Tuesday, December 13, 2005

2nd Edition: Radical Discipleship and Legal Protest

Extra, Extra; Blog Post Addendum: I think all that visit this blog and have participated in this discussion of this particular post will be delighted to follow this link Picket Line Dec. 14 Post. If you ever wondered how Christian discourse can affect others, either postively or negatively, this blog post link will cause you pause. Also, I more convinced than ever that those seeking to be better disciples can learn much from "non-believers", as well as from each other.

I recently discovered the purpose and legacy of the Federal Excise Tax on our phone bills. It is a war tax instituted to fund the Spanish-American War and kept in play for all our other wars. Many have chosen to protest the Iraq war by refusing to pay this tax. For more detail reference my post "Civil Disobedience, War Protest, and Discipleship" at the Mere Discipleship Discussion blog.

One commentator left a wonderful suggestion to the question I posed, "does a disciple who is morally opposed to the war have a valid reason, even an obligation, to participate in the civil disobedience of withholding taxes?"

His suggestion was not only legal and the perfect solution, but it is also a suggestion he says he has been practicing. It was such a great suggestion I had to call attention to it. Deliberately reduce your income and lifestyle to live below the point where Federal Income Tax is owed. Please check out the website The Picket Line.

The great thing is the suggestion does not have to be a resistance choice. For the Christian it can be living the life Christ calls us to. One could give away his income to live below the tax line or live a life of service to those in need such that any income would not exceed the tax line. With this method you can avoid greed, materialism, power, supporting corporations whose investments might cause moral dilemmas, etc.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Mark 10:21

I will answer the question many may ask me after this post, "Are you going to do this Tony?"

I doubt it. I honestly don't think I have the courage to do it. And based on that answer, this may be the end of my blogging. I don't know. It may be hard for me to keep writing knowing I am a coward and a hypocrit.


David Gross said...

If it seems too frightening when you look at it as an all-or-nothing proposition, consider making it into a path you can walk instead of a sky-dive jump. That way fear becomes less of a problem. You can start to take small and more-easily-accomplished steps in your life now that will make it easier to live the life you feel drawn to living later.

jettybetty said...

Although there are parts of David's lifestyle I do admire--I don't feel called to quit my job--I am convicted that I should be giving more of it away--and my purpose would be to give glory to my Father--not *just* avoid taxes.

Tony Arnold said...

I agree David. My wife and I started about a year ago in greatly reducing the overhead in our spending life. It is very freeing to rid yourself of the amnenties that "the world" tries to convince us are necessities.

I agree with you JB. But what caught my attention and really challenged me is that it was the perfect solution for the disciple wrestling with how to follow Christ and wrestling with Gov't. v. Discipleship issues. And it was not the first thing that would come to mind for most of us.

Further, it is a solution that requires sacrifice by the "protester". Refusing to pay the Excise tax is actually a benefit for the protester.

I just can't get away from Mark 10:21. I am not suggesting what others should do. I am just pointing out this is a valid, legal lifestyle that is supported scripturally and that I felt challenged. This is a method that would actually benefit most--shedding materialism, for whatever reason.

Thanks for stating your opinion JB. If you don't feel called, then I think you have the answer for yourself. I know that I have been called for over a year to continue to whittle excess and materialism from my life. And God has blessed my spirit through the small steps I have made. What I find troubling within myself, is that despite nothing but positives from reduction, I still find it hard to make the next cut. I don't understand this.


Amanda said...

Another solution is to get rid of the phone. ;o)

Tony Arnold said...

Yep! JB said the same thing on the MD blog.


Jana said...

Even if you decide to stop blogging, at least keep challenging yourself, Tony. Ask yourself hard questions, write in your journal, listen, listen and listen some more.

I am intrigued by your proposal in this post...

jettybetty said...

I truly admire what you are doing. David's lifestyle is very much one that a disciple could scripturally persue and not pay taxes.

I'm not sure Christians, on the whole, have done Mark 10:21 much justice. We like to give 10% and toss in a few extra $$ from time to time and spend the rest on ourselves. I don't think that was exactly what God had in mind. I have so much to learn here.

