September 21 2005, 9:41 PM
The Denver Post reported yesterday that religious groups are joining the discussion and campaign, on both sides, about Referenda C&D.
Christian leaders are lining up on both sides of the proposal to suspend the Colorado Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. And on both sides, they are citing Scripture. Supporters see the idea of withholding TABOR refunds for five years and increasing the base from which future taxes are calculated as an answer to the Christian imperative for good works. Without more tax revenue, the state can't afford to help people, they say. Opponents see it as an assault on family values. Without tax refunds, people can't afford to take care of their families and communities on their own, they say.Interestingly, both sides are using Scripture to make their case. From the pro-C&D side:
"The Old Testament is just saturated with the expectation that people of faith are to be particularly ... nurturing of the marginalized and the vulnerable," said Paul Kottke, senior pastor at University Park United Methodist Church in Denver. "We don't see it as a liberal-conservative issue. We see it as being socially engaged. Government does play a healthy role in the world in which we live, and we need to be in partnership with the government and the private sector."From the anti-C&D side:
Although the referendums' opponents have received considerable help from the libertarian wing of the national conservative movement, they are not receiving much direct support from the national conservative Christian groups that could bring serious political muscle to the fight. The largest such group in the state, Focus on the Family, in Colorado Springs, has chosen not to grant opponents' request for help in fighting the proposal. "We aren't getting involved," spokesman Christopher Norfleet said. "It's not one of our central issues." But a smaller conservative, evangelical group, the Rocky Mountain Family Council, has joined the opponents. "Jesus talked about money more than any other subject," council president Jim Chapman said. "Because of that, people of faith need to be good stewards of it. We would not say that feeding larger governments is necessarily a biblical value." The true marker of faith, he said, is found in deliberate, direct acts of charity - not the passive observation of tax deductions from one's paycheck.I thought it was interesting that religious groups would use the Bible to argue for and against Referenda C&D, especially given the fact that TABOR is so complicated God himself would have a hard time understanding it anyway. But I also thought that the Bible could make for some other interesting arguments around C&D. For example, here's how a religious argument on Referenda C&D and TABOR could go: "Do you not know Luke 18:13?" opponents of C&D could say.
The tax collector stood far away. He did not even look up towards heaven. But he beat his chest, and said, "God, I am a bad man. Help me!""You will clearly see that tax collectors are bad people," opponents would elaborate. "The Bible says so." Supporters of C&D could counter right back. "Perhaps tax collectors are bad people," they might say. "We'll give you the fact that nobody likes the IRS. But taxes actually serve a valuable purpose. Do you not know Romans 13:6?"
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing."No, no, no," opponents would then say. "We cannot serve bad people, and tax collectors are bad people. Do you not know Matthew 9:10 and 9:11?"
Jesus was eating in a house. Many tax collectors and bad people came in. They sat down to eat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this. They said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and bad people?""If that is true," supporters would say, "Then why did Jesus pay his taxes? Clearly you are not familiar with Matthew 17:28..."
But we must not make them think something wrong about us. So go to the sea. Throw a fish-hook into the water. Take the first fish you catch. Open its mouth and you will see a piece of money. Take it and pay them the tax for you and me."Do you not see your folly?" opponents of C&D would cry. "Jesus had to steal money from a fish in order to pay his taxes. Taxes are a burden on us all!" Supporters of C&D could laugh and point to Genesis 24:35...
The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, menservants and maidservants, and camels and donkeys..."See, if God wanted you to have more wealth, he would give you a camel and a donkey, not a silly $15 refund," supporters of C&D would cry. Opponents of C&D would not be deterred. "But what about the words of Ezra 7:24?"
You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.To which supporters of C&D would say, "What is a Levite?" Distracted briefly, supporters would bring out Matthew 6:24...
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."See, it says right there that God does not want you to covet a $15 refund," supporters would exclaim. "You can't serve both God and Money, so by following God you are giving up your right to tax refunds." Realizing they were in trouble, opponents of C&D would then flip to Judges 4:6...
She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor.'Opponents of C&D would stand proud and point to this passage. They nwould proclaim that the Bible spoke of making a pilgrimage to Tabor. "Tabor is good," they could say. "Go to Tabor." Supporters of C&D would have them right where they want them. "You forget Judges 4:14..."
Then Deborah said to Barak, "Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?" So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men."You will clearly see," supporters would say, "That followers of the Lord ran away from Tabor. Tabor is very bad. We must pass C&D to make adjustments to the evil Tabor." Hey, the Bible says so.