21 January 2011

Missing the Point


The fact that Christian fundamentalists/evangelicals/conservatives are so vocal in their support for sin taxes, especially on alcohol is surprising considering that Jesus was the ultimate bartender.  Do any of them remember the part in the Book of John where he transmuted water to wine?  If God is against alcohol consumption, as megachurch preachers blather whenever petty tyrants state legislators consider raising taxes on alcohol, why was his own Son was a miraculous vintner?

There are two things wrong with this view.  First, there is no way to know from John 2 whether the wine Christ miraculously created was alcoholic.  The Greek word for wine, as used in the New Testament, is a general term that refers to wine that may or may not necessarily be alcoholic.  Context can ocassionally indicate the meaning of this word.  John 2 is not such an occasion.

Second, even if Christ did create alcoholic wine, this does not in any way demonstrate God’s disapproval of a sin tax.  God’s stance on taxes, as indicated by his son, the apostle Peter, and the apostle Paul is: “pay them.”  Nowhere in the New Testament does God ever lay out a tax policy for governments to use.  This is mostly due to the fact that God is more concerned about Man’s souls than he is about petty governments.

That said, there other ways to make a conservative case against sin taxes.  One need only point out that taxes are not functionally different from regulation, in that both are essentially costs imposed on businesses.  From there, one need only point out that, as a matter of historical record, people have behaved more negatively towards alcohol and other hard drugs in periods of prohibition than in periods of freedom.  Conservatives, then, are forced to recant their stance on utilitarian grounds.

Another argument one can’t make is to ask conservatives if they believe personal rights should be respected.  Then ask them how imposing taxes on consumption patterns that don’t violate other’s rights demonstrates respect for personal rights.  Then ask them if they would support the system if their religious practices were deemed offensive to the majority.  It is indeed quite entertaining to see conservatives to see their own hypocrisy revealed for the world to see.

2 comments:

  1. True, I could've made other arguments, such as accusing conservative supporters of sin taxes of betraying their alleged anti-big government and anti-nanny state principles, but then my post probably would have ended up devolving into another rant about the hypocrisy of mainstream conservatives.

    Regarding the possibility of the wine of Cana being nonalcoholic, the only way to show one way or another would be to find out whether weddings in Galilee in the 1st century customarily served alcoholic wine or grape juice.

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  2. @ TAS- that rant would likely be highly entertaining. You should write it. I believe it was Vox who noted that conservatism and liberalism are different sides of the same coin. Liberals are carrot, conservatives are stick. They're both big government.

    Re: alcoholic wine- That method strikes me as rather flawed, given Christ's tendency to disregard 1st century social customs (cf. John 4 and a variety of other passages). A better method would be to see how turning water into alcoholic wine would fit within his stated mission (Matt. 5:17).

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