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Preacher, Over-Tax Thyself
by Frederick Meekins
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Many times the Separation of Church and State is justified in civic discussion on the grounds that each of these social spheres ought to remain distinct since each specialized realm is not competent to judge the affairs of the other. But as various clergy and public officials open their respective mouths to address matters transcending the parameters of their normal areas of expertise, such voices often reveal they comprehend little of either the Church or the State.

One of the most controversial local issues facing the Maryland suburbs of Prince George’s County is the Tax Reform Initiative for Marylanders, commonly referred to as TRIM. The purpose of this measure is to keep tax rates limited; but as politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests grow more and more addicted to the narcotic known as our wallets, additional pressure is applied each election cycle to repeal the measure in the hopes that tax rates can be raised in a vain attempt to satiate their fiscal dependency.

Those hankering to extract an exorbitant degree of taxation usually couch their pleas in terms of warning of the depredation to government services that will result should voters fail to acquiesce to these demands at referendum time. Now a new chord of guilt has been added to this nagging chorus by interjecting sentiments of religiosity into the debate.

In a commentary titled “The Role of the Church in Prince George’s County” published in the Gazette newspapers of suburban Maryland, Pastor Robert Alexander Clemetson of Redeeming Love Christian Fellowship, in a manner addressing the matter in an exceedingly circuitous fashion, extols why it is our Christian duty to respond “Amen” at the prospect of higher tax assessments. If his column reflects the quality of sermondy emanating from Redeeming Love Christian Fellowship’s pulpit in terms of obtuse abstraction and failure to apply properly the correctly interpreted Biblical message to practical situations, I almost feel sorry for the congregation.

In his analysis of the ecclesiastical situation characterizing Prince George’s County, Pastor Clemeston observes that the contemporary church finds itself oscillating between poles he classifies as “institutional security” and “prophetic proclamation”. He further notes those residing within the county are themselves divided over TRIM in relation to their residence within or outside the Beltway circumnavigating the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Clemetson insinuates supporting TRIM equates with institutional security while advocating the measure’s repel is analogous to prophetic proclamation. While Clemetson acknowledges the benefits of institutional security, it is quite clear that the Reverend believes that prophetic proclamation (and thus opposition to TRIM) represents the more authentically Christian position.

But before Pastor Clemetson places his clerical imprimatur upon his misguided homily with a “Thus sayeth the Lord”, maybe he ought to consider what the Lord really thinks about the economic concepts behind the TRIM measure.

In his analysis, Reverend Clemetson contends that positions regarding TRIM are largely determined by geography. However, he fails to realize the situation goes beyond merely that of the proverbial haves and have-nots. To get a more complete analysis, one has to consider why those living in the various parts of the county hold to the positions they do, and in so doing realize that the allegations of greed don’t necessarily apply the most to those such charges are initially leveled against.

It is only natural those within the Beltway would agitate the most to have the TRIM provisions abolished. It is not, as Pastor Clemetson claims, because denizens within its boundaries are more idealistic than those living beyond its confines.

Having lived within the Beltway my entire life, I can assure you the discrepancies in opinion over TRIM arise from the high percentage of bureaucrats, interest group types, and indigents of various stripes on the dole residing in the area. With each of these factions having their hands in the public cookie jar, all of them have a vested interest in seeing that the party doesn’t end even if those sponsoring it have to dig deeper into their pockets to keep the good times rolling. And unlike those living beyond the Beltway who oppose tax increases who have to work for what they have in life, many belonging to these groups have not come across a problem to which they did not think government the solution.

Furthermore, where do these misguided clerics think the increased funding will come from? Unlike loaves and fishes, tax revenues don’t miraculously multiply when prayed over.

Contrary to the propaganda put out by these purveyors of class envy, just because one owns a house does not mean you are a Kennedy or a Rockefeller. It only means you have excelled at frugality and personal discipline.

Why then should homeowners be punished by having their taxes raised and thus face the possibility of losing their homes? Does anyone other than those in the governing bureaucratic elites and their pliant vassals among the ranks of the deliberately indolent benefit when taxes are increased? The only thing such statism distributes equally is misery.

Reverend Clemetson concludes, “The temporal blessings of God ought to be used to build bridges of hope and empowerment for members of the community....The church has a mandate to care for the least of these. We are being called out of our places of comfort...into communities where children have no books, teenagers have no plans for the future, families have no health care, and fathers have no jobs.”

Though not directly attributable to Scripture, an insightful axiom derivable from Biblical principles advises. “God helps those who help themselves.” This assumption is endorsed by II Thessalonians 3:10 admonishing, “if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

Lieges of the downtrodden will retort, “But some people can’t help being out of work.” True enough, but how is raising taxes going to help?

How is handing out welfare going to provide hope and empowerment? If anything, it will only hasten the downward spiral of dependency and despondency by further squelching the natural yearning to relish the fruits of individual achievement and personal responsibility. If anything, individuals truly desirous of elevating their fellow human beings and not merely employing such idealistic posturing as a tool through which to accrue more power unto themselves must advocate for lower taxes and thus greater economic freedom.

The church does have a mandate to provide a sense of hope to the young and old alike. But those like Rev. Clemetson expect more from government than it is capable of delivering.

For example, Rev Clemetson laments that children are going without books as a result of refusing to raise taxes. Have all the public libraries shut down; for the last time I checked libraries here in Prince George’s County did not have a means test for a borrower’s card.

If children are abstaining from books, it is because of their own choosing and a result of their decision to buy into the ghetto mentality that eschews scholarship and erudition. To paraphrase a famous saying dealing with horses and water: you can take a kid to the library but you can’t make him read.

In this age of expanding government control over our lives, it might be politically incorrect to ask where the parents of these young vulgarians are in all of this, but the issue must be raised. Many of these indiscriminately procreating Neanderthals who wouldn’t crack a book for their offspring have no problem lavishing playstations and Nintendo sets upon their misbegotten spawn.

If their “aliteracy” --- the refusal to read rather than the inability to do so --- is the result of a lack of guidance and misdirected finances, then why should the cost for addressing the problem be extracted from my pocket? Many of the so-called “poor” receiving assistance enjoy luxuries I certainly don’t partake of.

One woman my acquaintances know of has several children by an equal number of men, carries $300.00 handbags, goes clubbing for $40.00 a night, dines on fresh salmon from a local foodbank, and refuses to take a fulltime job so her benefits won’t be cut. Furthermore, why should mothers that refuse to work be allowed to send their offspring to Head Start; for that matter, why should Head Start even exist in the first place? So why then is it my fault if such brats lack the inspiration necessary to make something of themselves in life?

How does Rev. Clemetson propose that the government imbue youngsters with hope for the future? Kind of hard to do that since prayer and Bible reading have essentially been outlawed in public schools and God shown the door isn’t it?

Since that is the case, what kind of hope, pray tell (oopps since I guess you can’t do that), do liberals such as Rev Clemetson think the state is capable of providing? That no matter how much one screws up in life there will always be a check provided by the good people of the United States to bail you out of your mess at the end of the day?

It’s about time the naive realized you can’t solve problems of the heart by simply throwing more money at them. Expecting government to provide more than it was originally intended is a classic formula for increased despair at best and an open invitation for despotism at worst.

Contrary to widespread perception, government itself did not make America great. Rather, that honor belongs to the same set of principles that initially inspired the protections embodied by the TRIM legislation, the idea that the power of the state must be limited so that the individual might be free to pursue happiness as promised by the Declaration of Independence.

Copyright 2004 by Frederick Meekins

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