A blow to biblical values?
Alabamans yesterday voted 2-to-1 to reject a $1.2 billion tax increase. In effect, says USA Today, they "rejected Gov. Bob Riley's plea that it was their Christian duty to help the poor and reform a tax system he called 'immoral.'"
Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Certainly Riley made his case for the tax increase largely on moral, biblical and theological grounds—something that's pretty common among Democrats, but rare among Republicans like Riley. But yesterday's vote may not have been a blow to biblical values, writes the Cato Institute's Doug Bandow in National Review Online.
"One will peruse the Bible long and hard to find a verse that says it is better to make a poor person pay more for cigarettes and services than in income taxes," he writes.
What these lay theologians are missing is that God focuses on our relationship with him and our neighbors, not on our use of political power to coerce those around us. While the Old Testament, particularly, is filled with denunciations of government oppression, nowhere does that mean a regressive tax system adopted by a democratic polity. Instead, it means an autocratic Israelite king or outside conqueror stealing and pillaging. In fact, much of what government does today also could be characterized as stealing and pillaging, but that results from too many, not too few, taxes. It is the endless soup line of special interest spending programs, shrouded with public spirited rhetoric, that most resembles Biblical oppression.
Still, many conservative Alabaman pastors and groups like the Christian Coalition of America surprisingly disagreed in this case. It will be interesting to see what happens next, both to Riley's tax plan, and to the Christian argumentations ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.