Conscientious Tax-Cheats

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Self-professed “urban monastic” Evangelical Leftist Shane Claiborne has publicly announced his withholding 30 percent of his taxes to protest all U.S. defense spending.  A strict pacifist who was in Baghdad in 2003 to protest the U.S. liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein, Claiborne is an icon for young evangelicals opposed to the American “empire.”

“While I am glad to contribute money to the common good and towards things that promote life and dignity, especially for the poor and most vulnerable people among us, I am deeply concerned that 30 percent of the federal budget goes towards military spending, with 117 billion going to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he explained in his recent letter to the IRS.

It’s not clear where Claiborne got the 30 percent figure.  U.S. military spending in 2011, including Iraq and Afghanistan operations, is supposed to be about $671 billion out of an over $3.8 trillion budget.  So the military will consume under 18 percent of federal spending.  Maybe Claiborne is playing the usual game of excluding “entitlement” spending from the total.

Claiborne, who sports dreadlocks and a frequent hoodie, is a very popular lecturer and author among especially hip, young evangelicals.  Operating a Philadelphia “Simple Way” commune in an impoverished neighborhood, he is understandably hailed for his concerns about the poor.  But he evidently does not want the poor or anybody else protected from terrorism or foreign aggression.  A pacifist absolutist, Claiborne represents the rising generation of neo-Anabaptists so popular today in America’s seminaries, where Utopian ideals often prevail over both reality and historic church teaching.

“My Christian faith and my human conscience require me to respectfully reserve the right not to kill, and to refrain from contributing money towards weapons and the military,” Claiborne told the IRS.  He added that if the military’s share of deficit spending were included, he would have to withhold about half his taxes, once again exaggerating defense expenditures.  “Entitlements” grab most of the federal budget, which the Left would prefer to ignore.  Defense of life and liberty in a chaotic world evidently does not qualify as an “entitlement.”

Claiborne earnestly informed the IRS that he will donate 30% of his tax bill to a “recognized US nonprofit organization working to bring peace and reconciliation,” which he did not name.  “My faith also compels me to submit to the governing authorities, which is why I am writing you respectfully and transparently here,” he added.  “May we continue to build the world we dream of.”

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  • David

    They are self-labeled as "evangelicals." This does not make them Christians, who are those who follow Jesus recognizing him as God.

    Jesus points out "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." And how do you do that as a nation? It's called defense. The so-called pacifist position is a denial of the reality of sin and evil. It denies the chief responsibility of government to protect from evil. God gave governments as Paul telll us and the OT repeatedly indicates. In other words, the so-called pacifist denies God by substuiting his wisdom for that of God, a bad move. Amazing how so-called pacifists end up supporting the most vile, evil, aggressive, and godless among us such as Saddam Hussein. In Lenin's words, they are "useful idiots" but trhey are not Christians.

    • joe

      david, make it clear to me how doing the "global policework" is actually defense. tell me how a war that is aimed at milking the resources of other countries is defense. and tell me if the U.S. government is also being faithful to "loving your neighbor as yourself" in terms of respecting the defense of other countries involved? i respect the patriotic mindset, yet we really need to look honestly at what is happening and be fair–what happens to countries after the U.S. goes to "help" them? you don't have to agree with me, but go watch "no end in sight" for beginners.

      as for calling these people christians or not, that's for God himself to judge, not you.

  • Amused

    Lets not forget all the politicians ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE , who got caught cheating on their taxes , not to metion the buisiness suits and corporations who CHEAT ON THE TAXES .
    Someone's got to keep you people honest

    • Ken

      Are far lefty talking abouyt honosty. That's hilarious!!

      • Amused

        Grow up Ken , thieves and cheats are homogenous throughout society . If you think only "lefties " are tax cheats , I suggest you check and get informed on who's been convicted and sent to prison for tax fraud .

  • Jim Berkley

    I wonder what Claiborne would do if at 3:00 a.m. some night, a guy with a chainsaw, a hockey mask, and blood all over him started breaking into Simple Way, swearing he would massacre everyone. Would Claiborne bring him cookies and milk?

  • tanstaafl

    Pacifism is self-correcting.

  • High Point

    Seems like a simple solution to his actions. He goes to jail. We are not at liberty to choose to "sort of" comply with the law.
    As for his symbolic refusal to pay his tax bill in full, tax money is fungible. Which portion is doing evil?

  • Jesse

    Jesus said to give unto ceaser what is ceaser's. If Jesus could give his taxes to the ruthless, merciless, inhuman Roman Empire… with it's bizarre and twisted torture tactics, and unilateral militaristic ambitions. I think we Christians, Christ's followers, can give the American government whatever taxes it wants. Don't hide behind the bible AND disobey the bible.

    • Amused

      Christian Organizations of the morev than 1000 different denominations , as well as Jewish , Hindu and any other religious group are granted tax exempt staus . Unless of course they involve themselves in POLITICS …..then that status may be revoked . UH ….p.s. Jesse , the tax laws were not written by Jesus .

      • Amused

        ….and Jesse , I think you missed the point of what Jesus was saying , it was NOT of a political nature …..but you knew that right ? If you in fact are a " christian '" then you should know that the words of Jesus , had absolutely NOTHING to do with the penny -ante politics of this world , nor anyone elses . ….but you knew that too ..right ?

      • intrcptr2

        I believe you actually missed the point.

        Jesus' words far antedate our Federal tax code.
        Because of our religious heritage, we have chosen to allow corporate bodies to be free from that portion of the tax code which applies to legal corporations like Ford Mo Co and PepsiCo.
        But the US has never granted individuals exemptions from paying taxes, no matter their religious affiliation (Never mind the fact that this question only arose in 1913 with the ratification of the 16th Amendment).

