20 August 2015

The Corrupt System and the Distraction of Wrangling Over Subsidies and Taxes

How many Christians rail against subsidies and condemn those who benefit from them and yet these same people will support them not only in the realm of business and in terms of deductions, so-called refunds and credits but will also happily accept grants for their children to attend universities?

I do not condemn subsidies and credits. It's all Caesar's money and it's the mechanism of his system as it were. The powers that be serve a purpose. Babylon though evil is a necessary evil. The state is the sword and though we don't bear it, we benefit from the order it generates. We don't owe the state our veneration but we do respect the governing of Providence and its utilization of the state as a means to restrain evil so the gospel may spread across the Earth.

Some Babylon's are worse than others. They're all corrupt in every aspect of their being. If you don't understand that then you do not understand the world. You are naive and perhaps willfully so.

We are to live honestly and according to Christian ethics and that means much of the world-realm is closed to us. We are excluded unless we are willing to compromise.

Under this corrupt system we pay taxes and fees and we obey corrupt and often perverted laws. As long as we are not being caused to sin we are called to obedience... even if the tax burden is 90%, we are called to pay it and not engage in political struggle, violence or vengeance. Overly burdensome taxation or even taxation minus representation are not legitimate reasons for Christians to take up the sword and kill.

Our money belongs to God, but God has also providentially provided the state and since money is not the means by which the Kingdom is built and is not part of the Kingdom (we don't take it with us), it's really not that important at all. It's a tool, a means to end. Any more than that, it becomes a danger and a trap.

Caesar's system is corrupt. If Caesar, in order to maintain social order takes more or less, redistributes in an unfair manner (all taxation is necessarily a form of redistribution), then so what? We're told to pay it. Those who call it 'theft' make God a liar and misunderstand the purpose of the present temporary (temporal) order. Christians who refer to taxation as theft are in direct disobedience to God's Word.

If Caesar says right now these people get a credit, or these people get a subsidy, then so what? Later, they might not and someone else will get it. Caesar's image is on the coin. It's his game, not ours. For us, it's just a tool.

I'll say it again, the Old Testament must be read through the lens of the New Testament. The teaching of the Apostles helps us to understand what the Old is saying about money. To begin with the Old and to read the New in light of it, is to Judaize.

We are not to expect success in the world system. We are not going to 'get along' very well. We are called to persecution, suffering and thus focusing on money is as the apostle says a trap. As Christ said in the parable it is weed which will choke and kill our faith.

Money comes and goes. It's nothing. We're supposed to be willing to give it all away. The Constantinian Church has developed elaborate arguments around ideas like 'stewardship' based on philosophical speculation and practical necessity. To buttress this it has engaged in rather dubious and contrived readings of the parables and a heavy reliance on Old Testament models, the very typological models which were supposed to point to Christ and have been fulfilled. Constantinian Sacralism/Dominionism perverts all this, twists and distorts the typology, the message of the parables and the whole of New Testament ethics. It is system of power and conquest and it is guilty of syncretization, the intermeshing and blending of Biblical Christianity with the Beast system. It markets this as 'Biblical Worldview' but it is instead a dangerous pseudo-gospel, another gospel which makes cultural conquest under the guise of Dominion a means to build God's Kingdom.

Like the exiled Jews in Babylon and Persia, we need not be afraid of accepting the order ordained by the kings of those lands. We live as pilgrims and strangers in a corrupt world. We obey the laws, laws which necessarily will be unjust and corrupt. We don't go along with the sin and thus we are excluded from much but we understand the purpose of the present social order.

If we get a credit, then fine, if we have to pay more, then we pay it. But we don't complain and criticise for political gain. We criticise the sinful nature of the world system, but we don't organize and strategize to capture Babylon and force it to embrace Christian legal equity... which being Spiritual is something the world will reject and cannot follow (Romans 8.7-8). We do not build the Temple on the plain of Shinar as it were. Babylon and Rome cannot be made into Zion.

