Sunday, October 26, 2008

In response

Scott's cousin, Julie, wrote this great post over on her blog today. As much as I dislike (okay, maybe I have to use a stronger word) much as I hate politics, once I start reading a blog post with a political slant, I just can't drag myself away. I'm a glutton for punishment.

I agreed with a lot of what Julie said in her post. But of course, because I have to have opinions of my own, I didn't agree with everything. There was one comment in particular that made me gasp. Regarding taxes, Julie said "...we like to refer to a Biblical principle that reminds us that this money is not really ours to begin with." The thought of our taxes being included in the Biblical principle that our money is not ours...well, yikes. I'm no theologian, but I always interpreted that Biblical principle to mean that our money really belongs to God (not the government) and we should be joyful in giving it back to God. At the same time, we are told to pay Caesar what is due Caesar and there is no question that we depend on the government for certain necessary services like building infrastructure and providing defense.

When the government asks for money, we give the government money because the Bible tells us to and because we owe money for those necessary services. But let us not confuse giving money to the government with giving money back to God. If the government were included in the idea that our money is not our own, it wouldn't make sense to allow pastors to opt out of Social Security for religious reasons. The 10% tithe we are commanded to give to God is to go into the "storehouse" to help people in our community when they are having a tough time and to offer spiritual food to the community. Some people (myself included) get ornery about paying taxes not because we're cheap or some kind of scrooge, but because we see the insane amount of debt that our government carries and it makes us think that maybe our government is not only an imperfect solution for distributing our money, but possibly the worst solution for distributing our money. I see the way that my church distributes my money and the way that NGOs (non-governmental organizations) distribute my money and I'm much happier with what I see from the NGOs. They don't carry a huge (if any) debt load. They don't offer employees benefits on par with what government employees receive which are, let's face it, sometimes ridiculous. NGOs don't give out money to organizations or people who might do something stupid with their money...cough...ACORN.

It makes sense to me that we, as generous Americans (we really are generous -- see this link if you don't believe me), would be willing and able to give more money to NGOs (whether church-related or not) if we carried a smaller tax burden.

A couple of other points that I thought were interesting:

The Maverick Issue. Okay, and now I'm going to sound like I'm defending McCain which is crazy since I don't want him to be our next president. But, I have to say that I think the purpose of McCain touting himself as a maverick is to point to the fact that he doesn't tow the party line. Unlike a lot of senators who vote with their party on nearly every bill, McCain actually reaches across the aisle from time to time.

Palin and Community Organizers. I'm not positive on this, but I interpreted Palin's (and other Republicans') bashing of community organizers as a response to the arguments that Obama has had enough experience to be an effective President, but Palin hasn't. I thought that Obama's campaign was touting his experience as a community organizer as something that helps qualify him to be President and Palin was questioning whether time as a community organizer really qualifies one to be president. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but that was my interpretation.

One-Issue Voters. I agree with Julie that it is frustrating to hear people discussing who will get their vote based on only one issue, whatever that issue is. It could be the environment, their desire to pull out of Iraq, their thoughts about gay marriage, about abortion, etc. Although one-issue voters frustrate me, I also think it's important not to look down on people who don't have the time, the energy, or the education to research, critique, and develop an opinion on all of the issues that go into an election. As people working in higher education, both Julie and I have an amazing opportunity to discuss political issues with our students and peers. We also have husbands who have opinions on the issues and friends with whom we can talk about the issues. To fault other Americans for voting based on a candidate's stance on one issue seems unfair. Because, let's face it, not everyone is interested in these issues and not everyone has time to think about these issues. And so for them, it really is a one issue election. Maybe all that matters to them is that their taxes aren't raised. Maybe they had an abortion or didn't have an abortion and now it's all they can think about. Maybe they've witnessed destruction of the environment in their town in West Virginia and all they want is a President who won't blow the tops off any more mountains to mine more coal. Who knows why some people are one-issue voters. The great thing is that, here in America, we get to vote no matter what.


Julie said...

I agree that it is good we live in a country where we can freely exchange ideas without fear of repercussion or judgment. I also emphasize the point I made in my post (and make regularly when I discuss these issues with others), that I respect differing opinions if they are thoughtful and informed. However, I have no respect for opinions that are uninformed (to me, apathy is no excuse).

In regard to taxes, my point was simply that we should reconsider our materialistic views that make us feel that we are "due" all the money we have. I am thankful for a job and for the salary I earn; however, I do not feel entitled to any particular amount of money. I believe that a Biblical perspective on money challenges us to not think of money as an entitlement, rather as God providing for our needs.

I also think we are a generous society (as I said in my post), but I do believe in the purpose of taxation to support infrastructure necessary to the functioning of our country. Jon and I take seriously the opportunity to give back to God and give to other organizations supporting issues we in which we believe. We have made it a part of our life. However, I also believe that those who make more can afford to give more.

Regarding Palin's community organizer comment -- here is the direct quote: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities." Interpret however you'd like, but it's pretty clear to me that she is devaluing the role and responsibilities of those who are creating real change in their local communities. Oh, if only we utilized community organizers MORE! Perhaps then we could minimize the necessity taxation in supporting the infrastructure of our nation.

jonchase said...

I am enjoying reading the back and forth here and seeing some different perspective. I think it is GREAT to be part of a family that can intelligently and respectfully discuss issues like these.

Hillary Dickman said...

Oh, yeah! I so agree that we as a culture need to reconsider our materialistic views of money. That's such a great way to put it. If we could truly see our money as not our own, it would surely be that much easier to give it away and redistribute it to the people who are really in need.

When I think about Palin's comment, I can see what you mean. But, I also see the other side of it, that a community organizer doesn't have any real requirements to meet. It's a volunteer position, right? At least that is my understanding of it. If a community organizer doesn't perform his or her voluntary duties responsibly, it's unlikely that he or she will be kicked out of "office" or held responsible. One is not critiqued much as a community organizer because not much is expected of one in that position.

At the same time, the voluntary nature of that kind of position allows a purposeful and driven organizer to take the "job" to a different level and be creative with solutions that might not be allowed or encouraged in an official position. And, therefore, that kind of experience could be really valuable to someone who, later on, ends up in public office. It could make a person that much more passionate and willing to do whatever has to be done to meet the needs of his constituents.

I think that we rely on a lot more community organizers than we know. Our pastors don't carry the title, but they act in a similar position. I don't carry the title, but I certainly feel like it when I'm trying to rally my neighbors to support a local farm. Yes, it's a small part of what is needed in a community organizer, but many of us, to some extent, fill those responsibilities.