There is a peculiar nest for religion in the west that will hopefully not develop with the emergence of the east. This is the concept that religion must be somehow financially sequestered from the people in order to function, a protected shelter by government mandate. In the United States, despite having no mention in it’s founding documents, this takes the form of tax shelter, where the religious institution is exempt from taxes, and the people pay less taxes when they donate to their institution.
There are a number of ways one can make the counter-argument to such a scheme. There is the alarming variety of tax shelters, ranging from those that redefine science and nature, those that use the status to accumulate wealth in stealth, the endless fantasy religions, the corruption of the apostolic churches even to the point of the endorsement of breaking laws, the politicization of doctrine, and many others. How else can the apostolic churches become havens for homosexuals who rarely work and get retirements benefits. Welcome to the land of government-protected cults.
The politicization of doctrine may be the most important feature of the current western frameworks. There are many examples of faithful religious who have resisted the temptation, but how can a tax shelter scheme like this not be viewed as a perpetual bribe by government or others to contain the evangelization initiated by Christ? Does the Holy Spirit really need this kind of help? The spoilers of the gospel most certainly do. Is this not a masonic financial system? A sandbox for contradicting beliefs, without any way out. No need to join a masonic lodge. Religions are all equal, forged in time and history endlessly. God’s Mercy becomes irrelevant. Political correctness rules indefinitely. The only winners, are those with the most power and money. A philosophy or teaching, a guilt or historical division, become convenient means to an end, pulled out like a book from the large library of history.
Would a religion with accumulated wealth in such a legal scheme have the courage to speak up against a bad law or bad policy? The Church is effectively excluded from contributing to discussions on taxes and even reforms of current financial orders using Christ’s teachings so greatly needed. Our taxes pay interest on restructured loans. How can the Church be bothered with such a state of affairs while sequestered in their exempt haven?
Emperor Constantine the Great granted freedom of worship to the Roman Empire to end the Christian persecutions. He also gave the Church tax exemption. Without this, would the Arian heresy that followed have become so dominant, protected by financial governmental sequestration?
Would someone or some institution still give money to the Church Jesus Christ founded for political gain or worse if there was no tax deduction? Would you who loved the living God and His Church still give money under those same conditions? DO YOU NEED A TAX EXEMPTION TO SUPPORT YOUR SPOUSE?
Creating a tax shelter to combat such a system is obviously not going to work. If this scheme to make religion operate in a tax shelter is fundamentally flawed as proposed, one would think that our Lord has something to say about it. Might He propose a remedy or at least a protection from such an adverse constitution?
He does. He pays it.
Matthew 17, 21 And when they abode together in Galilee, Jesus said to them: The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 22 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again. And they were troubled exceedingly. 23 And when they were come to Capharnaum, they that received the didrachmas, came to Peter and said to him: Doth not your master pay the didrachmas? 24 He said: Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying: What is thy opinion, Simon? The kings of the earth, of whom do they receive tribute or custom? of their own children, or of strangers? 25 And he said: Of strangers. Jesus said to him: Then the children are free.
26 But that we may not scandalize them, go to the sea, and cast in a hook: and that fish which shall first come up, take: and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater: take that, and give it to them for me and thee.
Comment: Notice that this discourse by Matthew (the tax collector) occurs immediately after The Son of Man announces that He will subject Himself to death. While He admits that the case could be made that God’s people should be exempt from the tax, the Head of the Church, the Alpha and Omega of history, King of kings and Conqueror of all evil, nonetheless subjects Himself to it. How else could He take on what we live through?
Matthew 22, 16 And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou dost not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore what dost thou think, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny. 20 And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? 21 They say to him: Caesar’s. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.
A true leader leads by humility, carrying the same cross as those led. Death and taxes is the contemporary expression of the fate of western man. God Incarnate, the Son of Man, subjected Himself to all things, except sin. Including death. And taxes. But in the west, not so for the Body of Christ in the apostles. Only death here.
The easiest way for the west to allow the apostolic Church to be subjected to the same tax as the citizens may be to institute a universal consumption tax, while eliminating the income tax. The most brilliant theologians of our times can present their counter-argument. But let them exhibit the day in the last 100 years when the apostolic Church shone most brilliantly, and they will still be showing a day when the taxpayer could say “But you are still not one of us.”
“Prince, be advised that we shall obey you in worldly matters and we shall pay taxes to you, but in religious affairs we shall only listen to our pastors.”
Saint John of Damascus, advising the Moslem Caliph.