Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
On April 15, Tax Day, Conservatives flocked to Washington, D.C., as part of the growing Tea Party movement. Among the protestors, at least one man can be seen in many pictures online (including the Washington City Paper website) carrying a sign that says “God hates taxes.”
But when the Pharisees approached Jesus in Matthew 22 and asked him, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Jesus showed them the image of Caesar that appeared on their coins &- not unlike the American iconography that appears on our own bills and coins &- and said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give to God what is God’s.”
Telling people to give Caeser his money doesn’t really seem like an anti-tax message, does it? Quite the opposite, in fact.
Trying to pull the religion card purely to further your agenda is already a shady practice, and many in the anti-religion camp are quick to point out (perhaps not wrongly) that such attitudes are the source of too many of our most horrific wars and events.
Trying to spread what you believe to be God’s message might be one thing. It’s quite another if you’re completely and utterly wrong.
In the aforementioned photograph, the “God hates taxes” sign bearer appears dressed in a monk’s garb and wearing a large wooden cross around his neck. I would imagine this outfit is entirely for show, and that the man has no official affiliation to any church or monastery (though I could be mistaken), but I would still expect someone who is brazen enough to attend a rally in such attire, with such a sign, to be familiar with at least the basic teachings of Christ. And the passage I quoted above seems pretty basic.
I’ve mentioned in previous columns that I’m a Christian. I understand the desire to preach the message of the Bible and to use Scripture to guide your actions. However, if you’re going to go out in public and try to protest your government or preach on a street corner, you should at least have some idea of what the heck you’re talking about.
I confess that I’m not exactly a test case for what an “average” Christian should know. I spend a lot of free time studying philosophy, theology and world religion. I’m far from an expert and farther from a priest, but I can hold my own in a discussion or debate. But Jesus’ message about taxes in Matthew 22 seems pretty rudimentary to me. I’m pretty sure I was aware of his comments at least by high school, if not far earlier.
Everybody is ignorant at some point or another. Ideally, we should leave behind as much ignorance as possible as we grow older, but sometimes we are confronted with new ideas and need to retrain ourselves to think about the world differently. There are certainly people out there, religious and not, who are walking around with false or uninformed ideas in their head, but in some cases it’s understandable; they just don’t know any better.
But if you make it your mission to go on the offensive, to protest and rally and debate, then you need to make sure to hit the books first.
It’s not just religious people who need to worry about this. Political views from both sides of the aisle are often skewed and mutilated until they’re barely recognizable. How many times have you heard a comment (or even read a column) in which the person speaking was obviously ignorant of the views they were presenting?
It’s easy to see when the opinion is in opposition to yours &- it’s much easier to sniff out problems with an argument if it’s one we don’t agree with &- but we sometimes ignore the people on our own side who spread ignorance and lies. Whether it’s a student saying, “Coffee makes you sober,” an atheist saying, “King Solomon cut a baby in half” (a real argument I’ve heard based on a story out of context) or a conservative saying, “God hates taxes,” people spew ignorance everywhere, and it usually makes them look stupid.
I’m personally tired of being a conservative Christian who constantly has to correct the misconceptions others have based on things they’ve heard from other “conservative Christians.” No matter your views, try to be informed about them before you go imposing them on others. Otherwise you just make things harder on your potential allies.