The idea of “fulfilling all obligations of state and society that are not contrary to our religious convictions” has always been a challenge. Even Jesus felt it was important to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Of course, we don’t get the money for our taxes by gutting a fish and pulling out a coin either.
There have been many courageous F/friends who have refused to pay taxes or otherwise contribute to the war machine or to funding for organizations or systems that go against our values. They have risked home, family, freedom, financial security, and reputation. Those who are not willing to go this far for whatever reason, however, are not to be judged. Each person must make the decision that seems best for their situation in life. For example, there are some who judge the purchasing practices of others to support conglomerates that oppress their workers. However, sometimes these huge corporations are the only affordable resource for the necessities of life. It has been proposed that economic sanctions are the playground of the wealthy. Those who have means may have the choice of shopping ‘green’ or ‘buying responsibly’ because they can afford it. Many people cannot.
There are ways in which we can support the overall betterment of society and “strengthen our physical, mental, and spiritual life, avoiding those that may hinder others, our Earth, and ourselves.” We can, as the advices state, “choose recreations that increase our vitality, self-awareness, and peace of mind and strengthen our will to create what is good” and “be mindful of our connection with the Divine and others [and] avoid substances, behaviors, and activities which diminish this connection.” So when we do have a choice, we can listen to the leadings of Spirit and discern a better path – perhaps going for a walk on the beach instead of spending money walking through a theme park, watching the wonders of nature rather than watching TV, reading a spiritually uplifting book rather than reading about violence and murder. All of these things are not going to upend the political, social, and economic structures that are harming our world, but they can bring the human race into a better frame of mind and heart so that the decisions of those who have the power to change things are rooted in “the promptings of love and truth in our hearts, which are the leadings of God.”
Lisa Erazmus and Jan Dahm
Tampa Monthly Meeting