Anabaptists and Taxes

Jason Boone is coordinating minister for the Peace and Justice Support Network.

I pay my taxes, but I don’t like it.

Part of it is I resent the compulsory nature of the whole affair. It’s all DEADLINES and PENALTIES and IRS. They could just ask me nicely for some money to pay for roads, education, assistance for people struggling financially. While I’m happy to give to those things, there’s a difference between voluntarily supporting something and being forced to do it.

But the biggest reason I don’t like it is I know where the money goes. Yes, some of it does go to good things I’m glad to contribute to.

But a huge part of our tax dollars (25-50 percent depending on whose estimates you use) goes to support the military and finance the bloody, stupid, pointless wars we’ve been waging since 2001.

I object to this ethically and morally. I object on religious grounds. And I object as a person of average intelligence who recognizes this is absurd. We’ve spent somewhere around five trillion dollars on war since 2001. Are we any closer to peace? Or have we destroyed a bunch of houses, hospitals and roads, killed and wounded a lot of people and engendered hatred and resentment? Five trillion dollars could buy a lot of food, build a lot of schools. It could make a lot of friends. Or it could do what we’ve done.

Really, I’d prefer they just take the money and burn it in a big bonfire on the National Mall. I’ll pay for the matches (voluntarily!).

Maybe you feel the same frustration. Anabaptists have been wrestling with this problem of tax money paying for war for centuries (check out this timeline of war tax resistance by our friend Titus Peachey). Some of us have refused to pay all or part of our taxes. Some of us have made decisions to live at an income level that doesn’t get taxed. There isn’t one right way to respond to this problem.

This tax season, Peace and Justice Support Network and Mennonite Mission Network are offering another possible way to respond. Our tax money is going to help pay for war, so let’s make sure we’re putting some towards peace as well.

The I Choose Peace Fund is a way to offset the taxes we pay that support war by giving to peacemaking. The money donated will go to Mennonite Mission Network global partners in peacemaking, Christian Peacemaker Teams, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund and ReconciliAsian.

We can’t match the money and might that government has to wage war. But we can try our best to be faithful to Jesus in the choices we make with our dollars. And we can throw a little bit of sand in the gears of the war machine. Who knows, if enough of us throw enough sand, maybe things could change.

So if you feel anxious or angry as tax day gets closer, you aren’t alone. And your response of not paying taxes or intentionally supporting peacemaking or whatever your conscience leads you to, is part of a persistent witness that will outlast the Pentagon, the “war on terror” and even the government that supports it all.