Pacifistic Redistributionism, Or, Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

[This was cross-posted at City of God.]

I have a confession. I don’t understand something about some anarcho-socialists whose writings I follow semi-regularly.

I don’t understand how someone can simultaneously believe that Jesus took a principled stand against all violence in his life and death, and yet at the same time believe Jesus’ call for justice requires the state to violently expropriate and redistribute property. Sometimes, such proponents will go even further, and suggest that a truly free (i.e., non-violent) market would result in oppression of the poor.

Just to give an idea of what I’m talking about, here are two snippets from the writings of Brian Walsh. Walsh is not the only example of this kind of thinking I have seen, he’s just the person I have heard most recently express it, and whose writings I was able to search through most quickly. Firstly, an example from a meditation on Colossians:

If the gospel was not about the reconciliation of ‘all things’ in Christ, there would be little biblical basis for the transformation of cultural life. It is precisely such comprehensiveness that we meet in this poem.

But how is reconciliation accomplished? Note how the poem ends: God was ‘pleased … to reconcile to himself all things … by making peace through Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross.’

The irony of these words is deep. Jesus brings peace – one that goes infinitely beyond the Pax Romana – but does so through crucifixion at the hands of the imperial powers.

This is the ultimate subversion. It is not imperial political, economic and military power that brings about reconciliation but suffering love.

So here, Jesus’ politics is explicitly opposed even to bringing social harmony through “…economic…power…”. And yet, here are some comments made about tax systems in the context of the recent Canadian federal election:

So where is Jesus on the question of taxation? Let’s be clear, taxation that favours the rich and the powerful to the detriment of the poor is always unjust taxation. So any political party that advocates tax cuts for the rich in a society where there remain deep economic divisions between the very rich and the very poor is a political party that knows nothing of the way of Jesus.

When Zacchaeus met Jesus he not only abandoned the practices of an oppressive taxation, he engaged in a radically generous act of wealth redistribution. Giving away his wealth and repaying those who had been oppressed was an act of deep faith and profound economics.

At its best, taxation is a means of redistributing income to create a more level economic playing field. At its best, taxation is the way that we all contribute to the common good. In a radically individualist culture, the notion of something that is “common” is difficult to imagine. But if we root our lives in a commitment to love our neighbour, then progressive and responsible taxation could be one way that we seek justice and promote the common good.

I honestly cannot understand how these two positions fit together. I would appreciate some help.

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3 thoughts on “Pacifistic Redistributionism, Or, Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

  1. Whenever I see a phrase like “we seek justice and promote the common good.” in the context of taxation and wealth redistribution, I know that it is not theology speaking, it is sociology – of the humanistic kind.

    Those sitting in Starbucks writing this tripe haven’t the first clue what an unjust society really looks and feels like. A tax break for the employers of a country labeled ‘unjust’ has robbed the word of any real value. Mugabe was unjust to murder street merchants for bypassing the oppressive tax system. Quadaffi is unjust for bombing his own citizens. Harper is unjust for lowering a tax levy by 2%. Really??

    Furthermore, the lord loves a joyful giver, not a willing tax payer, regardless of one’s socio-economic status. Biblically speaking, taxation isn’t a doctrine and has never been taught as the solution to societies problems.

    And Brian’s reference to Zacchaeus misses the rich intended meaning. Zacchaeus was a repentant sinner – a thief – demonstrating his remorse by joyfully repaying to those he had robbed. He was not modeling a new kind of wealth redistribution. Brian’s biblical exposition might also call Abrahams near sacrifice of his son on the flames of the alter as an early sign that God is pro-bio-energy.

    This favoritism to the poor is actually misguided. The poor will always be with us, and we must not neglect them, we must have compassion on them, but we must not lose focus. “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Leviticus 19:15.

  2. Idea that the poor is owed anything by society – unjust.

    Let them go to the Church for charity, and to the individual for grace.

    Taxation is only to facilitate common infrastructure. In a free democratic society it’s sole purpose is to build roads, public toilets and telephones along the freeway every 16.54 miles. Lining anyone’s pockets who did not work for it: verboten.

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