Tuesday, November 08, 2011

WWJT: Who Would Jesus Tax

This is an article by Chris Giovanazzo.

Do you think the problem of debt could be made better by asking the wealthiest 1% to pay more in taxes? Jesus taught that the rich have a responsibility to help the poor, and sometimes he suggests that they are going to hell for failing to do so.  Shouldn't the teachings of Jesus be reflected in the tax code? Who Would Jesus Tax?

If you think that Obama is a class warrior, he pales in comparison to Jesus. 

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

This line is defensible if you think a theocracy is defensible.

Crude said...

If you think that Obama is a class warrior, he pales in comparison to Jesus.

I think Obama pales in comparison to a lot of guys, in a lot of ways.

"Shouldn't the teachings of Jesus be reflected in the tax code" just sounds so warped to me. How about we reflect them in the marriage code too? And in our schools? What about those research budgets?

More than that, though... the problem I have here is this hop from 'Jesus taught that the wealthy should give to the poor' to 'Tax the wealthy'. It's not "have them pay more in taxes", because they already do that proportionally. And it's not just 'the rich have a responsibility to help the poor' because it's not as if taxes are spent on nothing but, or even largely, the poor.

One of the biggest problems I have with this whole modern debate is that 'How do we solve this problem?' is asked, and all people hear is 'What laws and policies should the government pass to solve this problem?'

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1: Your argument is only defensible if theological justifications for political policies are only unique to theocracies. Since every society uses theological or mythological justifications for certain policies or institutions, you're argument is not justified.

And please don't pretend like we live in a secular society. The idea of states and individuals as self-ruling sovereign entities is based on a voluntarist theological depiction of the Christian God transposed to these agents. The division between secular and religious in Western societies is derived from a medieval theological distinctions and are social constructions unique to Western societies. The social contract model of Hobbes and Spinoza borrowed heavily from the Old Testament covenant as a model. These are only a few of the more prominent examples. I could go on . . . for hours. The point is, theological justifications and categories still permeate the political and philosophical arrangements and beliefs of Western thought; it is just that many people no longer recognize them as such--they are sublimated below the surface, but still very much there.

Below are a few excellent books on the subject. All of the authors are philosophers, political theorists, theologians, or anthropologists.

http://www.amazon.com/Sovereignty-State-Self-Gifford-Lectures/dp/B003E7EUYS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320816955&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/Theological-Origins-Modernity-Michael-Gillespie/dp/0226293467/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320816985&sr=1-1-spell

http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Religious-Violence-Ideology-Conflict/dp/0195385047/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

http://www.amazon.com/Migrations-Holy-Political-Meaning-Church/dp/0802866093/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320817064&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Formations-Secular-Christianity-Modernity-Cultural/dp/0804747687/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320817162&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Genealogies-Religion-Discipline-Reasons-Christianity/dp/0801846323/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320817162&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.com/Hebrew-Republic-Transformation-European-Political/dp/0674062132/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320817210&sr=1-1

Anonymous said...

A poster held up at some kind of rally:

Obama isn't a brown skinned socialist who wants to give free health care to everyone...

You're thinking of Jesus.

Crude said...

Your argument is only defensible if theological justifications for political policies are only unique to theocracies.

If I say "Obama's a muslim", do you promise to give as over the top a reply to me as you did to anonymous?

parbouj said...

Good to see the postmodern christian perspective. Nice.

Anonymous said...

@Crude:

I would hardly call my response "over the top." Rather it is a much needed corrective to the mythological narrative of secular modernity.

As for your query about Obama's religion, it isn't relevant to the topic of discussion; it's a silly little red herring. If you have an actual point or argument, I'd be happy to address it, but if you prefer to spout diversionary and non-responsive rhetoric, I'll pass.

Crude said...

Anon,

I would hardly call my response "over the top."

C'mon. A one line quip from an anonymous person and you threw out, what, 7 book recommendations? You can see the humor in that. Speaking of which...

I could go on . . . for hours.

