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Warping of Christianity

Susan Pace Hamill, professor of law at the University of Alabama, has written two excellent papers reviewing first Alabama's tax code and then federal taxes in light of Judeo-Christian ethics. Both speak to the extent to which state and federal legislators and the current administration, who loudly profess their Christian beliefs, support tax structures which burden the poor and fail to relieve poverty.

Hamill's thesis on Alabama's taxes is An Argument for Tax Reform Based on Judeo-Christian Ethics, and her journal article on federal taxes is "An Evaluation of Federal Tax Policy Based on Judeo-Christian Ethics." More about the Alabama story is available here.

Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a themed collection of excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)

WHAT is the office of religion if not to point out the principles that ought to govern the conduct of men towards each other; to furnish a clear, decisive rule of right which shall guide men in all the relations of life — in the workshop, in the mart, in the forum and in the senate, as well as in the church; to supply, as it were, a compass by which, amid the blasts of passion, the aberrations of greed and the delusions of a short-sighted expediency men may safely steer? What is the use of a religion that stands palsied and paltering in the face of the most momentous problems? What is the use of a religion that whatever it may promise for the next world can do nothing to prevent injustice in this? Early Christianity was not such a religion, else it would never have encountered the Roman persecutions; else it would never have swept the Roman world. The skeptical masters of Rome, tolerant of all gods, careless of what they deemed vulgar superstitions, were keenly sensitive to a doctrine based on equal rights; they feared instinctively a religion that inspired slave and proletarian with a new hope; that took for its central figure a crucified carpenter; that taught the equal fatherhood of God and the equal brotherhood of men; that looked for the speedy reign of justice, and that prayed, "Thy Kingdom come on Earth! " — The Condition of Labor, an Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII  ... go to "Gems from George"

Henry George: Thy Kingdom Come (1889 speech)
Early Christianity did not mean, in its prayer for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom in heaven, but a kingdom on earth. If Christ had simply preached of the other world, the high priests and the Pharisees would not have persecuted Him, the Roman soldiery would not have nailed His hands to the cross. Why was Christianity persecuted? Why were its first professors thrown to wild beasts, burned to light a tyrant’s gardens, hounded, tortured, put to death by all the cruel devices that a devilish ingenuity could suggest? Not that it was a new religion, referring only to the future. Rome was tolerant of all religions. It was the boast of Rome that all gods were sheltered in her Pantheon; it was the boast of Rome that she made no interference with the religions of peoples she conquered.

What was persecuted was a great movement for social reform — the gospel of justice — heard by common fishermen with gladness, carried by labourers and slaves into the imperial city of Rome. The Christian revelation was the doctrine of human equality, of the fatherhood of God, of the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. It struck at the very basis of that monstrous tyranny that then oppressed the civilised world; it struck at the fetters of the captive, and at the bonds of the slave, at that monstrous injustice which allowed a class to revel on the proceeds of labour, while those who did the labour fared scantily.

That is the reason why early Christianity was persecuted. And when they could no longer hold it down, then the privileged classes adopted and perverted the new faith, and it became, in its very triumph, not the pure Christianity of the early days, but a Christianity that, to a very great extent, was the servitor of the privileged classes.

And, instead of preaching the essential Fatherhood of God, the essential brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind, its high priests grafted onto the pure truths of the gospel the blasphemous doctrine that the All-Father is a respecter of persons, and that by His will and on His mandate is founded that monstrous injustice which condemns the great mass of humanity to unrequited hard toil. There has been no failure of Christianity. The failure has been in the sort of Christianity that has been preached.

Nothing is clearer than that if we are all children of the universal Father, we are all entitled to the use of His bounty. No one dare deny that proposition. But the people who set their faces against its carrying out say, virtually: “Oh, yes! that is true; but it is impracticable to carry it into effect!” Just think of what this means. This is God’s world, and yet such people say that it is a world in which God’s justice, God’s will, cannot be carried into effect. What a monstrous absurdity, what a monstrous blasphemy!

If the loving God does reign, if His laws are the laws not merely of the physical, but of the moral universe, there must be a way of carrying His will into effect, there must be a way of doing equal justice to all of His creatures.

There is. The people who deny that there is any practical way of carrying into effect the perception that all human beings are equally children of the Creator shut their eyes to the plain and obvious way. It is, of course, impossible in a civilisation like this of ours to divide land up into equal pieces. Such a system might have done in a primitive state of society. We have progressed in civilisation beyond such rude devices, but we have not, nor can we, progress beyond God’s providence.

There is a way of securing the equal rights of all, not by dividing land up into equal pieces, but by taking for the use of all that value which attaches to land, not as the result of individual labour upon it, but as the result of the increase in population, and the improvement of society. In that way everyone would be equally interested in the land of one’s native country. Here is the simple way. It is a way that impresses the person who really sees its beauty with a more vivid idea of the beneficence of the providence of the All-Father than, it seems to me, does anything else.

One cannot look, it seems to me, through nature — whether one looks at the stars through a telescope, or have the microscope reveal to one those worlds that we find in drops of water. Whether one considers the human frame, the adjustments of the animal kingdom, or any department of physical nature, one must see that there has been a contriver and adjuster, that there has been an intent. So strong is that feeling, so natural is it to our minds, that even people who deny the Creative Intelligence are forced, in spite of themselves, to talk of intent; the claws on one animal were intended, we say, to climb with, the fins of another to propel it through the water.

Yet, while in looking through the laws of physical nature, we find intelligence we do not so clearly find beneficence. But in the great social fact that as population increases, and improvements are made, and men progress in civilisation, the one thing that rises everywhere in value is land, and in this we may see a proof of the beneficence of the Creator.

Why, consider what it means! It means that the social laws are adapted to progressive humanity! In a rude state of society where there is no need for common expenditure, there is no value attaching to land. The only value which attaches there is to things produced by labour. But as civilisation goes on, as a division of labour takes place, as people come into centres, so do the common wants increase, and so does the necessity for public revenue arise. And so in that value which attaches to land, not by reason of anything the individual does, but by reason of the growth of the community, is a provision intended — we may safely say intended — to meet that social want.

Just as society grows, so do the common needs grow, and so grows this value attaching to land — the provided fund from which they can be supplied. Here is a value that may be taken, without impairing the right of property, without taking anything from the producer, without lessening the natural rewards of industry and thrift. Nay, here is a value that must be taken if we would prevent the most monstrous of all monopolies. What does all this mean? It means that in the creative plan, the natural advance in civilisation is an advance to a greater and greater equality instead of to a more and more monstrous inequality.

“Thy kingdom come!” It may be that we shall never see it. But to those people who realise that it may come, to those who realise that it is given to them to work for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth, there is for them, though they never see that kingdom here, an exceedingly great reward — the reward of feeling that they, little and insignificant though they may be, are doing something to help the coming of that kingdom, doing something on the side of that Good Power that shows all through the universe, doing something to tear this world from the devil’s grasp and make it the kingdom of righteousness.

Aye, and though it should never come, yet those who struggle for it know in the depths of their hearts that it must exist somewhere — they know that, somewhere, sometime, those who strive their best for the coming of the kingdom will be welcomed into the kingdom, and that to them, even to them, sometime, somewhere, the King shall say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.   Read the whole speech

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Wealth and Want
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