Response to Ray Gingerich
Jun 07, 2006 11:56 PDT
Thank you for your thoughtful questions about the relationship
between the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) and
resistance to paying taxes for war. I apologize for my late reply. The
questions you posed were very challenging to me as a Christian. I want
to clarify that the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund is not a
Christian organization, but is supported by and speaks on behalf of
conscientious objectors of many religious and non-religious belief systems.
Below, I address your questions point-by-point. I will also forward your
questions along to other board and staff members who have been involved
in this work for a much longer amount of time than I, in the hopes that
they will be able to address them and be challenged by them.
Interim Executive Director
National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund
Ray Gingerich wrote:
| ||Dear Steve,|
I am a military tax resister, and have been for 30 years. Marian Franz
is my friend (and we're both Mennonites). And without wanting to
diminish your valiant lobbying efforts, please allow me to raise a few
questions which no one on the Peace Tax Fund board or active staff has
1) I wonder how many conscientious Christians who subconsciously wish
they didn't need to pay war taxes, are of the mind that they can't
resist payment of these military taxes until a bill is passed to make it
I don't know how many people think this way. I doubt that the existence
of the Peace Tax Fund decreases people's interest in war tax resistance.
I would think that, on the whole, our work to educate people on how
their taxes are spent would heighten their consciences to this issue and
perhaps lead some to resist payment of war taxes.
When I present on the Peace Tax Fund, I always talk about the existing
war tax resistance movement, and I refer people to NWTRCC to learn about
how to practice war tax resistance. I am a war tax resister myself.
As in many social movements, there is the more radical, civil
disobedience side of things, and there is the safer, legislative side of
things. It seems logical to me to give people a wide range of options
for how to be involved.
| ||2) I wonder if Congress ever passed a bill of this nature (including the |
special provisions granted conscientious objectors in WW II), that was
not in the self-interests of Congress itself?
Congress will most likely not pass this legislation if
they think it will decrease their self-interest in being able to wage
war. Therefore, in our lobbying, we tend to focus on the religious
freedom of people in this country, not on the larger issue (as I see it)
of the ills of militarism. (Though I am more concerned about militarism,
I do see the legal accommodation of conscience as a good end in and of
If enough people resisted paying taxes for war, eventually members of
Congress might feel compelled to enact the Peace Tax Fund in order to
collect tax money that was being resisted. (Again, this would serve
their self-interest of revenue collection.) Some people take issue with
this outcome, saying that it would de-radicalize war tax resisters. This
could be true for some, but for others, it would allow them to put their
energies toward other important struggles. I see the Peace Tax Fund's
greatest potential to really address militarism as the way it would open
the door to a much larger movement of people who are, admittedly, less
dedicated than the current crop of war tax resisters, but who are
undoubtedly much greater in number. This much larger movement could be
influential in swaying the nation's spending priorities away from war.
For this bill to pass, members of Congress need to understand that it is
in their own best interest to support freedom of religious expression.
That will take some convincing, but members of Congress do wish to get
re-elected. If we can work at changing the political climate so that
this is seen as something that will not hurt, and could even help a
candidate get elected, that would be one way of pitching this to them.
What better way to change the political climate than to encourage
conscientious objectors to speak and act upon their beliefs about paying
In my three years of work with NCPTF, I have spent much more time trying
to reach out to regular folks about this issue than I have spent
lobbying Congress, although both aspects of the work are important.
| ||3) I wonder whether the most effective way to get Congress to pass a |
bill would be, not to lobby Congress, but to generate a huge movement of
conscientious objectors, i.e., military tax resisters---people who
resist the payment of military taxes because they are persuaded that it
is sinful to pay military taxes and that the faithful way to follow
Jesus is to resist payment?
I agree with you that a mass movement of people resisting payment of war
taxes would be a great boost to this campaign. Unfortunately, most
Christians, and even historic peace church folks, aren't nearly as
concerned about their dollars going to kill people as they are with
their sons and daughters going to get killed. So, there is a great
complacency in the church that needs to be addressed.
This spring, NCPTF sent our brochure to every Mennonite church in the
U.S., along with information about a new web page we set up with worship
resources dealing with military taxation (including a sermon I wrote
comparing military taxation to the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar). We
encouraged churches to have a "Peace Tax Sunday" where they focused on
the issue of military taxation. We don't know how many churches actually
did something with this, but judging by the lack of responses we got, we
think the number was fairly low.
(The website, for your reference, is:
Perhaps you would like to help us in our outreach to churches by
supplying us with more resources to list on this page.)
While our outreach to churches could certainly be improved (and we are
working on that) I do not think it is realistic to assign the
responsibility to our three-person, secular organization of inspiring a
mass religious movement.
| ||4) I wonder if Jesus ever, ever, had a vision of faithfulness and |
attempted to implement the vision by lobbying Rome (the Imperial Power)
to get permission to do so?
I don't know what Jesus would have done if he lived in a representative
democracy such as ours. I do not doubt that he would have lived
according to his beliefs, but I do not know that he would have refrained
from speaking to members of Congress about his vision. Personally, I am
not waiting around for permission to live by my conscience. I cannot
speak for others, though.
| ||5) I wonder why in all these many years Marian Franz and the people |
behind the Peace Tax Fund have insisted on doing things so "a. . .
-backward"---so contrary to both efficiency and faithfulness---common
sense and the way of Jesus?
Marian Franz and many Peace Tax Fund staff over the years have worked
tirelessly to encourage people to give witness to their beliefs in this
nation's capital. We have done our best to get people thinking about how
their taxes are spent and whether that is something their conscience can
really put up with.
Your question includes an assumption with which I do not agree (that the
work of this organization has been "a. . . -backward") so I am not sure
how to answer it.
| ||Can any Christian (or anyone else) tell me, please, why we work so hard |
to change the minds of our Congresspeople and Senators, and invest so
little of our resources, both human and material, to convert the church
to the ways of peace?
Professor Emeritus of
Theology and Ethics
Eastern Mennonite University
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Tel. 540 432-4465