Now you're just baiting me. ;)

Rather it is a much needed corrective to the mythological narrative of secular modernity

I'm all in favor of those. I just think you took a shotgun to a gnat here.

If you have an actual point or argument, I'd be happy to address it, but if you prefer to spout diversionary and non-responsive rhetoric, I'll pass.

It was a joke. Everyone knows Obama's really an atheist.

... :D

Anonymous said...

@Crude:

Fair enough.

But I'm watching you . . . . . . :p

Anonymous said...

But Jesus also condemns stealing...

unkleE said...

Regardless of whether the country "should" follow Jesus in its taxation laws, surely christians should be following him in that direction, not legalistically, but following the spirit of his teachings? And supporting those politicians who are heading in the same direction. If christians did this, it would surely be enough to change things quite a bit.

I find it interesting that people who are strong on abortion and homosexuality (things Jesus didn't speak about, though the Bible generally does) are often not so strong on Jesus' and the OT prophets and James' teachings on wealth. And of course, the opposite is also sometimes true. We humans find it hard, sometimes, to be consistent!

amtheomusings said...

Non-aggressive moral obligations shouldn't be enforced through the threat of violence. The individual obligation of everyone to everybody in society is not something government exists to to secure.

I think all political offerings construed to be from Jesus are seriously tempered by his "My kingdom is not of this world."

Anonymous said...

We have to wonder why Jesus and the Old Testament prophets gave their teachings but apparently never chastised the State to turn them into official law.

Anthony Fleming said...

I'm actually pretty certain that Jesus was telling everyone with the means to help the poor...not just the rich.

Sometimes this idea that "the rich should do it" is used to cloud over the fact that most all of us (in this country) are able to help the poor.

I grew up in a poor family (by societies standards) yet my dad continued to give to the poor in this country and in other countries. By the time I was 18 my dad's contributions had helped educate, feed, and cloth over 25 people in other countries and several more in this country (not counting other various and random contributions).

By societies standards I am technically in the poor class (for now) yet I believe it is more fitting to take my time helping the poor with what I can rather than demanding and complaining that the rich should do it.

Most of the people I find that demand so much for the rich to help the poor hardly ever help the poor themselves. Somehow they think they are helping with Jesus' commands by having "correct" political views. Many of those that I find are doing the most to actually and tangibly help the poor are not the ones scapegoating it to the rich.

Just my thoughts.

toddes said...

With respect to the OP, this idea is nonsense.

Nowhere does Jesus address the idea of taxes related to the issue of caring for the poor.

Nowhere does Jesus address the care of the poor as being the responsibility of the government but he does address it as the responsibility of the individual and of the church.

Also the idea that somehow increasing the tax on the rich (whatever that means) would somehow reduce poverty is naive, IMO.

And as Anthony points out, why stop at this country? By the world's standards, 99% (yes, I picked that number out of the air) of this country would be considered rich.

Crude said...

To take up the other side of this one - to somehow translate Christ's teachings on the poor into some kind of broad tax policy may be wrong, but non-governmental encouragement for wealthy people (Not just "the 1%", but everyone with the means) is certainly reasonable. Very reasonable. We should be thinking in terms of cultures, not governments.

I also think this goes far beyond giving to charity. There should also be a personal focus.

J said...

"Render unto Caesar"--ie, respect the State. e.g pay your taxes (and given the general egalitarianism of the New T, JC would probably want higher taxes on oligarchs--ie, rich man/ eye of a needle, etc). Not exactly compatible with Ayn Rand...or the rightist-libertarian code of Bill Vallicella & Co.

adc said...

Oh For goodness sake, Victor,

Can you really not differentiate between choosing to help the poor out of thanksgiving that Jesus Christ has died and stood in your stead, from being obligated at gun point (this is what tax is) to labor (this is what money represents) for the someone else in an arbitrary amount (justified by what?) determined by whatever some arbitrary man in power feels you should?

Come on.

The teachings of Jesus should not, and CANNOT be enforced by mob-rule at gunpoint.

