Don’t miss the Baptist Center for Ethics’ luncheon in Memphis on Thursday, June 19, at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual gathering. You will hear a Methodist law-school professor who rocked Alabama’s faith community out of its moral lethargy about an unfair tax structure; encouraged a Republican governor, who sought justice for the least of those in his state; and grabbed the attention of the Wall Street Journal.
She has the moral vision of a biblical prophetess and the analytical carefulness of a tax expert. I’ve witnessed her steal the thunder from a gifted Baptist preacher and a brilliant congressman at a screening we did in Birmingham last year on the rightful role of faith in politics.
She’ll make you think in new ways. She’ll make you uncomfortable. She’ll make you laugh. But she will not disappoint you with her energetic, compelling message.
Our speaker is Susan Pace Hamill. A University of Alabama School of Law professor, Hamill came to national prominence in 2002, following the release of her study that evaluated Alabama’s tax structure from the vantage point of the biblical witness’ teachings on justice and poverty. She concluded that the system was immoral and that the state’s Christian majority, some 90 percent of the residents, ought to reform the tax code.
“From a biblical perspective, our philosophy regarding taxation should reflect a moral conversation, not faddish economic theories or the privilege of power and money. Instead of embodying justice and working for the common good, our system of taxation reflects the values of selfish individualism,” she wrote in EthicsDaily.com in 2006.
She asked, “When the Bible makes thousands of references to our responsibility to do justice for the least of these in our midst, why is it so difficult to make the connection between taxation and biblical ethics?”
Her answer came in two parts. First, she said American Christians “are too narrowly focused on the ‘self-help’ aspects of being a Christian, for example, on personal salvation…. [W]e are called to the way of the cross in the long walk of discipleship.”
Second, Hamill said Christians “get obsessed with certain hot-button issues like abortion, stem-cell research and homosexuality. While I affirm that these issues are important to Christian faith, it is nonetheless telling that the issues of economic justice, which are so important in the Bible and which impact so many poor and middle-class people in American society, are often simply ignored with regard to tax policy.”
In “Golden Rule Politics,” one of our 2007 educational DVDs, she distinguished between “low-sacrifice” and “high-sacrifice” moral issues.
Hamill’s newest book, a 600-page survey, As Certain as Death, examines the laws in all 50 states by the biblical standards of justice. She identifies some states as the “sinful six” and others as the “dreadful dozen.” These are states that make the poor to pay a higher portion of their income in taxes than the rich. Yet these states provide little aid to the impoverished and working poor.
I hope EthicsDaily.com readers will attend our luncheon and invite their friends to do likewise. The tickets are $31 and can be ordered online.
Individuals or organizations may reserve an entire table, which seats 10 people and costs $310. A number of churches and organizations have placed table orders.
If you haven’t ordered tickets, do so pronto. The deadline for tickets is fast approaching. I promise you—you don’t want to miss Susan Pace Hamill.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.