        Jesus' words are crystal clear; pay your taxes and play no role in secular government. Shane is blurring those lines by in fact inverting them. He is refusing to pay his taxes AS a blatantly political act. Thus he is perverting his own preaching of the Gospel.
        I need to pay him a visit. I have lived here in N Philly for two years and have yet to meet him. A friend at synagogue yesterday says that Shane encourages the cult of personality. I for one, am not pleased.

  • Rope Jumper

    I would certainly hope that he is assisting into my USA Ret Military Pension. I defended minds of mush such as him and his ilk. The only thing missing on top of the doo rag planted upon his unwashed scalp is a propeller.

  • Loupdegarre

    He may be on to something though. I've often thought that perhaps what we conservatives should do is withold our taxes that go to support NPR, Planned Parenthood and all the other left wing garbage that's forced on us by the Federal Gov.

  • Evy

    Regarding Shane Claiborne, as "evangelical." He looks, acts, and speaks like a man who has engaged in one too many comtemplative brain vacating prayers. He is of the 'emergent' church, on a fast track to Rome, which takes you back to the old Babylonianism, which involved sun worship, nature worship, the worship of demons (quickly happening now in the form of comtemplative prayer practices in "Bible" schools, churches, and the New Age movement ( fast track past Rome but same destination), in science, health, environmentalism, the arts)…PLEASE…
    Though most 'christian' churches are now quickly abandoning sound doctrine for ecumenical contrived union, do be careful with that wide broom…There are still a few of us who hold to the veracity of Scripture. Thus not forsaking reasoning (something for which contemplatives like Claiborne seem to have lost capacity) we pay our taxes, pray for our leaders, love Israel, defend the defenseless, forgive our transgressors…Knowing this, that the Lord will repay.

  • Evy

    Cont'd Re Claiborne: Then we do one more thing. We say, wake up, look around. Isn't it time to take an honest look at the claims of THE BOOK? Don't you smell something in the wind? 60 tornadoes in North Carolina today? Need we say more?
    Yes, they'll find pills and explanations to calm those whose hearts are failing them for fear, but that won't stop the waves and the seas roaring. Get out the trusted 1611 KJV and down on your on knees, the times they are changing!
    By the way, Shane, did you notice that when Saddam Hussein crawled out of his hole, he looked curiously like the description of the mighty Nebuchadnezzar after 7 years of grazing with the wild beasts? (Daniel 4:33-34). If only Hussein had done what Neb did, what we all must do!

  • Ted

    671 billion is not accurate either. This is excluding homeland security, veterans affairs, nuclear administration – and other programs. All Defense / Military expenditure – budget for 2011 was nearly 900 billion. With all the tea party revolt talk on taxes lately, you would think this guy would get a little more support on this forum. Being angry that ones taxes are going towards something you don't believe in.. hey, can't we all relate?

    • mONICA


      • Ted

        By Foreighn did you actually mean Foreign? Military is a weapon of the past. China already has invaded us – in a different sense. Through a more powerful economy they own us, and cyber warfare. We need to get with the program.

  • Joshua

    Shane Claiborne should head the words in Galatians 1:8: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Shane is storing up wrath for himself, he has changed the Gospel into purely a social justice movement for his pet causes. "Hipster Christians" make pilgrimages to see him and pay homage to him like a demi-god. He cultivates his personality with the dreadlocks and declaring Jesus to have been a rebel. Jesus was life on earth was the perfect model of obedience to the Father which He learned through suffering, even unto death on a cross. Shane perverts these truths to foster a religion of rebellion, promoting works based salvation and social justice, earth worship. He is unregenerate and he is one of the many who has slipped into the church to promote damnable heresies. He is leading vast numbers of young, impressionable Christians astray. He is part of the Sojourners movement which is anti-semitic, anti-Israel left wing group that supports taking Israel's God given land and giving to the so called "Palestinians" who are nothing more than ethnic arabs, there is no such thing ethnically as a Palestinian. Read the book of Joel, "Multitudes, Multitudes in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. For you divided my land and sold my sons and daughters into prostitution and slavery. The Bible tells us false teachers will abound in the last days. Shane and Harold Camping are both heading to the same place if they do not repent.

  • SomeThoughts

    I want to be as charitable as I can with this comment, but this article is pretty unfortunate and inaccurate, as are many of the comments. Before getting into some critiques, I will certainly acknowledge that the author is right in pointing out that liberals often conveniently overlook wasteful spending that suits their agenda, though I find it curious that he does not acknowledge that conservatives do the same thing.

    The truth is, political conservatives are quick to call anyone who isn't a conservative a leftist, and political liberals are quick to call anyone who isn't a liberal a right-wing nut, it goes both ways. Claiborne is not a liberal. He is someone who takes the Scriptures seriously. A serious student of the Scriptures will see that they challenge both the right and the left, but acknowledging that truth often gets one called a leftist (something I know from personal experience). I don't care to take the time to point out all of the misstatements in the article, but I will point out one. I found it somewhat ironic that Claiborne is charged with going against historic church teaching by being a pacifist. The truth is, pacifism was assumed in early Christianity. It was the dominate lifestyle in pre-Constantinian Christianity. Only with the rise of Constantine did Christianity begin to get associated with the empire. The gospel of Jesus Christ is pro-life, and being pro-life means protecting life from conception to death. I've read several of Claiborne's books, and I don't agree with him on everything, but the criticisms of him by those that have made an idol out of conservative politics are off base, that is if we are going to allow the Bible to be our source of truth. We all need to repent of our political biases that cause us to allow our politics to determine our reading of Scripture, no matter where we place ourselves on the political spectrum.