The Bible on Tax Resistance

At the end of 1971, the Mennonites reported that their membership had provided since 1965 at least $111,575,000 for the Vietnam War alone. Since this war accounted at that time for less than one sixth of U.S. military expenditures, one would need to multiply sixfold to arrive at the total Mennonite contribution to warmaking. Studies of my own Brethren Church would probably reveal that many of our congregations likewise pay from three to four times as much for military purposes through the federal income tax alone as for all church activities.

The Vietnam experience highlighted a possible change in our situation. As long as huge armies are necessary to wage wars, conscientious objection to the use of our personal services is the right witness. If it becomes possible through automated warfare to kill and destroy with unmanned aircraft and minimal personnel, then the witness of withholding economic support may become an issue of even greater importance for the conscientious Christian peacemaker.

From my perspective, we would do well to avoid two extremes, neither of which I believe is substantiated in the scriptures. The one extreme would claim that the Bible commands us to pay our taxes under any circumstances. I agree with Donald Kaufman, who laments that, "One of the biggest hurdles for Christians to overcome in considering the war tax issue is the almost universal assumption that the Bible speaks with one voice regarding the necessity of tax payment to governments by its citizens." I do not find biblical support for such an absolutist position. In no place does the Bible command us to pay all of our taxes all of the time.

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