Monday, October 1, 2012

How Votes Can Count More Than Once

Some things we just don't get to vote on.
Yesterday, pioneer Christian blogger Tim Challies posted some thoughts about five things the Bible has to say concerning governments.

None of them are things any student of the Gospel hasn't heard before:
  • Every government is put in place by God
  • God uses even sinful governments to do His will
  • We ought to pray for those who govern us
  • We should honor and submit to those who govern us
  • All human governments will eventually end and Jesus will reign over everyone forever
Maybe because these are all things most of us have heard before, there has been relatively little reader feedback.  Yet even within the small volume of feedback, right-wing rhetoric has made a caustic appearance.

Maybe that shouldn't be surprising, either.  Except that Challies is a Canadian, not an American, so he doesn't intentionally write specifically to an audience made up exclusively of United States voters, most of whom call themselves Christians, and many of whom likely vote to the far right of the political spectrum.

Still, it speaks to the pervasive misunderstanding among Christians of taxation being unBiblical that someone complained that "the United States federal government is a cancer that has metastasized."  This person justifies their anger at taxation by claiming that our government "steals untold wealth in the form of taxes to spend and waste on immoral and unproductive programs. I believe it is our responsibility to resist in any way we can."

This may be one feedback comment on one blog entry, but doesn't it represent the opinion of many Americans of faith?

Votes Count When They're Cast...

Hey - nobody likes taxes, except the people whose earn a paycheck collecting them.  And yes, logical arguments can be made that our government in the United States is too large and doing too many things ineffectively.  Yet if you listen to certain radio celebrities who earn their paychecks by making you angry at our government, it's easy to assume that taxes are partly to blame for what's wrong with the United States.

What are taxes?  In essence, taxes are the economic manifestation of a government's priorities, right?  A lot of our taxes go to support a vast military industrial complex because we want to be the world's sole superpower.  A lot of our taxes go to help senior citizens survive in our increasingly costly society if they weren't wealthy enough to maintain both their pre-retirement standard of living, and save all the money they'd need when they stopped earning a paycheck.  

We pay our taxes so a Republican senator in Alaska could fund a bridge to nowhere.  We pay our taxes so people who don't want to be gainfully employed don't have to be.  We pay our taxes to fund houses of Congress whether they accomplish the jobs we send them there to do or not.  We pay our taxes because it used to be understood that an educated society could be a productive society.  Then there are the parks we want our heirs to be able to enjoy in perpetuity, the prisons which criminals populate in perpetuity, and the freeways in whose congestion we seem to languish in perpetuity.

These are all, to varying degrees, at different periods of our country's history, components of our society that enough voters have considered worthwhile recipients of our tax dollars.  Yes, this even includes abortions that our government pays for, and other conflicts of conscience over which many people of faith rightfully hold strong objections.  Just goes to show that having a majority doesn't mean you're right.

But blaming government for the tax rates we have - and what taxes pay for - is a bit disingenuous, isn't it?

...and Later On, When We Want to Cast Aspersions

Somewhere along the way, somebody voted for those taxes.  Rightly or wrongly, it wasn't "the government" that arbitrarily decided to raise your taxes.  Not in the United States, anyway.

Back in Christ's time on our Earth, Rome's Caesars ruled with iron fists.  There was little negotiating and no recall elections.  Yet Christ still instructed His followers to pay whatever taxes Caesar decreed.  Talk about taxation without representation!

As we get ready for next month's election, let's first give God thanks for the many - and yes, they still are "many" - freedoms and opportunities we have in our United States of America.  And let's pray that God will help us keep the "United" part of our name a functional part of our country.

To the extent that we can vote for people and issues that align with our beliefs and opinions, we have the right - indeed, the obligation - to do so.

But let's stop making a villain out of everybody and everything we're told not to like.  We're looking with hindsight at the choices previous generations of voters have made.  How will future generations of voters view our choices this November?

And if you haven't prayed for both of our presidential candidates yet, start doing so now.  If we do the things Christ has told us to do, maybe we won't end up with, as Joseph de Maistre put it, "the government we deserve."

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