Monday, October 28, 2013
Wall Street Journal op-ed: Tax Policy Isn't the Purview of Preachers, by Nicholas G. Hahn III (Editor, RealClearReligion.org):
When Congress ended the government shutdown last week and arranged to resume the debt-ceiling fight in February, no doubt many Americans prayed that next time around there would be less partisan behavior from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. A similar request should be made of religious leaders, many of whom have lately sounded more like politicians than pastors.
When ... the government closed its doors, the conference of bishops issued an "action alert" urging Catholics to contact their representatives about supporting a plan to raise the debt ceiling and "replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues as well as responsible spending cuts," among other demands. ...
The bishops and other clergy in the Circle of Protection go well beyond their competencies when they make such policy prescriptions. Speaking about the moral issues of the day is certainly within their pastoral purview, but the bishops' calls to raise revenues (aka taxes), for instance, or eliminate "unnecessary" military spending are not. ...
The Bible offers some perspective on the intersection of politics and religion. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was asked by the Pharisees: "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?" He responded, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."
In his answer, Jesus didn't simply endorse political authority, as is commonly supposed. Instead, he designated roles in public life. Politicians do politics. People pay taxes. And the faithful are to properly form and follow their consciences. Jesus didn't offer a specific amount that he thought would be right for the census tax or suggest how the government should spend it. Today's politicking preachers might want to consider that the next time someone proposes a Faithful Filibuster.