I am not certain I said this all that well in my previous comment, but I also believe our jobs are also gifts from God--and that I can honor God through the gifts He has given me there--I know I just need to continue to rethink what I do with the money that comes from that, too.

I do admire what you are doing--I know God will bless you as you seek to honor Him with material wealth He has blessed you with. If there's other ways He is convicting you--I believe you will have the courage to take those steps.

JMG said...

From a purely selfish standpoint, I hope you don't stop blogging--I benefit from your insights.

In BSF, we have been studying about Abraham. One point that was brought out was the fact that God allowed him to accumulate abundant wealth, but this wealth caused him and Lot to have to separate because there were too many flocks taking up too many resources. I think we all have pretty much figured out that the more stuff we have, the more time and energy it takes to maintain it--time and energy that could be spent serving God.

Also, in our look at Abraham, we noted that God sent him to a place he knew nothing about. "Just go to the place I'll lead you to," God told him (my paraphrase). When he got there, God told him to take some time and explore the place, look around and see what's there. Perhaps God had him move about so that he wouldn't get too comfortable in one spot.

I think that we get too comfortable in the place where we are; we become secure in our homes, our jobs, our school systems, etc., forgetting that God is the ultimate provider of our security. Abraham had no idea where he was going and what it would be like when he got there, but he had faith in God to provide and protect. I think we all can take a lesson from that leap of faith.

David is right about taking baby steps in that direction. We have lived in such comfort for so long that we certainly are apprehensive about making radical changes, and I don't think God holds that against us.

As far as quitting a job--from what I gather reading in the gospels, the disciples still worked at their jobs; we see Peter, James, and John still fishing, and I assume that the others still worked as well. Apparently, they had whittled their lifesyle to the point that they were able to take time off to be with Jesus for lengthy stretches. Another possibility is that their work was seasonal (sort of like teaching!). Perhaps also, as JB said, our jobs are gifts from God--but only for a time.

Tony Arnold said...

Thanks for the advice Jana, it is well received and appreciated.

JB, I do believe if you include God and seeking His will in your career choices and job decisions, (which you should do with all things), then our work is part of His blessings.

I have no doubt that where I am right now is because of God and that He has a purpose for me here that goes way beyond any blessings I receive.

However as JMG points out, I cannot get too comfortable, I must constantly seek His will. He may have further plans for me somewhere else sometime in the future.

I think the problem I have with myself is that I know the reason I am not giving up everything is because I am scared to or just don't want to. I know this. And it doesn't make me feel too good, but it is a progression and I can serve the Kingdom whereever I am in life. So I guess I should lighten up a bit on myself.

Thanks for the encouraging and supportive words from you both.

JMG, as always, I am humbled by the insight and knowledge you provide through your diligent study of the God's word.


jettybetty said...

I believe that one of Satan's strongest weapons in our lives is that of becoming comfortable. We like where we are--don't appreciate change--so we don't seek God to see if He his timing is ready to move us somewhere more comfortable. I know Satan is very effective using the comfort temptation with me. And I hate it. I know I want to be more in touch with the Spirit--so I will be willing to move on when God is ready.

You put more thoughts in better words than I did! I don't go to work for me--I go to my office praying that God will fill me with His Spirit and draw those I work with to Him. I need to remember the money is all His!

JMG has some great thoughts in her comment (as always!).

JMG said...

Aw, shucks!

Seriously though, Tony, you should lighten up on yourself. Having a realization about your own motives is just a really good first step in a long journey--most of us haven't gotten that far yet.

Malia said...

Okay, pardon my ignorance here, I haven't read all the posts and comments relating to this but what about Matt 22:21, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's"?? I mean I know taxes are annoying and even more annoying are the taxes that we pay such as the Federal Excise Tax that funds war. But I don't think that the suggestion to "debliberately reduce your income and lifestyle to live below the point where Federal Income Tax is owed" is really a call to discipleship. It's simply a legal way to avoid paying taxes.

I know you know the story of Rich Mullins who lived on a small, fixed income from his earnings as a Christian music artist. I think it's his example that is the better suggestion. Rich didn't do that to avoid paying taxes, he did it to keep himself humble and free from the greed and excessive materialism that he saw around him.

Tony Arnold said...

You definitely need to read through all the posts, including the ones on the MD site. All these points have come into play.