Thomas Bushnell, BSG (thomb) wrote,

taxes

One common thread among Christian Anarchists is a very different perspective on tax resistance from that found among Quakers and the like. Generally, the Christian Anarchists say (with Jesus) to pay your taxes, returning to the domination system the currency of the domination system itself. Money was never ours; it was always the state’s, and we are returning to the state what is the state’s. Indeed, this is also a simple extension of Jesus’ admonition to give to anyone who asks from you, a command that Jesus does not restrict to the needy!

The Quakers generally encourage the view that voluntary payment of taxes to a warring government constitutes one’s own support of that warring practice. Accordingly, they have gone to some lengths to set up structures by which they can attempt to both pay their taxes to what they view as legitimate state purposes, while rejecting the warlike ones. The Quaker objection to war is really only an objection to war, not to domination in general; so taxes which support non-warring domination are ok, while the taxes that support war are not.

I think this misunderstands Jesus’ adminition, about paying taxes and giving to those who ask from you; the point as I have always seen it is as much about the relaxition of control and our own tight fist as it is about helping the recipients of the gift. Hold money lightly, Jesus says; hand it over when someone wants it: whether a beggar, a thief, or a warlord.

I think the gospel value is not quite how the Quakers have it, as if it were my job to manage the state. It is not my job to attempt to control what Caesar does with the taxes after he has taken them from me. The Quaker sees the warring state on its rampage, and says “I must do what I can to stop this!” But the Christian Anarchist says, “I must not adopt the strategies of domination in my horror at what this warring state is doing.” To view my possession of money as a tool by which I can control others (by doling it out, here and there, rather than following Jesus admonitions about it) is to use it to dominate. The Quaker form of tax resistance then, is simply an attempt to use one’s resources to control the government’s actions. And this is one more form of domination.

The gospel value is to relax the control over money, to see money as a principal danger in life, and how one uses money as a critical factor in one’s relationship with God and others. It is to view money as genuinely unimportant; not that it is unimportant how one deals with it: rather, it is very important that one views money as unimportant. It is critical, urgent, a “salvation issue” (a favorite phrase of a friend of mine), that we relax our tight grip on our wallets, and our urgent desire to get our grip on others’ wallets too.

The current political climate in the United States has no room for gospel values here. The right tells us that we can grip our own wallets tightly, and should resent anyone who tries to take out of them. The left tells us that we owe each other the contents of our wallets, and we should take out of them to pursue our common ends. Non-government types on the left (Quakers, environmentalists, etc) tell us that we should watch very carefully where each dollar goes: don’t buy grapes this year, don’t pay taxes to support the Department of “Defense”, support causes you like, etc., in this way, using money as a “tool for effecting social change”—that is, as a tool for controlling others to produce the changes you wish.

Ellul likes the story of Jesus getting his temple tax from the fish; the point being that Jesus is ridiculing the whole thing. “Oh, you want a coin? Here, from the mouth of a fish, there’s your coin.” Money is unimportant, a thing not worth fretting about. Let it go. It is not a lever by which you are entitled to control other people.
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