Quaker Universalist Conversations

“33 Years of Resistance”

A post on war tax from Pedals and Seeds

Minga Claggett-Borne has given us permission to republish this April 16th post from her blog, Pedals and Seeds: Pedaling Quakerism: Challenges in 21st Century. Friend Minga and her husband John Vogel-Borne are presently with Cambridge (MA) Friends Meeting.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

How can I remove myself from the war economy?

Jesus’ message is to drop the sword and find wholeness. Can I embody Truth — to become a clear bell — to offer concrete love?

I need to take my money out of the US federal bank account. On Tax Day, April 17, 2018, I will not voluntarily pay a nickel for war.

"While You Work...Stop Paying for War," cartoon by Mark Hurwitt
I don’t support how the White House is defacing national parks for oil drilling, nor how they deport parents, nor how the chief uses hate-language and allows the assault of women. But I understand that we voted for Donald T in November 2016. I can’t justify stopping taxes because I don’t like his business style and self-serving ethics. I will not pay for a nuclear arsenal that can turn Earth into a toxic desert.

And the Nuclear Clock1 is now 2½ minutes to midnight or Doomsday. The minute hand of the Clock sends a shiver down my spine, and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists measures how close we are to the ecocide of nuclear warfare. The failures of political leaders to predict the bellicose tweeting president threatens to push the button for nuclear missiles to attack. Kim Jong-un from North Korea states, “All of the mainland United States is within the range of our nuclear strike.” These gentlemen use hyperbole often.

Here’s the evil reported in the news in early January from The New York Times.2

The 45-pound briefcase, known as the nuclear football, accompanies the president wherever he goes. It is carried at all times by one of five military aides. Inside the case is an instructional guide to carrying out a strike, including a list of locations that can be targeted by the more than 1,000 nuclear weapons.

Even Senator Feinstein admitted to the skewed decision-making of a US nuclear strike. One person is responsible. She said if the president makes a mistake, it’s Armageddon.

There is no button, but there is figuratively a football. Really! Doesn’t a football get tossed, grabbed and sometimes fumbled? This is quite an American metaphor. A U.S. military aide carries daily for us—US—“Patriots” the country’s football? Will the Pentagon supply helmets for concussions incurred from a nuclear strike?

"Where your income tax money really goes," War Resisters League
For 33 years now, I don’t pay for weapon or soldier. While studying the Hebrew prophets, I withdrew my hard-earned money to pay for war. I will redirect my taxes to such causes as Habitat for Humanity, the Food Bank, public schools, and to the UN protection of refugees. Two years ago I sent more than what the IRS says that I owe. I take money which unduly kills, and transform its purpose for the Peaceable Kingdom.

Money shapes power.

Instead of the Pentagon, I send $$ power to Puerto Rican survivors, for peace workshops in Rwanda, and to plant trees. I surprise myself that I have enough money to give to programs that protect the vulnerable and feed the hungry. It’s like eating a ripe peach after break dancing. It’s like stabbing the bloody sword into the fertile soil, then pulling it out and finding the blade of a plow.

“The probability of global catastrophe is very high, … actions [are] needed to reduce the risks of disaster,” say the nuclear scientists.

What action will you take?

And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. — Isaiah 2:4

Notes & Image Sources

1Doomsday Clockwork” of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Since it was set in 1947, the Bulletin has reset the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock 23 times, most recently in 2018 when we moved it from two and a half minutes to midnight to two. Every time it is reset, we’re flooded with questions about the internationally recognized symbol. Here are answers to some of the most frequent queries.

What is the Doomsday Clock? The Doomsday Clock is a design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making. It is a metaphor, a reminder of the perils we must address if we are to survive on the planet.

2The ‘Nuclear Button’ Explained: For Starters, There’s No Button,” by Russell Goldman, The New York Times (1//2018).

Image: “While You Work…Stop Paying for War,” cartoon by Mark Hurwitt.

Image: “Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes” pie chart by the War Resisters League.


What authority do we look to in discernment of our understanding of reality and our practice consisted with that understanding? We have several elements of authority, including tradition (including both scripture and oral stories), experience (including both personal and community experience), and reason (including science and logic). How do these elements apply in our lives in relation to decisions about tax payment? In our Quaker tradition in the Christian tradition in the Jewish tradition in the primordial human tradition, we have the particular remainders of mechanisms through Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Business, Clearness Committees, and eldering traditions, but do we use them for this purpose for taxation obedience decisions in any Quaker church or meeting of which you have experience?
Friends, Here's an exchange from our QUF Group page on Facebook: Alexander Chase Doty writes: Some have a ready reference mentioning rendering and Caesar. It never impresses me as intelligent. My reply: I agree. The relevant passage is Matthew 22:15-22. When the Pharisees try to trap Jesus into making a treasonous statement, here's what he says: “Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” In other words, give Caesar back the coinage that has his face on it. Rome required that all business transactions be done using this Roman coinage. There was a Jewish resistance movement which refused to use these coins and relied on barter. Jesus isn't talking about paying taxes. He's talking about not using Caesar's money. This meshes well with the tactics of war tax resistance. Living frugally, below taxable income level, is somewhat equivalent to refusing to use Caesar's money.
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