Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Morality Of Taxes, Part 2

One of my conservative commenters wrote this a few threads ago:
At least he's asking for actual charity rather than expecting the government to come to his rescue at taxpayer expense.

This is such a common refrain among conservatives: “Why should my money pay for his/her/your/their [fill in the blank] ...”

Well, there are a lot of reasons why. For one thing, it’s not in the nation’s best interests to have large numbers of poor, starving, homeless, sick, uneducated, [fill in the blank] people in our communities. It’s a security issue, it’s an economic issue, and it’s a quality of life issue. And the most efficient way to handle this is through taxes which pay for social services. Relying on charity, as has been observed in the past, denies the constant of human nature: greed.

And for people of faith, it’s a moral issue. I wrote about the morality of taxes back in 2007. And now I direct you to one of my favorite faith bloggers, The Search for Integrity, which has been on my blogroll since almost day one. He has something to say about the theology of taxes:

On whether taxpayers have responsibility for the well-being of their neighbors, by means of government programs:

In the theocratic state envisioned by the Hebrew prophets (or even, in their critique of every nation) the responsibilities of kings was clear:  plead the cause of the fatherless and widow, demand justice for the poor.  See, for example, Psalm 82:3-4:  Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.  Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Nations were judged by how well their rulers implemented these simple principles.

In the United States of America, “we the people” (the voters and, yes, the taxpayers) are sovereign.  Therefore “we, the people” are under divine judgment if we fail to use our sovereign power to take care of the elderly, the disabled, the orphan and widows of our world.  “We, the people” as sovereign refers to our corporate role as king, which is to say, the government.  It is laudable for individual persons to do what they can by means of “charity,” but “we, the people” are not just an aggregate of individual persons.  We, together, are king, and as such are answerable to God for how well we rule.

Okay, usually I save the religious stuff for Sundays but it seems timely in light of the arguing about healthcare that’s taking place right now. The theological argument probably won’t mean much to most of the folks who visit this blog but it means something to me and it’s important element to the whole healthcare debate. Healthcare is a moral imperative and it’s an ethical issue. It’s why, as CNN has finally noticed, faith groups have joined the chorus for healthcare reform.

The moral argument isn't one we hear much of in this debate. That's curious, because our news media has not hesitated to trot out fundiegelical wackadoodles every time they need to present their idea of "modern American Christianity" on issues like gay marriage. But when it comes to a real moral issue--a war, say, or healthcare for all--suddenly people of faith aren't deemed relevant to the conversation.


My friend Therevr offers a very concise Biblical interpretation in defense of government programs like healthcare and welfare. Conservative faith groups like the Family Research Council which oppose healthcare reform offer nothing but lies about government-funded abortion and other fearmongering. That's not very Biblical to me, but it's about what I've come to expect from the Religious Right.