Wednesday, September 29, 2004
'The least of these.'
While we're talking about taxes, make sure to read the Christian Century's interview with Susan Pace Hamill, whose Beeson Divinity School master's thesis — The Least of These: Fair Taxes and the Moral Duty of Christians — inspired Alabama's Republican governor to try to fix the state's outrageously regressive tax code by appealing to biblical principles of concern for the poor. (We covered the story here last summer.) Here's part of the interview:
How do your opponents [like the Alabama Christian Coalition]—who also wanted to use biblical language—respond to your arguments for fairness in tax law?
Their response was mostly to attack me as a carpetbagger or worse. They said that itís up to the church to take care of the poor and that low taxes help people do that. They said I obviously wanted to increase taxes and hurt families.
Letís consider that argument. First, does charity replace justice? The answer is clearly no. You can have a decent amount of charity going on in the midst of unjust laws. An A+ record in charity canít turn an F in injustice into a C average. Things donít work that way. And all the charity in the world is not going to produce the fairness in taxation we need. People are just too greedy to give things up voluntarily.
Any reasonable reading of the biblical account of the Fall teaches us that on our own weíre not going to do the right thing, and weíre certainly not going to voluntarily give up what we should. Thatís why tax laws exist.
I was concerned about families. I was talking about lowering taxes for a lot of families and raising taxes for others so that the result would be just. I said a family of four struggling at below the poverty-wage level is very different from a family of four whose breadwinner earns $200,000 a year. So which families are we talking about hurting? . . .
My article on the Alabama tax code draws on divine command ethics and cites over 100 evangelical commentaries—all quite conservative resources. It argues that if a community is run by the market, then Mammon has triumphed over God. In other words, if the least among us have no minimum chance to succeed, the community is not reflecting godly values.
Iím so tired of hearing folks claim that somehow charity will make up for inequity in taxation. It wonít. Evangelicals should go back and read about the Fall. They are pretending that somehow people are not tempted by the sin of greed. That is inconsistent with the way any Bible-believing person believes.
This is must reading. ("Unjustly Taxed: A Biblical Critique of Alabama's Tax Code," Christian Century 9.21.04)
Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 29 September 2004 at 10:41 PM