Acton Institute Powerblog

Did Jesus Support a 100% Tax Rate?

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“She must not have any friends,” my wife says all too frequently. “Because if she did they wouldn’t let her go out dressed like that.”

Although the cattiness of her comment always makes me cringe, my wife does have a point. One of the roles friends play in our lives is to prevent us from embarrassing ourselves in public. Editors play a similar role, though they are not as beloved as friends—at least by writers. One of our most essential functions is to say to a writer, “You probably don’t want to say that.” Or, as happens too frequently, we insist, “No, seriously, you really don’t want to put that in writing and make it available for the entire world to read.”

Of course writers don’t always listen, which is why they can make a blunders similar to the recent gaffe by Erika Christakis. I can only assume Ms. Christakis overrode the advice of both friends and editors. I can’t imagine anyone who cared about the Harvard College administrator would support her making this outrageously silly claim in Time magazine:

Americans often tell pollsters they yearn for a return to the Christian principles on which the U.S. was founded. If so, they should take a closer look at the Mitt Romney–Paul Ryan ticket. Jesus’ teachings regarding wealth are nowhere to be found in Ryan’s budget proposal.

As near as we can tell, Jesus would advocate a tax rate somewhere between 50% (in the vein of “If you have two coats, give one to the man who has none”) and 100% (if you want to get into heaven, be poor). Mostly, he suggested giving all your money up for the benefit of others. And Jesus made no distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor; his love and generosity applied to all.

At the end of her bio line Christakis says, “The views expressed are solely her own.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a disclaimer that is so obviously and literally true. Even Marxists don’t really believe such nonsense.

We can’t overlook the fact, though, that Time allowed such an embarrassing gaffe to be published. Perhaps we should ask a middle-schooler to take a break from Vacation Bible School or catechism classes and go help Time fact-check the religious claims in their articles. Apparantly, the magazine’s editors need all the help they can get.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).