Giovinazzo gets God wrong on government


CCHRIS GIOVINAZZO HAS issued a challenge to the Christian Right (“Who Would Jesus Tax?” April 15, 2004). I would like to answer that challenge. I am not so bold as to claim to speak for all Christians, or even all Christians of the “Right,” even though my political and social views place me squarely within that realm. I speak only for myself, for I am sure there are those in the Christian Right who would disagree with my position, as I am sure there are those in the Christian Right opposed to Bush’s tax cuts.

Giovinazzo makes numerous references to the New Testament to build his case that rich is evil, poor is good, and the government should do its best to take evil away from everyone and make us all good. I agree completely with Giovinazzo that Christ has said we should give to the poor. However, what Christ did not say, and what is also lacking in all of the Biblical citations by Giovinazzo, is that the government is responsible for enforcing this teaching of Jesus.

Giovinazzo quotes James 2:17 that “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” Important words to live by. However, Giovinazzo has not explained the logic by which compulsory taxation resulting in compelled redistribution of wealth is somehow an act of charity, either on the part of those taxed, or on the part of those who pass such taxes. If one does not give of one’s own free will, it is not a good work.

There are also practical reasons why Christians would prefer to have their money left in their own hands to give as they see fit. Not all charitable giving need be to the poor; money can also be used to honor and glory God (see Matthew 26:7-13). It is good to give money to churches, to build places of worship and to undertake evangelical missionary activity. Last I checked, Congress was not writing checks to fund the building of churches or spreading the Gospel.

Many Christians may also be strongly opposed to some of the uses to which their tax money is being put. The government expends funds to support artwork that is blasphemous (e.g., photograph of a Crucifix in a jar of urine); it funds public schools that have completely removed God from the classroom; it uses public schools to promote lifestyles which many Christians find immoral and contrary to the laws of God. These are just a few examples of the numerous ways in which the government uses money gained from taxes to promote un-Christian aspects of society.

Lower taxes would mean more money for Christians to support pious and holy works of art, to allow them to educate their children in private schools that teach the centrality of God to a good and moral society, and to raise them to lead a Christian life (one that would, coincidentally, strongly encourage them to give money to the poor – in the words of Mother Teresa, “to give until it hurts”).

Personally, I see nothing wrong with a government that taxes for the purpose of caring for the poor, promoting morality, and building a wholesome society (though even this would in no way satisfy my personal duty to do good works). I suspect many on the Christian Right would also embrace this. However, the American government can never be that government, for our First Amendment prohibits the government’s adherence to any religious creed, and a religious creed with its attendant moral principles is essential for a government that seeks to direct the moral composition of society. I am by no means advocating a repeal of that First Amendment, but I will not support giving control over charity to a government lacking the guiding moral light of religion.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon the individual, not government, to work towards building God’s Kingdom here on earth. It is for the individual to decide how best to distribute his or her money to the poor. It is for the individual to promote morality within his or her own community and society as a whole. It is for the individual to decide how he or she will live out the teachings of the Gospel. In the American system, these are functions that can only be properly carried out by the individual. Taxes as a means of compelled wealth redistribution are not commanded by the Gospel, nor are they an appropriate way to fulfill the teachings of Christ on earth.

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