As I read through the wonderfully written article by Craig Watts , I began to wonder, “what does Capitalism naturally teach us?” Nothing, isn’t a sufficient answer. A country where apartheid is textbook social order, is going to spread, control, fear, and oppression and make it endemic for that people. Ideals shape reality, form curtails into function, so a system of belief and economics that’s endgame is more, more, more, will in theory produce a people who are enslaved to wants and constantly want, more, more, more. Unfortunately, it isn’t theory; it’s a horrible reality in this country. Sin leads to destruction, but it’s not true to say capitalism does not teach us somethings that aren’t healthy.
To allege that government are only to enforce justice is a half truth. Biblical justice is restorative; the hendiadys “Justice and righteousness” which is frequently used in the prophets, not the least Isaiah, envisions a community where all are treated fairly, and where oppression and marginalization does not take place. It envisions peace in community, and a place where “everyone” sits under a fig tree. Justice and righteousness weeps at the CEO who makes 212 times more than his employees $1,566.68 per hour, when thirty years ago he would’ve made only $330.38 per hour more than his employee, who made $ 7.52 an hour back then and makes a little more than that now! The widening gap in disparity in this country is most the world has seen in history, I’d imagine. That isn’t justice; and I don’t why why this isn’t an evil that civil authorities could not punish. it does not really take a whole lot to see injustice when people are getting millions in bonuses while others in the same company are getting laid off. The prophets don’t envision justice without economic fairness.
The church is God’s community to bring change not the state–a modern idea which encroach on the churches work in many ways. Ideally the church is to relieve the poor, but I’d venture to say there aren’t enough Christians in America to help everybody, and there are some things: fair wages, affordable health care, good education, and protection against oppression and discrimination, that are done through public channels. Living in a democracy give us opportunity to as a people to aid those in need.
Taxation is never described as theft or legalized theft, I don’t think those descriptors are conducive to a healthy conversation since it’s demonizes the opposing view. It’s actually a straw man, if we can paint those in opposition as grinning from ear to ear at the burgled, then absurdity or immorality naturally follows. In reality, taxation is a mandate by kings, rulers, and governments and the money goes to whatever those in charge deem necessary. Whether the money funds something ubiquitous or marginal, I don’t see God telling us to determine how every penny is spent, although we can, especially in a democracy, let our voices be heard. The question is still, why do we consider building better roads advantageous–why isn’t this legalized theft to use my hard earned money to fix a road? (I don’t think it is), but helping alleviate poverty disadvantageous? What makes it so? Is it the reluctance? Is giving to the poor only a virtue (something that only affects the giver with no concern of the receiver?).
It is, but it is a virtue because you are helping someone who needs help, not because it strokes our egos. Ideally, it would be best if less taxes were paid and churches, communities, and families took care of the destitute and the needs of their people, I can be sentimental with that view, but if our current disregard to the poor is plumb line for the American people, there may be no hope of redemption even in a decentralized government.
Given that we live in a democracy (actually 51% of people decided for the 49% isn’t really democracy but that’s another discussion), don’t the people have a say on where taxes go and if welfare should exist? The American people are intelligent and can’t we decide that we do want social equality to exist in this great country?
One of the problems we have as American’s is our strong individualism. We think it’s our money; we think it’s our resources. Ancient thought would actually flip the script, “You shall not steal” would not have been read as don’t tax the rich progressively, since in their minds, if a person happened across a larger than normal harvest, then it was ill gotten. Rather, it would be akin to “you shall share” a rich person who accumulated wealth and did not share it with others was a fool, and those who listened to Jesus would’ve readily identified with him on that point. Only in this country is that acceptable and we need to be aware that we all probably have eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear (see my article https://haqol.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/money-power-and-the-kingdom-of-god-disciples-outlooks/).
With these things in mind, we need to ask ourselves what is a healthy functioning country, one that capital gain and accumulation is valued and people’s needs devalued, or where where people’s needs are valued (assuming cases where people are oppressed or fall on hard times) as well as fiscal soundness–the difference being the needs and well being of others comes before our “rights” or dreams, that is how it was in Israel. So when I say scripture isn’t getting a voice, I don’t mean that conservatives aren’t looking up scripture, but that since they are ruling it out, a priori, Israel’s economy ( allegedly because it is from God and ours is from humans), they aren’t allowing scripture to truly speak; since the manna story, the distribution of land and the Sabbaths are the heart of God’s manifestation to Israel and the world. At best you’ll have isolated texts and aphorisms suspended in midair without a story or a foundation.
To sum my thoughts up, the church should be the church and do what it does. Taxation isn’t bad and it isn’t theft, even though it can be a huge burden if it is overdone. Scripture never stipulates how taxes must be used, but scripture does command people to give their money to the poor–that isn’t just charity that’s law. I don’t understand why we can argue that it’s good to command people to give to the poor, in Mosaic economy, but not now. So, you could hypothetically have God saying, give 8% of your money to the poor and it be good but if a government taxes people 20% of their income and gives 8% to the poor, then it would be bad?
Again, I don’t see how that makes sense. The primarily problem is undue focus on how the person feels as he give and an almost complete disconnect with people’s actual needs, education, hunger, and shelter. But when warfare comes up, and people’s lives are ruined and land destroyed, the damage and destruction that it brings isn’t decried and the tax payers do not consider it robbery (we have the opposite effect, the end result is bad and the tax is not called into question, in welfare the end result is good–yes, food on the table and better living conditions is good, but the tax is called into question). This contradiction voiced in the last sentence shows how distorting power and hegemony are to our vision.