My Letter to the IRS: 'I Reserve the Right Not to Kill'

By Shane Claiborne 04-11-2011

As a Christian, Easter marks the most stunning act of grace and enemy-love in human history -- Jesus' death and resurrection. As Jesus was being tortured and executed, he cried out for mercy, even for those terrorists who hurt him. As his buddy Peter picked up a sword and cut the ear off one of the persecutors, Jesus scolded Peter and picked up the ear and healed the wounded persecutor. The early Christians understood the message -- it was a message of amazing grace. It was a message about how there is something worth dying for, but nothing in the world worth killing for -- not even freedom or democracy. One of the early Christians said, "When Jesus disarmed Peter, he disarmed every Christian." After all, we don't see Christians picking up swords again for hundreds of years.

I am one of those Christians who believes we should still have the right not to kill, even in an empire that has a military bigger than Rome's. Perhaps that's why it has been hard for me to navigate what to do as tax season approaches, with so much of our federal tax money going towards militarism. It was a crisis familiar to the early Christians who were accused of insurrection and tax evasion because they had an allegiance that subverted, or superseded, their national allegiance.

So I respectfully filed my taxes this year, and I sent the IRS the letter below. My intention is to respect my country and contribute to the common good, but also to uncompromisingly follow the way of the nonviolent Jesus this Easter -- in a world that continues to pick up the sword

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