This time from Diana Butler Bass in Soujourners with “A Christian Argument For Progressive Taxation.” I’m with her, while I don’t like paying taxes either, it does seem to be a bit of a bargain and patriotic to boot. The issue to me is whether or not our government takes our tax dollars and uses them efficiently. And, with the Republican party operating from the premice that government can’t work, when they are in power, they drive the car so it doesn’t function properly to get their end result.
From the article by Ms. Bass:
Writing in 1916, Professor Vida Scudder, a social gospel theologian (respected in her day and now largely forgotten), argued that:
The hour has come for Christian thought to give definite sanction to the new social ethic that has been developing for the last half century. The check by common will on private greed, the care for public health, the protection of childhood and manhood, the securing of fair leisure from the monotonies of modern labor, form a program hardly to be called radical any longer.
Part of the new social ethic was the idea of a progressive income tax, whereby the richer members of society would pay a greater share to care for those of lesser means. The progressive income tax was passed in 1913, but many Christians groused about it — a bit like today’s conservative Christians holding “tea parties.”
Thus, progressive theologians developed a Christian argument for taxation. They believed that a progressive tax would increase the overall morality of society. For example, Scudder pointed out that “the Church, like her Master, is in a way more concerned over the spiritual state of the prosperous than over that of the poor” because the rich “countenance unbrotherly things.” In other words, the rich were not likely to practice Christian holiness. “It may be good for the soul of Patrick to subsist on a starvation wage,” she says of a hypothetical worker, “but it is very bad for the soul of Henry the mill-owner to pay him that wage.” Thus, the spiritual scales needed to somehow be equalized — by Henry surrendering some portion of his wealth in order to better the lot of his brothers and sisters. “It is spiritual suicide for the possessors of privileges to rest,” Scudder argued, “until such privileges become the common lot. This truth is what the Church should hold relentlessly before men’s eyes; it is what makes indifference to social readjustments impossible to her shepherding love.” A progressive tax was an expression of Christian love.