Furthermore, Jesus' purpose on earth was to show all men that they cannot EARN God's favor through their own relativistic form of morality (what we mistakenly call "righteous deeds"), and that only God can fulfill God's standard and therefore act in man's stead. The point of Jesus teachings - is that no man can perform them, thus Christ...

I mean, for goodness sake - read the book of Romans. Christ was the end of The Law. Why are you trying to put people back under it?

Ilíon said...

You know, every bit of the OP is false.

To the extent that Jesus said anything touching on economic matters, it was to approve of possessing wealth, and to disapprove of being possessed by one's wealth; further, to the extent he discusses economic maters, Jesus' "economic policy" is capitalistic and laissez faire, rather than either socialistic or centrally-planned.

Crude said...

I think Victor just asked some questions, pretty tame ones.

If there's anything I'd disagree with in Victor's OP, link aside, it would be describing Jesus as a 'class warrior'. I just don't think that's valid.

adc said...

Also as a side, though related....
- concerning the whole "WWJD?" concept:
Jesus is God. We cannot be God by what we do - though this was Lucifer's lie from the very beginning.

I know that this is not the intent when people use the phrase: What Would Jesus Do? However, there is a very critical point to be made there, that most people won't get -and ESPECIALLY Christians need to clearly differentiate.

If you believe that you can do what Jesus can do, even after becoming a Christian, then you've missed the point of the gospel. Unmerited favor, grace, is just that - without merit. This includes AFTER receiving salvation as Paul clearly illustrates through all of his writings. We are not, as Christians, to suddenly act like we are now capable of keeping the Ten Commandments or God's Law. The Law had one purpose - to be a schoolmaster to guide people to Christ.

So WWJD is a confused concept to begin with. The point being that you see it, and then feel what? A reminder to do what Jesus might...? But if people are truly honest -especially Christians- what do you really feal when you ask yourself: What would Jesus Do?

It is guilt.

This is because of the confusion that your actions have anything at all to do with your fitness before God.

What Would Jesus Do?
-The Will of the Father,
-to fullfill all righteousness,
-to fullfill every jot and tiddle of The Law.
-which we are incapable of doing.

The bracelet should read, TBTG! - as Paul cried after he put himself under Law which slew him and he cried: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Crude said...

Actually, here's are some fair questions I'd ask Victor.

Do you see any difference between a tax on the wealthy (ostensibly to help the poor), and the wealthy willingly and directly giving their money in efforts meant to help the poor?

What about a difference between a tax on the wealthy for those same reasons, and tax breaks which give financial incentive for the wealthy to use some portion of their annual income in charitable ways?

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "You know, every bit of the OP is false."

Crude: "I think Victor just asked some questions, pretty tame ones."

VR didn't *just* ask some mild questions; he implicitly and explicity asserted a number of falsehoods of the sort "liberals" like to assert, and seem to believe they can cause to be true by repeatedly asserting them.


VR: "Do you think the problem of debt could be made better by asking the wealthiest 1% to pay more in taxes?"

Which debt; whose debt? Considering that so many "liberals", following the tuggings of their leftist puppet-masters, are all a-twitter over the Occupy YourAss asses -- who seem singularly unconcerned to occupy their own minds -- I can't be sure he's talking about the debt the state is running up, so as to subsidize the lives of its dependents and reward its supporters, at the expense of the rest of us.

If VR is talking about having the state "forgive" the debts of constitutional layabouts who willingly chose to go deeply into hock to buy totally worthless "higher education", and who now find that there is no one willing to pay them handsomely to layabout and "teach", then what he's talking about is direct theft, enforced by the violence of the state.

And, if VR is talking about the debt being run up by the state, there aren't enough "rich" -- even if the state were to confiscated *all* their wealth -- to "pay for" that debt. Moreover, this often leads to the hypocrisy of "liberals" cheering for increasing the taxes placed on "the rich" and then bitching when they find out that *they* are "the rich"; and VR himself has done this on this very blog.

