Taxes are my religion.
Yup, taxes. Income tax, property tax, tobacco tax and toll booths especially. These are all things I believe in quite passionately, even spiritually.
Not in the classic theological sense, though. I don’t worship IRS agents, or consider the income tax deadline a religious holiday. Still, I’d like to think that my belief in taxation is comparable to many contemporary faiths.
Similar to, say, Christianity, taxation requires personal sacrifice in the name of an intangible, distant authority. Taxes take from the individual and give to the many, they compel the privileged to provide for the disadvantaged. A taxpayer, like a Christian, must trust in the wisdom of powers that he will never fully understand.
For me, taxes are faith made easy. Call me lazy, but prayer and spirituality seem complicated, whereas taxes are a constant and measurable reminder that I’m a part of something greater than myself.
Tax code, similarly to the Bible, provides a set of rules to be followed, though they are more concrete and, by nature, subject to revision.
Where religion’s pay structure is heavily focused on posthumous reward, tax dollars provide earthly benefits that I can see and touch. Call me close-minded, but I’ve never seen prayer pave a road, pay a teacher’s salary or pick up the garbage from the front of my house.
I acknowledge my zealotry, though, and try always to keep it in check. I am, of course, a spiritual tax payer, but I know that the public’s money isn’t always used for good. I just try to focus on the positive.
Instead of thinking about American tax dollars funding wars, I think about improved public schools. In much the same way, I assume, as most Christians would rather think about Easter than ponder why God would take the time to create the mosquito, a dilemma that perplexed me during my days in Sunday school.
Most people, though — in fact I’m the only person I know who does — don’t find the thought of paying taxes very comforting or pleasant. To me, the notion of taxation is beautiful … just, distinctly human. To most, taxes are a horrid chore, a necessary but reprehensible part of American life.
I find it odd that in the United States much of the strongest opposition to increased taxes comes from a proudly Christian demographic. The way I see it, higher taxes lead to expanded welfare programs and greater social equality, which is good.
For the Christian Right, though, higher taxes lead to expanded welfare programs and greater social equality, which they think is bad.
It is possible, during my study of the Bible in Catholic School, that my interpretation of the Beatitudes or the story of Jesus’ expulsion of the moneychangers from the Temple was inaccurate. It’s possible that they were ringing endorsements of supply side, trickle-down economics. I admit I wasn’t paying much attention.
Perhaps Jesus was a laissez-faire capitalist who, today, would tell the American government to get off the backs of Big Business and lower taxes for the rich. Perhaps Jesus, if he were alive today, would stand hand in hand with Tea Party protesters, denouncing the evils of health care for all.
Maybe the Christian Right acknowledges the egalitarian spirit of the New Testament, but finds it outdated. Maybe, to them, the Old Testament is more applicable today. ”Blessed are the poor,” is so last millennium, they might say, while “Stone that queer!” is so in.
I guess I’m being a little harsh; you know how touchy people can get about their faiths. I guess the Christian Right just loves money, that’s all. And as they pile into their megachurches on Sunday, far from the realities of modern poverty, a preacher will say: “Jesus loves you! Raise those hands on high!”
I’ll be right there with them, in my own way, smiling to myself as I fantasize about their tax requirements.
Raise ‘em up on high.