When the Church criticises from a standpoint of political posturing it has abandoned the Spiritual Kingdom that is not of this world (John 18.36, Hebrews 13.14) and the Gospel itself, and then it rightly brings upon itself the sword of vengeance, the very thing both Paul and Peter warned about (Romans 13.1-7, 1 Peter 4.12-16).

What are we to do with those who are outside (1 Corinthians 5)? Peter warns against being a busybody in other people's matters. The political 'affairs of the world' is the outside, the 'other' people. The present political struggles of the Church will bring the state's judgment.

But Paul and Peter are clear. That's not Christian persecution.

Let's make sure we understand this clearly because there has been and will continue to be a great deal of confusion on this point and it's going to get worse.

We will experience enough persecution as it is. If you're being faithful you should have already been feeling it all along. Those who didn't during previous generations were compromised and part of the world system. Instead of rejecting it, they embraced and got along rather nicely.

The battle isn't about taxes and taking credits and subsidies. These are almost trivial things. Do not worship the state and depend on it but at the same time do not worship self-reliance, the security and power trap of money. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Instead step back, step outside, reject the world system and think about these things in a wholly different way.

I say all of this to point out the inconsistency on the part of so many who are critical of the system when it goes against their political blueprint but are happy to feed off it and participate in it when it serves their purposes. They find ways to justify it and yet I say that in many cases it is the well-to-do that benefit from the system more than the poor who are begrudged because they receive subsidies. Under many forms and in different ways the rich receive them too and there are many industries and whole job sectors dependent upon them.

A final comment....

There are 'purists' out there who in their devotion to Neoliberalism and the Free Market are also critical of this view I have posited. But again they seem to think their models can operate in a world without sin and the corruption of power. They seem to think money is somehow divorced from power and can function in a way that is not subject to corruption, that a man-made system will somehow cancel out the effects of sin. Their models quickly collapse when just a few individuals (and there will always be more than a few) don't restrain themselves, or play by the rules. Once they step outside the boundaries and seek to control and manipulate the market, the system, the model collapses. You either march toward power consolidation or you must regulate it (exercise power) to restrain it. Either way the market cannot function laissez faire.

The model fails. It is a pipe-dream and in no way can it be reconciled with Scripture. What's the alternative? There isn't one in this fallen world. All systems will fail and thus to some degree it doesn't really matter. Some will be better than others, all are forever changing. This is the Dynamic Principle inherent in all world systems. Paper models are necessarily romanticised and fictitious and cannot possibly incorporate or accommodate the almost infinite number of variables in the real world.

Those who seek to justify in Christian terms or Christianise the Neo-liberal or Market system have fallen into the same syncretistic trap of every other form of Sacralism. They have woefully misunderstood and oversimplified the nature of the world and of power. They are bitter because they are written off and treated disdainfully by many in the world. The reason is because even most lost people understand the system is something of an idealised joke. It's a fantasy that does not understand the real world, human nature, let alone the complex nexus of politics and economics. Like it or not, they cannot be divorced. Even lost people who do not call it sin by name understand that in this world the corrupting influence of power must be restrained. They seek to restrain it, and then they too must be restrained. Power is like Tolkien's ring, it's too dangerous to utilize. Even when it is attempted to be used for good, it corrupts and destroys and leads to evil. But in the real world the ring is available to anyone who would grasp for it.

The heads of the Beast-hydra rise up and often kill each other or die by other means, but they always keep coming back. Another one will always take its place.

Quit worrying about your investments and your money. Quit seeking success in this present evil age and embrace our calling to live as strangers and pilgrims. Quit judging 'success' and standards of living by the world's standards. Quit judging someone's moral worth by their balance in their bank account or the house they live in. Christ rejected this worldview, called it abomination (Luke 16.15) and reinforced it by those whom He selected to build the Church of Christ. How horrified would our modern Western Church be were it to come face to face with the Apostles, men who were hardly 'successful' in their own society and culture. And after following Christ, they became even less so.