But, whichever debt he has in mind, no one *ever* is simply asked to "pay more in taxes"; rather, those individuals whom the state has presently chosen to target for harvesting are *told* "Pay this amount, or we shall unleash overwhelming violence upon you, and then *take* this much and even more ... including, perhaps, your very life."

Furthermore, increasing the taxes on "the rich", or even on you and me, is not going to solve the societal problem of the state spending far, far, far, too many resources (not just money, human time and effort) to subsidize the consumption of wealth at the expense of decreasing the generation of wealth.

NOT ONE "public employee" ever generates wealth, not one welfare recipient generates wealth, very few social security recipients are presently generating wealth: but, all these people, are more, are consuming wealth. And their consumption is either heavily subsidized by or entirely funded by the state: which means that the state is, by force, taking wealth from the increasingly few of us who actually generate wealth so as to subsidize the "life-styles" of the ever-increasing number of us who merely consume wealth. Moreover, that wealth being consumed has to come from somewhere: if it cannot all be generated within our borders (and it no longer can, as there are now so many of us consuming but not generating wealth), then in must come from outside our borders in the form of ever-increasing debt.

VR's "solution" to the systematic problem that is going to destroy us, both our state and our society, and which is even now very close to having done so, is to double down.

Ilíon said...

VR: "Jesus taught that the rich have a responsibility to help the poor, and sometimes he suggests that they are going to hell for failing to do so."

Jesus didn't teach "that the rich have a responsibility to help the poor"; he taught the we all have responsibilities one to another; and that our greatest responsibilities are to such abstractions as Truth and Justice; that is, to God.

Jesus didn't teach: "Go ye to; organize into political mobs, and at the point of the sword, compel those 'filthy rich' persons to 'help' 'the poor' by 'giving' their wealth to you." Rather, he taught: *you* help your fellows. Nor did he teach that "the poor" are entitled to sit around on their lazy asses all day watching TV and texting on their cell phones, living off the efforts of those who actually do generate wealth. Discounting those few who through youth or age or illness could not contribute, just as OT "charity" was only available to those who actually worked and contributed, so too Christ's.

Jesus did not "sometimes [] suggest[] that ["the rich"] are going to hell for failing to ["help" "the poor"]." He said that those whose primary concern is this mortal life -- regardless of whether they are "rich" or "poor" -- will fail to see God, will fail to grasp the gift of eternal life because they are too busy grasping after what is fading away even as they grasp after it.

VR: "Shouldn't the teachings of Jesus be reflected in the tax code?"

As Crude asked, shouldn't the teachings of Jesus be reflected in the marriage laws? How about "family court" laws? How about obscenity/pornography laws? How about with regard to abortion? How about with regard to capital punishment, especially for extrordinarily heinous crimes? How about with respect to those persons who enrich themsleves not by generating wealth, but by confiscating the wealth that others have generated? How about with respect to those persons who enrich themsleves not by generating wealth, but by successfully lobbying government officials to confiscate the wealth that others have generated so as to give it to them?

VR: "Who Would Jesus Tax?"

Why not ask, instead: "Whom Would Jesus Execute?" I think I can help you draw up at least the beginnings of the list.

====================
Ilíon: "You know, every bit of the OP is false."

Crude: "I think Victor just asked some questions, pretty tame ones."

VR: "If you think that Obama is a class warrior, he pales in comparison to Jesus."

This false assertion about Christ modifies *everything* above it in the OP.


And, at the same time, as someone has pointed out, Obama is a modest man, with much of which to be modest.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that the moral teaching of Jesus is closer to (gasp!) Peter Singer than Milton Friedman or Ayn Rand.

readhttp://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1972----.htm

But its true that it is not just the rich, its all of us. And yet the perversity of our materialist culture would not lost on Jesus.

It never ceases to amaze me that some people really believe that human fulfillment comes from living in a McMansion and driving a BMW.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

Whenever anyone tries to tell me which side of a political or economic debate Jesus would be on, I respond with this:

One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?" (Luke 12: 13-14)

J said...

