President Bush, Don't Do It

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The
program for "faith-based" initiatives first reminded me
of the Catholic parish in rural Kentucky where a small group of
volunteers — of very modest means – managed to sustain a population
of poor families larger than that of the entire parish. Perhaps,
I thought, federal assistance to such initiatives might lead to
a departure from failed bureaucracies and expensive boondoggles,
towards voluntary work and common sense.

More
recently, I have heard "second thoughts," an increasing
sense of alarm at the damage government funding might inflict on
church-based programs. Dependency, dilution, bureaucratization,
even debasement, threatens those programs that take the easy money.

The
record is indeed convincing: one need only observe available evidence.
In the past forty years, for instance, Catholics have watched their
universities, charities, and even their national spokesmen become
indistinguishable from the institutions and individuals of the liberal
left.

Now,
there are surely some Good Samaritans out there who believe it cannot
happen to them. For those "true believers," let me recommend
reflection, not on the possible and future consequences of government
funding, which they insist they can avoid, but of the clear and
present evil inherent in the very character of the funding itself.

A
few basics – again, from the Christian point of view: First, virtue
is based on freedom. Being free to do evil, we voluntarily choose
good instead. There is no virtue in a mandatory action: it is exacted
by force.

Second,
Christian charity is voluntary and reciprocal. The man thrown
into the ditch by robbers thanks the Good Samaritan, but the Good
Samaritan thanks him as well: "Thank you for giving me the
opportunity to help you, my brother in Christ." Love, and gratitude,
abound on both sides.

In
contrast, the taxpayer swears (or worse) as he ponies up to the
IRS, fearful for his freedom, even his life, should he refuse. Likewise,
the recipient of government funds smugly demands his entitlement:
"Gimme!" No love is lost, or expressed, on either side.
Spiritually, the exchange is a disaster.

Third,
"social work" and Christian charity are polar opposites.
Mother Teresa always insisted of her Missionaries of Charity, "We
are not social workers. Early in the morning we receive the Body
of Christ. All day long, then, we go out and find Him in the poor,
the starving, and the dying."

Any
government bureaucrat who expressed such sentiments would, of course,
be fired, tried, and jailed for breaching the "wall of separation
between Church and State." He would be guilty of the worst
of offenses, a hate crime, for it is impossible to love both Christ
and Big Brother.

Given
these preambles, it is self-evident that the government funding
of "faith-based" initiatives would irreversibly pollute
and thwart the charitable efforts of any group that accepts the
funds, no matter how those funds are used. Why? Because there is
no moral possibility of doing good with ill-gotten gains.

Instead
of judging these "faith-based programs" by where the funds
are going, a Christian should look at where they came from. Indeed,
we need only to consider the fundamental rules of a virtuous life,
the Ten Commandments, to realize that the government funds offered
to "faith-based" groups flow from a process that breaks
every one of God's laws for His people. (Note: I use here the Catholic
order of the Decalogue; however, the government, in the spirit of
equality, breaks all the Protestant Commandments too).

  1. The
    First Commandment proclaims that no false gods shall take
    the place of the Lord our God. "The fear of God is the
    beginning of wisdom," says the Good Book, but the modern
    state prefers Hobbes's dictum that fear of the government
    Leviathan should rule society. Fear of the IRS is the subtext
    of every sham "tax reform." Our elected representatives
    worship the golden calf that provides the funds that guarantee
    their reelection. Some of them even love it.

  2. The
    Second Commandment prohibits taking the Name of God in vain;
    I well remember the stout teachers' union member at a government
    meeting in our rural county. She strode to the microphone
    in defense of raising taxes on home-schooling Christian families
    to fund incompetent government teachers: "After all,
    Jesus said, u2018render unto Caesar,'" she crowed triumphantly,
    glowering at the Christian parents.

    She
    could have been much more honest by quoting Saint Paul: "slaves,
    obey your masters." The vanity, and hatred, was palpable.
    Her numbers are legion.

  1. The
    Third Commandment requires that we honor the Sabbath, but the
    government requires many families to send out their members
    to work on the Lord's Day so they can pay their ever-rising
    tax burden. My neighbor works two weekend jobs. It is hardly
    "voluntary."
  2. Moreover,
    the IRS has threatened my own diocese not to use its newspaper
    or services to address “political” issues, such as abortion, homosexuality,
    and other objective moral evils, or it will risk losing its tax-exempt
    status. The IRS does not honor the Lord, His day, or His Word.

  3. The
    Fourth Commandment requires us to "honor our father and
    our mother." Yet the all-powerful state expropriates
    from us the funds with which we would take care of our parents,
    spends it immediately on vote-getting schemes, and then parcels
    out a pittance in "Social Security" that makes our
    parents forever dependent on — you guessed it — government
    largesse. As the number of workers declines, the government
    will no doubt highlight the wisdom of "voluntary"
    euthanasia for aging parents who are soaking up so much of
    our tax revenues and posing such a heavy burden on their children.

