Yesterday famed “Christian” pastor Rick Warren, wealthy author and megachurch leader, tweeted the following:
HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero. So they’re happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay any taxes.
Stupid or evil? Both. That’s such an old lie, told so often by old liars and debunked so frequently that Warren can’t have believed it unless he had spent the previous three decades somewhere with no television, no radio, no newspapers and no Bibles.
After his original tweet created a firestorm, Warren deleted it and fired off a few attempts at conciliatory statements — things like, “Whenever I think I understand it all, I realize I haven’t been listening” or “You are 100% right! It did sound mean.”
These aren’t corrections — his lie hasn’t been retracted. Nor are they apologies. They are excuses and they are not believable.
The nasty lie he told was not a faux pas, or an innocent bit of misinformation.
First of all, he knew it was not true.
Rick Warren gets a paycheck and sees the payroll tax deducted from it. Rick Warren goes shopping and pays sales tax. Rick Warren fills his gas tank and pays gas tax. Maybe he’s forgotten that the laity — most of us aren’t clergy — also pay property taxes. (Yes, renters too — don’t you dare try to suggest that property owners don’t pass that cost along to their renters and try to pretend that landlords are somehow more put-upon than those lucky-duckies that rent from them.)
He was bearing false witness. He was bearing witness that he knew to be false.
But more importantly, it was malicious false witness. This was not a piece of data that he passed along mistakenly believing it to be true. This was a slander against poor people that no one would ever pass along unless they really didn’t like poor people. It sounded mean because it was mean.
It is the sort of lie that one rich man tells another rich man when there are no poor people within earshot. Neither of them believes it, but slurring the poor is, for them, a source of amusement. “The poor are freeloaders who have it so much easier than we do,” is a lie that rich people have been repeating to one another for thousands of years, and I don’t believe that Rick Warren is the first one actually dumb enough to really believe it.
This is a lie aimed at poor people like a weapon. This is a hurtful lie and a harmful lie. It’s the sort of lie that doesn’t just violate several of the Ten Commandments, but back in Bible days it would have earned you an unpleasant personal visit from Nathan or Elijah or Amos.
It’s a vicious lie, contemptuous of the weak, haughty and detestable, arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. This was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and the needy.
But at least Sodom didn’t actively turn her power against the poor and needy — bearing false witness against them with modern versions of ancient falsehoods. As I live, says the Lord God, your sister Sodom never did as you have done here, Rick Warren.
So the question for Rick Warren is not, “Why did you tweet a falsehood?” The question he needs to answer — on his knees first, then later in public — is “Why do you resent people who have far, far less than you have?”
That is, after all, what his retelling of this ancient lie expressed — his resentment of anyone not as wealthy or privileged as him.
Ponder that for a moment. See if you can understand it, because I just can’t. I have no idea why someone as wealthy and privileged as Rick Warren would resent those who are not at all wealthy or privileged, but it seems he does.
And that’s just weird.
Poor people pay taxes. They pay payroll taxes and sales taxes and gas taxes and property taxes. As a percentage of their income, they pay way more in taxes than Rick Warren does. (Way, way more, since he’s not just wealthy, he’s a wealthy clergyman with a tax-free housing subsidy.)
Maybe Rick Warren should re-read that story.