Blessing Taxes, Honoring Oaths

Taxes are the way that people of faith care for the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens, by funding our government’s social safety-net services. Charity through faith communities and other groups is a vital supplement, but no replacement, for the role we give our government in meeting critical human needs.

The “Blessing of Taxes” in worship is a sacred re-affirmation of the blessings that flow from the taxes we pay: services to the poor and ailing; schools, roads, sanitation; public safety and defense; protection of the environment; and promotion of a healthier economy – to name a few. It is also a moment to recommit ourselves as citizens to shape the priorities that determine how our taxes are spent.

Some congregations place tax forms on the altar for a blessing on the weekend before taxes are due. Some pastors focus their sermons on the sacred duties of citizenship and on their visions for the ways that tax money should best be spent. Some congregations plan special discussions related to citizen activism and social issue awareness following worship.

The form of the blessing differ, but the essential message is the same: we give thanks to the Love that is God for the good that comes through our taxes. They are a special form of our “offerings” in worship. Many blessings flow from them, and divine guidance is needed for us to have the wisdom to see to it they are spent for the best purposes.

In addition, we celebrate and bless all citizens who faithfully support their neighbors through payment of their taxes, remembering the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., that “taxes are the price we pay for civilization.”

The “Blessing of Taxes” is also a good time to influence our elected representatives to renounce any ideology that violates their oaths of office. 236 members of the US Congress and 41 Senators have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge never to raise taxes for any reason. But there are times when certain tax rates must be raised to provide for the well-being and security of our people. Politicians cannot fulfill their oaths before God to do their duties well and faithfully if they promise to cripple the ability of the government to act in the best interests of our nation.

The Norquist pledge signers are holding America hostage to an anti-tax anti-government ideology. Adherence to this arbitrary and ultimately meaningless pledge has weakened national security, dampened economic recovery, and denied vital benefits to our neediest fellow citizens. It’s time to demand that our politicians renounce this pledge, for the sake of the common good. Taxes should be levied at fair rates that fund essential government services, and they should vary according to the needs of the nation.

Copy this “confession and repentance” (see Oathwatch.org) and email it to all politicians who have signed Norquist’s pledge:

Failure to Abide by my Oath of Office: Confession and Repentance

I hereby confess that by signing a pledge never to raise tax rates, I contradicted my oath of office which I made before God and my constituents. There are times when, in order to support and defend the Constitution, it is necessary to raise tax rates. There are times when, in order to discharge the duties of my office well and faithfully, it may be essential to vote to increase government revenues.

And so before God and my fellow citizens I publicly repent of this violation of my oath of office by mailing this statement and the shredded pieces of a copy of the anti-tax increase pledge to University Temple United Methodist Church, 1415 NE 43rd St, Seattle WA 98105, to be preserved for posterity in a vault in the church basement. In my repentance, I receive forgiveness from God and from my constituents.

Signed: ________________________________ Date: __________________

Elected position held: _______________________________________

JIM BURKLO is the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California and the author of several books, including Souljourn.

About Jim Burklo

Rev. Jim Burklo is the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. An ordained United Church of Christ pastor, he is the author of three books in print, OPEN CHRISTIANITY (2000), BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS (2008), and HITCH-HIKING TO ALASKA: THE WAY OF SOULFUL SERVICE (2013). See more about him at jimburklo.com .


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