I am having an ethical dilemma. As leader of the Catholic Church, perhaps you have some answers.
I know you must be very busy leading, writing and speaking. If you do not have time to respond to my questions I will understand.
My dilemma: I pay income tax. Millions die because of the actions of the US government to promote and pay for abortion, Euthanasia, and war, which is paid for in part by my taxes. Should I cut my income and live on less so that I do not owe taxes and do not support abortion euthanasia and war by paying taxes? Am I morally culpable if I do not cut my income?
Many Christians earn a great deal of money. How does the church justify its members earning a larger than necessary income and paying taxes on that extra income, taxes part of which are used to promote abortion, euthanasia, and war?
My assumption is that the teachings and example of Jesus are the final authority on how people should live on this earth. Here is some of my thinking.
Military Service and War
Paying taxes that pay for war has been bothering me for some time. I have been doing research on a Christian position of war. Many Christians feel that supporting and participating in the military and war are acceptable Christian actions.
There seems to be nothing that I can find in the teachings and example of Jesus, the apostles and the first-century church that would allow Christians to participate in abortion, euthanasia, and war. There are many teachings and examples that demonstrate violence by Christians is wrong.
It seems that Jesus would teach us to pay taxes if we owe them, but it would be perfectly acceptable to avoid owing them in the first place by cutting our income. Do we have a duty to avoid owing taxes?
Jesus said, 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22.
Paul said, 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13.
One person told me I should not worry about the ethical implications of paying taxes and that I should make as much money as possible so that I could give more money to the church and missionaries. This seems like faulty logic. God owns the cattle of a thousand hills. He doesn’t need us to make money for him. Why would God ask me to finance killing on one hand so that I can finance the spread of the gospel of the Prince of Peace on the other?
Jesus said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26, 27
On the way to the cross, Jesus used no violence against evil. Why should we? We are commanded to carry our cross. If we follow Jesus’ command to carry our cross and we follow the example of Jesus, we cannot participate in violence while carrying our cross. Is earning unnecessary income and paying more taxes participating in violence?
Paul said, 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12. NIV
The Christian’s duty is to win souls for Jesus and to feed the hungry and visit the prisoner and love their enemies. The world and governments control violence with violence. Governments do not dispense justice. The judicial system does not dispense justice. Justice is making things right. The best governments can do is take revenge. Only God knows how to make things right and only God is capable of dispensing true justice.
Mercy can be defined as not punishing when punishment is deserved. Grace can be defined as giving a good gift that is not deserved. A Christian’s job is to give mercy and grace just as Jesus gave us mercy and grace. The justice we are to dispense is to help those who have been harmed to overcome the effects of evil against them. Violence creates more harm and creates roadblocks against forgiveness. Helping the harmed is how we fight against the spiritual forces of evil. We can only be involved in government so long as we do not break God’s law.
James said, what causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:1 & 2
Paul said 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3 & 4. Are we trusting the military and this world instead of God?
What is the real reason the US fights wars?
The US killed 200,000 in Guatemala to protect US banana Companies’ cheap labor and keep banana prices low in the US.
The US has killed millions in the Greater War of the Middle East to protect the interests of American oil companies. For 40 years the US has been bombing, maiming and killing in the Middle East, creating terrorists. Imagine if China sent their troops to take cheap Uranium from the US. Imagine if there were Chinese soldiers on every street corner and if they had killed aunts and uncles and cousins and children. Is it possible you would be a terrorist?
In his “Letter to America,” Osama Bin Laden gave a long list of grievances against the United States. His grievances included the 80 years of the US military invasions against the Middle East, US support of corrupt leaders in the Middle East, and the theft of oil at very low prices. He mentioned 1-½ million children who had been killed by the US and its partners prior to 9/11. Bin Laden also finds the sex trade, drug trade, usurious interest, gambling and immorality of the US very troublesome. He specifically mentioned Bill Clinton’s unpunished, scandalous affairs.
Many American Indian wars and the Mexican War were fought to steal cheap land.
Origen said “Nowhere does He teach that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to anyone, however wicked. For He deemed the killing of any individual to be against His laws which were divine in origin. If Christians had owed their origins to a rebellion, they would not have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character. These laws do not even allow them on any occasion to resist their persecutors, even when they are called to be slaughtered as sheep.” Origen, Against Celsus, book 3 Chapter 7.
Many early pastors would not baptize soldiers until they left the military. Some Christian martyrs died for refusing to join the military and other became martyrs for refusing to kill when they were still in the military after they became Christian.
Augustine in the “City of God” used arguments from Plato and Cicero to justify war but did not do a good job bringing it back to the teachings of Jesus. His Biblical arguments seem weak. Augustine attempts to rely on Romans 13, but a careful reading shows Romans 13 does not justify Christian participation in war.
Martin Luther: At the beginning of his career he seems to have held a pacifist position. The nobles who supported him wanted religious justification for the consolidation of their power and to fight against rebelling peasants. Luther wrote to justify their position. Luther and Augustine said we can use violence because we love our neighbor, but they did not explain how we can love our neighbor while killing our neighbor who may also be our brother in Christ. If we decide it is right to kill, how do we decide which neighbor to protect or which neighbor to kill? Perhaps Luther would agree with Ambrose and Gratian and say we must protect our associates.
