When I was 13, give or take a year or two, I asked my mother one day what the difference was between republicans and democrats. Her answer was simple. Republicans believe that people should be free to make their own decisions about how they spend their money and make the decisions affecting their own lives. Democrats believe that the government is better qualified to make those decisions and should therefore be the one to make them.
In the years that followed I fluctuated between adherence to first one and then the other of those two ideologies. I once heard the following: “Show me a young man with no heart and I’ll show you a republican. Show me an old man with no brain and I’ll show you a democrat.” … or something to that effect. You get the idea. Young people are guided by emotions and feelings. Old people are guided by experience and common sense.
As I aged, the myriad of facts that I had absorbed in my reasonably extensive reading of the biographies of the famous and not so famous persons who had peopled our nation’s history, and in a few cases the histories of other nations; those facts began to shape the way I viewed our society.
One of the benefits that came from my interest in history was the way I viewed contemporary events. I viewed them as history in the making, which of course they were. At the same time events in my personal “history in the making” began to move me further to the right. (As an aside, I find it rather significant that the word “right” happens to mean “correct” as well as the political meaning of the opposite of left.) The most dramatic and what proved to be the permanent; shift in my political alliance came when I woke up to the fact that the IRS was going to take nearly a third of the profits from an investment Dad had started for me and which I had luckily added to. That was followed by several similar instances of government interference with my business and personal life.
All of this took place in the late ’70s and early ‘80s. Being a business person, albeit a not terribly astute business person, I began to take stock of the dividends that accrued to my benefit as a result of the rather high taxes I was paying. The safety and security in my daily life as a result of the portion of my taxes which went to our national defense was the first thing on the list … and the last. (If I was to add one more it might be the US Postal Service except that it was in the process of being privatized … sort of. Like everything else the government has even a minor involvement in it soon became another bureaucratic albatross) At first I was intending to include our highway system, but then it occurred to me that most of that was funded by the tax on gasoline.
That was it. I received no benefit to speak of from the remainder of the taxes I was paying to the U.S. Treasury. However, a lot of other people were reaping generous benefits from my taxes. The personnel employed by the federal government were enjoying well paying jobs from which they could hardly ever be fired and they didn’t have to contribute a single dime to Social Security since they had their own retirement annuity system that paid rather nice dividends on retirement. The most outrageous aspect of this system is that in the beginning those people worked for slightly less than their counterparts in the private sector as a balance to having permanent employment. But in the last few years they have seen their pay and benefits rise to nearly double that of people performing identical tasks in the private sector. And that is an outrageous miscarriage of justice.
The social security payments which were deducted from my earnings every payday went straight to the general coffer to help fund all the social welfare and Great Society programs, which again I received no benefit from either directly or indirectly. Not one penny of those payments ever earned a dime of interest or dividend.
The primary irritant in of all this is that among the many supporters of this legal theft are many well meaning friends; people who genuinely feel that it’s justifiable for Big Brother to take from me and give to someone with less. What makes it even worse is that if they profess to be Christian, they rely on the scriptural justification to support their thesis.
There are four primary scriptural sources for this notion that we should support the government in taking from the fortunate winners of life’s lottery (that’s what they call those who have benefited from fruits of hard work and long hours). The first source of justification is the numerous calls of the prophets to help those less fortunate. The second source is Jesus’ repeated admonition to the wealthy to “sell all, distribute it to the poor and follow him.”
The third and most common defense for confiscation of wealth is Jesus instruction to “Pay unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and the rest belongs to God.” In the language of today’s liberal progressives, “Pay unto Uncle Sam whatever his elected and/or un-elected representatives deem appropriate, and if there is any left over after bills, car and house payments etc. belongs to God” … or the “universe” or whatever entity people on the left deem to be in charge.
Last but certainly not the least frequently mentioned defense of government confiscation of wealth is found in the book of Acts. Luke describes how the new Christians shared “everything”; sold all their property and turned the proceeds over to the apostles to be distributed to those they deemed most in need. That is further enhanced by the narrative of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira when they withheld a portion of the sale of some property from the church. They were struck dead on the spot … not for withholding, but for lying about how much they got from the sale. Case closed. Pay taxes and don’t cheat or else … “’cause the Bible tells me so.”
The point that all these biblical defenses of taxation conveniently miss is this: They are all voluntary contributions. Where is the virtue in government enforced generosity? There is none is there? And where is Christian virtue when citizen A, who has voted for people who exempt him from taxes, votes too for people who force citizen B, who does pay taxes, to pay citizen C for whatever citizen C thinks he/she is entitled to. Paul exhorts the believers to pay their taxes to the Roman government, because the government is there to protect us. (refer back to second sentence of the fifth paragraph above) But then what else was he going to say … he himself was, after all, quite proud of his Roman citizenship, a fact which ultimately backfired on him.
It seems to me that when the government takes full responsibility for feeding the poor, housing the homeless, tending to the sick then I can, with a clear conscience, absolve myself of any personal responsibility to extend aid to anyone in need. I don’t even feel a need to ascertain the worthiness of who is aided and to what degree they should be aided. After all … I paid my taxes. Let the government figure it out. I’ve got more important things to worry about … Like which restaurant to dine at before I go to whatever computer animated action movie is the rage this week.
My closing salvo to this statement of mind, is about the disconnect between my devout Christian friends spiritual beliefs and their political defense of, in my mind, the indefensible attitude and actions of the very people they support when it comes to the attacks leveled daily in the press and liberal blogs on religious freedom of expression. Abba gave each of us a unique set of characteristics for purposes of communication and expression. If the above mentioned members of the left had their way there would be no churches and no freedom to express anything that they disagreed with.
Am I defending those on the right who disagree with things like the right to marry, and scream that our way of life is an abomination? Of course not! But I can tell you this: I’ve found it far easier to sway the minds of conservative Christians to acceptance of things like equality for ALL through sincere and open conversation than it is to even have a sincere and open civil discourse with most people who consider themselves liberal progressives.