause of all manner of sinful activity ("the love of money is the root of all evil"). This is why it is essential for Evangelical Christians seeking to engage the public square to give considerable thought to developing a biblical theology of economics. After all, how can we challenge society and claim to have imaginative answers to pressing issues unless we do? There is a lot in the Bible about economics, and there are some theological books out there dealing with this very issue, but far too few. Interestingly, it has taken an economic downturn to create a more widespread interest in this topic, and I think we are going to see more publications in this field in due course.