If the neighbor we protect is our associate, then should we kill the neighbor who is not our associate when we disagree with him? Are Ambrose and Gratian saying its right to kill Christian’s who are not our associates? This seems like a confusing and weak argument to me. What about the Good Samaritan loving his neighbor from an enemy country? Or John’s comment, 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16.
Our Christian neighbor is unlikely to think we love them as we kill them. What if our neighbor would have become a follower of Jesus if we had not killed him? Would Jesus want us to love our neighbor, even if that neighbor will never become a follower of Jesus? If we kill our neighbor or brother or sister for cheap oil, what will Jesus say at our life review or at the judgment?
Thomas Aquinas attempted to use John the Baptist’s advice to the soldiers to justify participation in the military. Rome expected both tax collectors and soldiers to supplement meager incomes by taking extra from the constituents. We do not know that John the Baptist did not also tell the soldiers they should leave the military profession. John the Baptist is not Jesus. Using John the Baptist’s comment seems a very weak argument for violence, especially when we put John the Baptist’s comment against the strong arguments for non-violence found in the teaching and example of Jesus.
General Booth: When General Booth started the Salvation Army, many of the early leaders felt the SA should become a pacifist organization. General Booth decided against taking a position on Christian participation in war because he felt discussing pacifism and militarism distracted from the Salvation Army’s main mission of bringing souls to Jesus and helping the poor and the addicts. But what about the poor and addicts who are killed by war?
Just War: When I read the Catholic Catechism, I interpret it to say that the United States has never fought a just war. Obviously, US foreign policy is wrong and unjust. However, if it were possible for a war to be just, I cannot seem to tie the teaching of the Catechism for just war back to the teachings of Jesus. Can just war be tied back to the teachings of Jesus?
I read “The Just War Tradition” by David Corey and “War: Four Christian Views,” by Robert Clouse. It seems to me that neither book justifies Christian participation in war based on the teachings of Jesus.
Christian Arguments for Christian Use of Violence
Some Christians today say with conviction that Christians have the right to “self-defense”. Do they think the right to self-defense is a self-evident truth? Self-defense is not a reason for violence found in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus gave us the example of refusing to defend himself when he died for us on the cross.
Others say if we are involved politically we need Christian war and violence. This also seems contrary to the teachings of Jesus and Ephesians 6:12. (Quoted above) And do we need to use violence to defend ourselves? There are many stories throughout history of angels protecting people. Or maybe Jesus wants us to be martyrs?
Some Christian’s say they are fighting for freedom, but a Christian beheaded by the sword of Boko Haram has more true freedom than the average American.
Some Christians use the story of when Jesus told the disciples to obtain swords before his crucifixion. When Peter used his sword, Jesus admonished Peter and healed Malchus. Jesus is demonstrating that violence is not the way of the Kingdom of God.
Some Christians claim the Old Testament demonstrates that Christians are justified in becoming involved in violence. The Bible is the history of God reaching out to man. It is a growing relationship. Man’s relationship with God has grown to the point that when Jesus came, man was ready to begin practicing the non-violent sacrifice and peacemaking that Jesus taught and demonstrated through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Military recruitment advertisements say the military is fighting for everyone. I do not want the military to steal land, bananas, and oil for me. Am I giving my approval for the military to do these things for me when I pay taxes?
Romans 13: Some Christians use Romans 13 to justify military service. When Paul wrote Romans 13 many zealot Jews were rebelling against Rome, Nero one of the bloodiest, was emperor. Paul is advising Christians not to rebel against Rome even if the Romans are unjust. Romans 13 is really an admonition not to use violence and in no way asks Christians to join the military or join in contributing to Rome’s injustice. I have read that a million Jews died in this revolt against Rome. The current US Empire has many similarities to Rome’s empire.
Is the US in danger? The US is fighting a 40-year war for cheap oil. Wherever our troops are stationed a booming sex industry flourishes. Abortion is rampant. Bombing, maiming, and killings occur every day. Many in America trust crystals for healing and speak to the dead. Many Americans trust the government military and police for physical protection. Many Americans trust government entitlement programs for daily food and Obamacare for medical care instead of turning to Jesus and the Church. The Assyrians took Israel into captivity. Babylon took Judah into captivity. Will America be taken into captivity?
Abortion and Euthanasia
Abortion and Euthanasia are obviously unethical and my letter is too long. I will not discuss the ethical reasons that I am opposed to paying for abortion and euthanasia.
I have many more arguments against Christian’s participating in violence and zero good arguments in favor of Christians participating in violence. My letter is already too long and I will stop.
Can the teaching of Augustine, or Gratian, or Aquinas, or Luther, or the Pope nullify the teachings of Jesus?
What am I missing about the thinking of Christians who say Christian violence and Christian’s paying for violence is acceptable?
Please point out any errors in my thinking.
Perhaps you can point out further reading that may be helpful to me?
Fargo ND 58103
Professor Ardell Caneday of the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, Professor of New Testament Studies and Greek made this comment.
Copyright © 2018 by Jon Kauffman Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.