March 27, 2011

Sunday School 3/27/11: Jesus, the anti-tax revolutionary?

I was working on another post when I came across a reference to Rediscovering God in America, a book, movie and theme park (OK, I made up the theme park part) from the Newt Gingrich camp and their friends at Citizens United. Historian Gingrich (as opposed to Likely 2012 Candidate Gingrich) went on a mission to educate folks on the real role that religion has played in throughout our history, including a travelogue of monuments in DC. I don’t fault him for doing this; I commend him as a thrice married sinner who has by his own admission sought forgiveness from God and from the Republican Party.

Fast forward to Rediscovering God in America, the pastor's conference, which was held this weekend in Des Moines, IA. No significance there, natch; had nothing to do with Iowa being first in the presidential season. The conference included a showing of Newt's movie, an opportunity to spend hard-earned cash on books and DVDs, and some interesting sessions on religion and politics.

Take this example, where David Barton, the founder of WallBuilders (the folks who brought you the Texas school curriculum) points out (about as fast as humanly possible) a number of bible verses to show that Jesus was against taxes. Yep – Jesus was anti-tax. Very specifically he was against the capital gains tax, the estate tax, and the progressive income tax. He was also anti-minimum wage. Honest. Here's the proof.

On the estate tax, three verses were referenced; to the untrained, non-Republican eye, they seem to be more about abiding by the word of the Lord and being good. If you are, you will have something to pass on to your children's children - their inheritance would be your goodness, if you will. If on the other hand you don’t choose to live a god life, or if you try to pass on ill-gotten gains, they’ll be taken from you; and you can only pass on what is yours, not something that you have taken from others. 
  • A good [man] leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner [is] laid up for the just. (Proverbs 13.22)
  • Now therefore in the sight of all Israel the congregation of the LORD, and in the audience of our God, keep and seek for all the commandments of the LORD your God: that ye may possess this good land, and leave [it] for an inheritance for your children after you forever. (1 Chronicles 28.8)
  • Moreover the prince shall not take of the people's inheritance by oppression, to thrust them out of their possession; but he shall give his sons inheritance out of his own possession: that my people be not scattered every man from his possession. (Ezekiel 46.18) 
The verses allegedly related to the progressive income tax appear to be more about tithing than about taxation. The fact that a tithe is required or recommended doesn’t preclude a tax also being applied.
  • And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, [even] of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD. (Leviticus 27.32). Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year (Deuteronomy 14.22) 
  • Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest. (Numbers 18.28-29)
The next set of verses cited seem to indicate that the 'haves' will get more, and the 'have-nots' will lose what they have; basically, the rich tend to get richer, and the poor tend to stay poor. We all get that.  But I don’t see this as a biblical imperative against the capital gains tax.
  • For I say unto you, that unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. (Luke 19.26)
  • For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (Matthew 25.29)
Last, on minimum wage, the verses from Matthew are about paying the same amount of money to everyone, regardless of their effort, but not about how much everyone should get paid.
  • These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take [that] thine [is], and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee (Matthew 20.12-14). 
I’m no Bible scholar, not by a long shot. But I’m not seeing these verses as being at all indicative of Jesus being anti-tax. What I do see, instead, is people closely associated with a potential presidential candidate, one who's allegedly on the righteous path now, twisting the Bible to meet their needs, and directing pastors to interpret the Bible in a specific way as to promote an extremely selfish position.

Now that seems to be something that Jesus would have definitely been against.