Let’s Cheat on Our Taxes
As I write, April 15 is still fresh in the mind, and the sting of death remains, combining the current pangs of tax extraction with the promise of a greater burden to come, thanks to the Barackification of heathcare.
So imagine my delight when I read in a back issue of a leading Christian magazine (call it Evangelicalism Now) that, come next April 15, I should just flip off Uncle Sam and cheat on my taxes.
I mean, sure, breaking the law bothers some people. EN mentions that: “The issue before us is not whether law should be obeyed in normal circumstances. We all agree on that.” I feel better already, and my editorial brain is already forming the next sentence before I read it, and it has something to do with ours being abnormal circumstances.
“The question is: Under what circumstances is it appropriate to disobey a law?” Close enough!
As it turns out, cheating on my taxes is biblical. You doubt? Well maybe you’ve forgotten that recognizing that “the law is not everything” is “a biblical principle.” You must have also forgotten that Daniel flouted the “laws of the Medes and Persians” to pray to the Lord. You must have accidentally not-remembered Rahab’s treason against the devil-worshiping pagans of Jericho. You must be having a senior moment when it comes to Jesus and the Jewish Sabbath laws. And you must have missed your ginko biloba dose this morning, because Peter very memorably said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey [the Jews] rather than God.” Indeed, EN points out, “the law of the land is superseded by the law of love.”
I think I love my family so much that I will give it my tax dollars.
As if that isn’t enough to convince me, EN then puts down the NIV and picks up a miniature Old Glory and a sparkler. “[T]his nation itself was founded on overthrowing not just a law but an entire government.” Now, at first my editorial brain paused at this. I thought a nation (Lat. natio, “birth, a people” from the verb nascor, “to be begotten”) could be “founded” only by a father and not by an act of disobedience, but then I consulted my Honest Abe’s Dictionary of Olde Peculiar Terms. So, yes, it is both biblical and American for me to cheat on my taxes. I can almost picture my boys on a set of matching ATVs.
I’ve been facetiously misleading. That magazine isn’t really called Evangelicalism Now. And in the editorial “Blessed Is the Law—Up to a Point,” the masthead wasn’t attempting to justify cheating on one’s taxes. They were arguing that, given today’s circumstances, it is “legitimate (albeit regrettable) for an immigrant to enter this nation clandestinely to gain [certain] freedoms.”
The circumstances listed are these: “economic and political hardship” and U.S. immigration policies that “make it nearly impossible for some immigrants to enter this nation.” Given those circumstances, Americans should cut the lawbreakers some “slack.”
Actually, more than that. “While we do not admire lawbreaking, we cannot help but admire people who go through great privation to attain the dream of economic and political liberty.” So let us not only absolve them with amnesty but stand in awe of their sin.
Is it sin? Well, sic et non. “It is deeply regrettable that they have broken the laws of our land.” But why regret it at all when it is nothing short of “deny[ing] the witness of Scripture” to say that there is never a time when we should obey God rather than men?
Certainly we should, and the biblical accounts provided by EN are perfect examples. The law told Daniel not to pray. The law told Rahab not to assist God’s people. The law told Peter not to preach the Gospel. And Jesus is Himself the Sabbath.
Roman law told a convert named Onesimus that he was a slave—what some might call economic and political hardship. When Onesimus went on the lam, Saint Paul’s response (written from jail) was to send him back to his master, Philemon. Paul encouraged Philemon to receive Onesimus as “more than a slave, as a dear brother,” but he would remain a slave nonetheless. As a new Christian, Onesimus’ calling was to abide by the law and sacrifice his liberty.
The trouble with twisted-Scripture immigration propaganda is that it almost always contains some genuine biblical truth. EN is right: Christians must “extend hospitality to the stranger and succor to the suffering.” We have no right to be a jackass toward people of any station in life who cross our paths. Nor do we have a right to admire, if not absolve, otherwise law-abiding people for flouting just and reasonable laws because they only yearn to be free to mow our lawns.
In a completely unrelated matter, I wonder: Come next April 15, will the otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants and their employers cheat on their taxes?
This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.