  4. "Thou
    shalt not kill," says the Fifth Commandment. Yet, the
    power to tax is the power to destroy, even to kill. Ever-increasing
    taxes and the lowering of the child deduction, which was relatively
    huge fifty years ago, constitute formal government encouragement
    not only to have fewer children, but also to abort pregnancies
    that might deter a career path or impede a second job –
    taken on, of course, in order to pay the taxes due on the
    income from the first job. Furthermore, the Catholic Church
    teaches that any crime of force is a breach of the Fifth Commandment,
    as well of others that might be broken. Does anyone believe
    that taxes could be collected without the threat of force?

  5. "Thou
    shalt not commit adultery," says the Sixth Commandment,
    but the marriage penalty encourages couples to live in sin,
    so they might save enough money eventually to overcome the
    tax code's barriers to marriage and children. Religious couples
    can still live married, moral lives, but against the grain
    and inherent disincentives of the tax code.

  6. "Thou
    shalt not steal," says the Seventh Commandment, and thus
    we hear the slobbering repetitions by IRS apparatchiks before
    Congressional committees that "voluntary compliance"
    is the foundation of our successful tax system. As Saint Augustine
    says, "without justice, what is the state but a band
    of robbers?" Does anyone even pretend that the tax code
    is just? Consider the most insidious tax of all, inflation,
    the secret levy designed by politicians, past and present,
    to push people into ever higher brackets, while making their
    earnings worth less and less, all to profit private government
    interests and politicians. If this is not theft, what is it?

  7. "Thou
    shalt not bear false witness," says the Eighth Commandment,
    yet lies swarm around the tax code like bees around my Azaleas.
    Christians enthused by the prospect of federal funding need
    only take heed of the reams of deliberate falsehoods and crimes
    that procure the funds. Former Senator Packwood's diaries,
    published in the Washington Post, detail how, after a particularly
    heartwarming roll in the hay with one of his staffers, Packwood
    was feeling so good-natured that he used his fiat power as
    the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to give a former
    staffer a tax break benefiting the group he was now lobbying
    for.

  8. Even
    the IRS admits that its answers to a majority of questions it
    receives are false. And political critics of the regime or of
    the IRS are persecuted by tax authorities mouthing slogans of
    "fairness."

  9. "Thou
    shalt not covet they neighbor's wife," instructs the
    Ninth Commandment, but, thirty years ago, tax-and-spend liberals
    joined forces with feminist radicals to force wives and mothers
    by the millions into the taxpaying work force. The trillions
    wasted in the "Great Society," which devalued the
    currency by almost ninety per cent, also created a generation
    of day-care children, so government unions immediately preyed
    upon day-care workers to organize them. The hateful Leviathan
    coveted the freedom of stay-at-home mothers, so it forced
    them into the workplace, collected their taxes, destroyed
    their families, and gained even more power over their children
    and their caregivers. All in all, "mission accomplished"
    for the missionaries of envy.

  10. "Thou
    shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods," says the Tenth
    Commandment. Yet the Marxist ideology's graduated income tax,
    espoused enthusiastically in the Communist Manifesto of 1848,
    is based precisely on institutionalized class envy, with covetousness
    next to Godliness in the ranks of secular virtue. This idolatry
    is cheerfully embraced and perpetuated by contemporary politicians
    like would-be Speaker Gephardt, who breaks several Commandments
    at once as he foments envy of the "winners of the lottery
    of life," defying God's Providence in order to increase
    the power of the state.

Many
of these tendencies are well-known to economists, in detail much
more vast and explicit. But many religious believers distrust economics,
to the point of rejecting economic analysis as "materialistic"
in a world in need of "morality." Rest assured, the engines
of statism recognize this inclination all too well, and milk it
for all it is worth. Analysis is replaced by sentiment, sentiment
by ignorance, and ignorance is manipulated by myth, and then lies.

Like
Thomas Hobbes himself, we can see from these cursory reflections
that God and the Ten Commandments are the greatest enemies of the
Leviathan. No wonder the statists want no mention of either in their
boot camps, the government schools.

My
father taught law for thirty years. He used to tell his students,
"If you take the first bribe, you may as well take the rest."
Perhaps we might conceive of a "faith-based" initiative
endowed with the wise leaders and good fortune that might evade
the disastrous consequences that government funding has inflicted
on other once-private areas of human endeavor. No matter — the funding
is the first bribe. However adroit those leaders might be in remaining
"independent," they cannot change the objective reality
that the U.S. tax code providing the funds breaks every single one
of the Commandments that God gave to Moses.

After
all, the road to the Golden Calf is paved with government grant
proposals.

May
7, 2001

Christopher
Manion [send him mail] is
a small businessman in Virginia, An adjunct lecturer at Christendom
College, he has taught ethics at Boston University and is a founding
member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

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