World Council of Churches Nods at War Tax Resistance

, the central committee of the World Council of Churches adopted a “minute on the right of conscientious objection to military service” in which was made some (lukewarm but encouraging) mention of war tax resistance. Excerpts:

It is also noted that in some countries where there is a right to conscientious objection to military service, some Christians have become sensitive to the use of their tax money for supporting war, and in some cases have faced government action against them because of their conscientious objection to paying for war. This development of conscientious objection deserves further study and consideration.

The central committee

Calls upon churches to encourage their members to object to military service in situations when the church considers armed action illegal or immoral.

[And] Encourages churches to study and address the issue of military or war taxes and of alternatives to military service.

The Council based its minute on a report from its “Decade to Overcome Violence” office which mentions war tax resistance in passing. That report, in a footnote, mentioned an upcoming report on the attitudes toward tax resistance in German churches: Militärsteuer-Verweigerung und Kirchen in Deutschland (Military Tax Refusal and Churches in Germany) that I’m sure would be fascinating if I could read it.

This is not the first time the World Council of Churches has put out a document supporting war tax resistance. In , they issued “a covenant… …supporting the right to conscientious objection to military service and tax for military purposes, and providing alternative forms of service for peace, and taxation.”

In the opening section of the second book of The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle opens an inquiry into virtue.

He ended the previous book by preparing the way for this inquiry and noting that there are both conscious virtues and more subconscious ones, like tolerance, that seem more a matter of character than of deliberation.

Aristotle asserts that both varieties of virtue are learned skills. You aren’t born virtuous, but become that way through instruction (in the case of conscious, intellectual, deliberate virtues) and training (in the case of more subconscious, “moral” virtues). As you practice virtue, you become more virtuous; virtue is a skill that is acquired by instruction and practice.

This links into politics because wise legislation and good states have the purpose of educating their citizens in good behavior and thereby training them in the virtues.

After reading this, I spent some time brainstorming on how one becomes more virtuous. Here’s my own program; we’ll see how well it harmonizes with Aristotle’s:

  1. Learn to identify virtuous behavior & motives. What sort of behavior do you admire? If you were looking at your life as though it were a story, what would you do if you were meant to be the hero?
  2. Value virtuous behavior. Care about it and make it rank highly in your judgments. Be willing to sacrifice less-important things for it.
  3. Learn to observe yourself dispassionately and honestly, and to expect your inner devil to offer you flattering lies to explain away your vices. Be skeptical of such stories.
  4. Cultivate investigative introspection as a way of weeding out the roots of your vices and of defending yourself against self-deception.
  5. Encourage courage and persistence in changing your bad habits for good ones.
Index to the Nicomachean Ethics series

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics