I appreciate that many of us have a very practical nature, and a problem-solving bent. But I going to take a stab at demonstrating that as Christians we need to be thinking about means, and not just ends. Or to put it another way, we need to examine some of the core methods that undergird the operation of all "worldly government", and then based on what we find, to decide if the oft-posed question as to the "appropriate role of government" is in fact moot. I particularly would like to request that my “left-leaning” or “social justice” friends bear with me and read through this little thought experiment.
We all agree, I'm sure, that a lone man pointing a gun at me and demanding that I hand over a specified amount of money, is evil. And I'm also pretty sure that we agree that if he gives a reason for his demand, that involves the supposed welfare of a third party, he is still evil. If you do not agree that in the second case, the man is evil, please note that in a comment on the post, but for now I will assume that you’re with me, and will proceed from there.
So the lone guy, pointing a gun at me, demanding money, to be used to benefit another person who is not present, is evil. Then let's add a wrinkle: instead of a lone man, he is a man who has been hired by a group of 10 families, to come to the door of each house in this 100-family subdivision, point the gun, present the humanitarian cause (really, it doesn‘t matter what it is) adopted by the 10 family consortium, and request the specific donation. And now, the “cause” is not the mere fulfillment of the need of a single person or family, but is a project that will benefit all the families of the subdivision--say, a new park area open to all in the subdivision. The 10 families are contributing that same amount, voluntarily. Evil? I don't see how you could say no. (Gun-- remember?)
Ok, now instead of a 10-family grouping hiring the man with the gun, it is a 90-family grouping, in the same 100-family subdivision. Everything else remains the same. Evil? Again, what has changed, that would allow you to say no?
What if, instead of a man with a gun, the 90-family consortium just sends a letter to the 10 other families, informing them of the decision of the 90 families, and saying we hope you comply willingly? 8 of the 10 families decide to send in the money. Follow-up letters are sent to the 2 remaining families, informing them that this is a cause that was adopted by 90% of the families of the subdivision, and that 8 of the other 10 families agreed voluntarily to comply with the decision, and that if they don't comply, there might be "unfortunate consequences"? 1 of the 2 families now sends in their check, leaving just one holdout family.
A series of increasingly menacing letters are now sent, but the holdout family does not budge. A final letter is sent, informing that family that as they have demonstrated a brazen disregard for the good of the whole subdivision, they have forfeited their ownership of their house, to the Subdivision Family Well-Being Organization, and now have 60 days to find somewhere else to live, and vacate the house. 60 days pass, and the family still has not vacated the house. The SFWO hires several men to go to the house with guns, and evict the family from the house. The family refuses to open the door. The men break open the door, and physically carry out the members of the family, who still refuse to leave under their own power. The SFWO auctions the house off to a new family, from outside the subdivision. From the proceeds of the property sale, they deduct the contested family donation, plus the extra costs incurred due to the seizure of the house and the auction, etc. etc., and remit the rest to the evicted family.
Evil? Yes? (Again, I still don't see what has changed, that would make it not evil.) Ok, then expand "subdivision" to "township" or “state“ or “country“, and increase the number of families, and provide for regular elections for officials who will administer the "family cause organization" by collecting the regular donations, and seeing that the money gets spent efficiently on the cause.
Add to the mix, that "this is the way it has been done for 200 years", and that resisters to the plan are extremely few and far between. (Why would you expect them to be numerous? Who likes being evicted from their own home, that they purchased fair and square from someone else, and which they may have invested years of their lives in?) Add what many consider to be the coup de grace: “By your residence/birth in a specific area, you are implicitly a party to a ‘contract’ that requires your sharing in the costs of administering the area.”
Do you see the point? Even if *no one* refuses to pay their demanded share, and therefore incurs the forceful penalty, it *does not remove the fact* that it is a system that *relies on unprovoked force*. Without the threat of force, it *cannot exist*.
This is not the way God’s kingdom works. The way God’s kingdom works is demonstrated by the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19), who, upon seeing the light of the Kingdom of God, voluntarily, *joyfully* even, pledged to give large amounts of his wealth (ill-gotten or no) for the benefit of the poor, and to make multiple restitution for any ill-gotten wealth. It is also demonstrated by “Lazarus and the rich man” (Luke 16:19ff), in which the rich man “goes to hell“, for a reason that is left implicit-- but which a reasonable person would conclude was, that he did not show compassion toward the wretched man who begged at his gate. Fine, he goes to hell, but I still know of no paradigm, in the Kingdom of God, calling for forceful seizure of wealth from the wealthy, on behalf of the poor, or on behalf of the “public good”.
In my next post I’ll address the two biblical passages that seem most strongly to advocate for a taxing government, or at least to give consent to it.