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JUST LAST WEEK I viewed an admirable little film titled "Washington, You’re Fired!", a copy of which was given to me at the rally in DC last month. The film reminded me that one of the favorite ploys of despots and would-be despots to pacify the masses they intend to exploit is through the corruption of scripture and religious doctrine.

The classic example of this is the recital of the quote, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s" in order to pacify an uncertain host so that a governmental parasite can more easily have its meal of taxes.  This line is cited as though everyone is to take for granted that some percentage of their property is actually, and automatically, "Caesar’s"! 

This is nonsense, of course, both as to the matter of who any given property belongs to, and what Jesus was saying.  The reality is that Jesus’ admonition about "that which is Caesar’s" is a straightforward endorsement of the principle behind legitimate excise taxation: an actor whose stuff was used to produce a gain has a legitimate claim on the gain, and it is proper that his part should be "rendered unto" him.

This is precisely how the "income" excise works.  Being a tax on gains produced through the use of privileges, prerogatives and/or property belonging to the federal government, that government has a legitimate claim on a part of the proceeds.  By the same token, of course, it has NO claim to gains NOT produced through the use of privileges, prerogatives and/or property belonging to the federal government. 

In fact, the relationship between Jesus’ admonition and the American "income" tax is an even handsomer fit still, because there is another part to those famous words: "…and unto God that which is God’s".  This, too, finds a reflection in the "income" tax, because the application of the tax is intimately dependent on testimony.

Surely those who would refer to "rendering unto Caesar" in encouraging the payment of taxes would not deny that what "is God’s"– in the sense of what is owed, and must be rendered, to God– includes our adherence to morality, and our adherence to morality includes scrupulous honesty in testimony we make?  Surely such honesty involves saying what we know and believe to be true, and NOT saying what we DON’T know and believe to be true?  Indeed, the latter actually has its own proscription in the core Judeo-Christian code: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

This moral obligation is called upon at the very heart of the "income" tax structure, in which payers of money are expected to report to the government payment of gains in which "Caesar’s" stuff played a part (on the basis of which reports "Caesar" will then aggressively pursue his claim to a part of those gains).  Such payers are also relied upon to scrupulously NOT report payments of gains in which "Caesar’s" stuff was NOT involved (thus sparing the recipient from the improper burden of being obliged to correct false testimony).  Similarly, the recipients of gains are relied upon to honestly report those to which "Caesar" has a claim, but are just as much obliged morally (and legally) to NOT mischaracterize receipts to which "Caesar" DOESN’T have a claim.

In short, the "income" tax really does require us to "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s".  But those who would have everyone imagine that "Caesar" has a legitimate claim to everything, and that no one should question or challenge his assertions, but instead should just "render up", discourage clear and complete understanding of the whole of the scriptural reference, just as they discourage clear and complete understanding of the "income" tax laws.  (For an in-depth discussion of the testimonial obligations briefly discussed above, see ‘The Criminal Rites Of Spring‘.)


THE CORRUPT ABUSE of a scriptural reference mentioned in ‘Washington, You’re Fired!’ is one with even broader and more pernicious ill effect.  The passage exploited in THIS sleazy ploy is a portion of chapter 13 of Paul’s "Epistle to the Romans":

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

This passage is deployed to absurdly argue that it is the duty of every Christian to be the obedient and unquestioning subordinate of whatever political hack has most recently been granted an office by that same Christian and his neighbors!

Somehow those making this argument forget to mention that the hacks they mean to elevate to wielding the divine right of kings are actually mere delegates, temporarily granted a smidgeon of the authority belonging to those this argument would have abase themselves.  Somehow they fail to observe that even this delegation of authority is strictly on a "good behavior" basis; and is subject to explicit, narrow written limits as to its range, depth and means of application.

Somehow, those making this "argument from scripture" for blind subordination to their favored political machine conveniently overlook just who is the "higher power" in America, and the fact that those who have temporarily been delegated some of the authority of that higher power have only been granted it after swearing an oath of faith and subordination to the law which formalizes that relationship.

Indeed, to the degree that Romans 13 has any meaningful application here in America, it is that any office-holder who violates any Constitutional provision– even if only by acting on some creative, convenient interpretation, and even if that "creative interpretation" is endorsed by judges, lawyers, or anyone else– is guilty of "resisting the power", and thus "resisting the ordinance of God" and has earned the appropriate sanction.  It is sovereign individuals that are actually graced with power and authority– not princes, and not politicians or political factions, however much it may have been princes who commanded the most swords in Paul’s place and time.

Paul goes on to issue warnings of a more temporal character (in which we should appropriately substitute "they [are]" for "he [is]"):

"For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake."

Taking these words as authoritative, it is clear that properly understood, Romans 13 puts we, the people, under a moral imperative to execute our office as the "higher power", and closely supervise and discipline our servant governments.  In that regard, we find Paul’s words remarkably harmonious with others of a more recent vintage and specifically relevant to our American structure of government, such as these, from United States Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story’s discussion of the Second Amendment in his ‘Commentaries on the Constitution’ (1833) (in which "rulers" is clearly meant to be understood as "office-holders"):

"The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these [usurpations] are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."

I have already addressed the significant aspects of the remainder of this abused passage from Romans 13 in my introductory digression:

"For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."


THE CORRUPTION OF OUR TIMES runs deep, and there are few expressions of it more telling than sleazy exploitations of sacred texts such as those discussed above.  Unfortunately, that fact doesn’t hinder the ambitious and powerful in their use.

It is widely reported that pastors across the country are currently being encouraged by government officials to prepare for the false teaching of Romans 13 in order to pacify and subvert their congregations in the event a "national emergency" is declared.   Indeed, the appearance of the passage in ‘Washington, You’re Fired’ concerned its reported use by pastors in New Orleans to discourage resistance while federal troops were moving through the city disarming and taking prisoner those in safe areas who had chosen to remain in their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  I can’t verify the truth of these reports from personal knowledge, but I can attest that this false teaching has long had a voice in places throughout our American community.

Everyone must look to his or her own conscience for guidance in these matters.  For my part, if I hear this nonsense preached, I will conclude that I am in the presence of an enemy.