The WWJT game may be a bit childish but there can hardly be any doubt Christ opposed the money lenders and usurers:

"love ye your enemies, and do good and lend, hoping for nothing again." (Luke 6:34-35).


So like He's in New Yawk, got his alpaca hat on, tokin' some good chronic and has Ayn Rand and Bloomberg, G-man Sachs execs, et al impaled on a shish kebob.

Ilíon said...

Prokop: "Whenever anyone tries to tell me which side of a political or economic debate Jesus would be on, I respond with this:"

You're so dishonest -- you are one of the very worst about trying to dragoon Christ into being author of your anti-liberty socialism.

J said...

Jesus was ..a leftie--tossing the lenders out of the temple. You're in the wrong religion Idionstein-- Ayn Rand's yr guy, hermano--like Ed Feiser & Co.

B. Prokop said...

Nope. I never use the "God is on my side" gambit when discussing politics. Never.

You, however, have yet to disavow your support for Hell's own constitution. Why so silent? That's not like you.

B. Prokop said...

Ilion,

On May 23rd 2011 at 8:51 AM, (under the topic "Do the wealthy create jobs?") it was conclusively demonstrated on this website that your outlook on life was the governing constitution of Hell itself. You have yet to rebut this, so it can only be assumed that you admit the truth of the charge.

Ilíon said...

Prokop: "Nope. I never use the "God is on my side" gambit when discussing politics. Never."

What a novel relationship with reality this fellow appears to have.

Prokop: "You, however, have yet to disavow your support for Hell's own constitution. Why so silent? That's not like you."

See? His very next sentence demonstrates that his prior assertion was at total variance with reality.

I wonder, is there a simpler, or even a more direct, word for that?

B. Prokop said...

The simplest, most direct way to say it is that you don't know how to read.

Read the two statements again. Neither one says that "God is on my side". But one of them says that He's not on yours.

Chris said...

We are morally obligated to not murder and to help the poor. Most feel the government should enforce the former. Why shouldn't they enforce the latter?

Maybe the our government shouldn't be a theocracy. It shouldn't force Christian ethics on anyone. But some people (including, I think, some that comment here) think that there is no basis for ethics outside God. If that's so, the government is already theocratic in enforcing 'you shall not murder'. So why not enforce our obligation to help the poor?

Ilíon said...

Chris: "We are morally obligated to not murder and to help the poor. Most feel the government should enforce the former. Why shouldn't they enforce the latter?"

Because, unlike "you shall not murder", "help the poor" is open-ended. Because "helping the poor" via confiscatory taxation of that fellow over there is not *you* helping anyone. Because "helping the poor" via confiscatory taxation of that fellow over there turns those so taxed into the slaves of those who want to live off the largesse of the state, and who in our system are allowed themselves to determine the limits of what that fellow over there "owes" them ... and the limit has been determined to be infinite. Because "helping the poor" via confiscatory taxation inevitably leads to the very crisis we are now experiencing, which is set to destroy our state, or even our entire society.

Because "help the poor" is of the same nature as "bring your offerings unto the Lord": they are open-ended and the specifics of the commands differ according to the situation. How much of your wealth should you offer to the Lord, right now? No other man can tell you that, nor has the right to assert to tell you -- least of all the man who means to live off that offering, that is, the priest/pastor/rabbi and the bureaucrats that may be in line behind him -- it is a matter between you and God. Likewise, "help the poor" is a matter between you and God.

We also have the moral obligation to bring new human life into the world. Should the state enforce that? And to what extent? Must every fertile woman be continuously pregnant? What of infertile women, are they immoral? Are they breaking the law and the Law?

We also have the moral obligation to speak the truth. Should the state enforce that? And to what extent? Which truths? How far into the truth? Am I obliged to tell you truths which are none of your business? Are you obliged to listen to me tell you all the petty truths about my life that you have absolutely no interest in knowing? Are you obliged to *remember* all those petty truths?

=====
Who are "the poor", anyway? And, what does it mean to "help the poor"? How does one measure this? Does one even *care* to determine whether one's "help" is really helping? Do "the poor" have any moral obligations in return for the "help" one gives them? What are those obligations, what are their limits?

