What Would Jesus Tax

"...if a community is run by the market, then Mammon has triumphed over God. In other words, if the least among us have no minimum chance to succeed, the community is not reflecting godly values.

I’m so tired of hearing folks claim that somehow charity will make up for inequity in taxation. It won’t. Evangelicals should go back and read about the Fall. They are pretending that somehow people are not tempted by the sin of greed. That is inconsistent with the way any Bible-believing person believes."
Susan Pace Hamill, University of Alabama Law Professor in the latest Christian Century

For the past year, Susan Pace Hamill has been on a crusade to change Alabama's tax code. Why? Because the Bible tells her so

Most tax systems are progressive--that it, the more you earn, the more you pay. That's flip-flopped in Alabama, where a combination of low property taxes and high sales tax means that "Alabama's poorest residents pay almost 11 percent of their income in state taxes while the richest pay less than 4 percent," Hamill told me when I interviewed here for an RNS story last year.

Hamill didn't pay much attention to Alabama's tax code until she spent a sabbatical at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, a conservative Baptist School.
Her study of Old Testament demands for justice and an indepth analysis of Alambama tax code made her into an activist. (You can read her master's thesis, which quotes more than 100 conservative Biblical commentaries, here)

While Hamill convinced Alabama's governor and most of the state's church leaders, a bill to change the tax code was soundly defeated last fall. The main opponent of the bill was the state's Christian Coalition.

If you want to get a indepth look of the greatest failing of Evangelical Christianity--which is that many of us thing that life begins at conception and ends at birth (as Mark Shields put in the most recent US Catholic magazine, then take a look at Hamill's recent interview in the Christian Century is worth

Here a snippet, on Christian-led opposition to tax reform:

They said that it’s up to the church to take care of the poor and that low taxes help people do that. They said I obviously wanted to increase taxes and hurt families.

Let’s consider that argument. First, does charity replace justice? The answer is clearly no. You can have a decent amount of charity going on in the midst of unjust laws. An A+ record in charity can’t turn an F in injustice into a C average. Things don’t work that way. And all the charity in the world is not going to produce the fairness in taxation we need. People are just too greedy to give things up voluntarily.

Any reasonable reading of the biblical account of the Fall teaches us that on our own we’re not going to do the right thing, and we’re certainly not going to voluntarily give up what we should. That’s why tax laws exist.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a conservative Republican and Southern Baptist, has proposed a $1.2 billion tax package that raises taxes on the wealthiest residents and businesses and cuts taxes on poor families. Riley argues that he has a moral obligation to do so, said David Azbell, the governor's press secretary.

"Gov. Riley has said many times that there are three things he has found in reading the New Testament," Azbell said. "We are to love God, love our neighbor and take care of the poorest of the poor."

Azbell said the tax plan helps make "an immoral tax system moral." He notes that in Alabama, a family of four that makes as little as $4,600 a year still has to pay income taxes. In neighboring Mississippi, that figure is $19,000. "I just don't think you can find a justification in the New Testament for taxing a family that makes $4,600 a year," he said.


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