Ilíon said...

Face it, you left-wingers: there is absolutely no moral justification for the regime you wish to impose upon the rest of us; and, in fact, the morality of it is *against* your liberty-devouring regime. Also, blind reality is against it, for it is unsustainable.

Ilíon said...

Prokop: "The simplest, most direct way to say it is that you don't know how to read."

Yet, the *accurate* way to say it is that you're a dishonest weasel: it's not that you're ignorant, and it's not that you're stupid; it's that you're dishonest.

"Read the two statements again. Neither one says that "God is on my side". But one of them says that He's not on yours. "

There are only two broad sides here:
1) my side, which is for individual freedom/liberty and dignity;
2) your side, which is for universal slavery and subjugation -- well, except for those few at the top, amoung which you probably expect to find yourself, calling the shots ... calling both the figurative and the literal shots.

As you falsely assert that God is not on my side, you are simultaneously falsely asserting that God is on your side, for there are only two sides. And we all know that you are not saying that God is indifferent to both sides; for all your hateful and hate-filled leftist rhetoric is crouched in moral terms: for example, you constantly falsely assert that I am immoral, that I am wicked and evil, in opposing your delusional leftist eutopia.

Look: you're dishonest, and everyone can see that you are dishonest. I've faced up to the fact; why can't you?

Ilíon said...

Prokop: "On May 23rd 2011 at 8:51 AM, (under the topic "Do the wealthy create jobs?") it was conclusively demonstrated on this website that your outlook on life was the governing constitution of Hell itself. You have yet to rebut this, so it can only be assumed that you admit the truth of the charge."

What the dishonest weasel demonstrated, as he is demonstrating yet again here, is his capacity for lying, both to others and to himself.

He is, as always, asserting that my "outlook on life" -- which is contrary to his -- is immoral, that my outlook is against God (and, of course, the truth is the other way around).

And, then, in a stunning display of blatant dishonesty, he tries to assert "I never use the "God is on my side" gambit when discussing politics. Never." Anyone can see that he does that continuously; that other than his leftist-inspired hatred, his only "argument" in favor of the distopia he wishes to impose on everyone else is: "Everyone who opposes us is wicked and immoral and against God."

Ilíon said...

Prokop: "On May 23rd 2011 at 8:51 AM, (under the topic "Do the wealthy create jobs?") it was conclusively demonstrated on this website that your outlook on life was the governing constitution of Hell itself. You have yet to rebut this, so it can only be assumed that you admit the truth of the charge."

What the dishonest weasel demonstrated, as he is demonstrating yet again here, is his capacity for lying, both to others and to himself.

He is, as always, asserting that my "outlook on life" -- which is contrary to his -- is immoral, that my outlook is against God (and, of course, the truth is the other way around).

And, then, in a stunning display of blatant dishonesty, he tries to assert "I never use the "God is on my side" gambit when discussing politics. Never." Anyone can see that he does that continuously; that other than his leftist-inspired hatred, his only "argument" in favor of the distopia he wishes to impose on everyone else is: "Everyone who opposes us is wicked and immoral and against God."

B. Prokop said...

Thank you, Ilion, for proving all my points so eloquently. I couldn't have done a better job of it myself.

As for further dialog with you, I will henceforth take my Master's advice about such as you: "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you" (Matthew 7:6)

Damien S said...

Why assume that coercive wealth distribution was what Jesus meant when telling the rich to help the poor? What virtue is involved in forcing someone to help someone else?

Jesus wasn't advocating support for a massive soul-destroying welfare bureaucracy that often takes from the productive and gives to the idle and immoral.

See here "the power of private charity"

http://townhall.com/columnists/marykatharineham/2005/09/02/the_power_of_private_charity

Ilíon said...

"Why assume that coercive wealth distribution was what Jesus meant when telling the rich to help the poor? What virtue is involved in forcing someone to help someone else?"

Beside which, Christ didn't tell "the rich" to help "the poor".