Greetings to Whom It May Concern:
It is April once again and time to pay Federal Income Tax. Please find my 1040 Individual Income Tax Return enclosed, along with other attachments.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I want to pay my tax money due to a Christian peace organization rather than to the Federal Government where so much of it is used for war. Contributing to peacemaking rather than to violence, terrorism, and war is what I want to choose at all times. I cannot deny my deepest convictions to practice peace and renounce all forms of violence. As a Christian I believe that it is morally, ethically, and spiritually wrong to kill! I believe that use of violence, force, and abuse in every form is wrong. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 clearly calls Christians to love enemies and do good to those who seem ready to harm. Therefore, as a Christian I am giving my income tax money for peacemaking rather than for war and defense purposes. From various organizations I understand that over half of Federal tax money is used for defense and war effort. Throughout my whole life I have believed that war is wrong and that Jesus was serious when he taught us not to kill.
I want to share with you some of my life story and why I am a convinced pacifist. My Uncle Harvey taught it to me from little up as we had discussions about faith in Jesus, what He said, and how we put it into practice. I was present with my big brother August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. when Martin Luther King’s voice rang out over the Washington Monument his dream of justice for all. We stood a few feet from the side of the podium and witnessed the power of his oratory. Peace with justice is a significant moral force and important to live in practice.
I was present in the Rio Grande Valley from 1983 to 1992 as Central American refugees were fleeing the horror and trauma of death squad violence and forced recruitment. I participated in the Overground Railroad to help real asylum seekers access the opportunity of visas to Canada. These asylum applicants needed their traumas healed or transformed. Trauma not healed or transformed is passed on.
I lived in a remote country village in Guatemala for four years, working with the local indigenous Methodist Church, and learned what violence and trauma were like for the poor trapped between Army and guerrilla tensions and violence. They needed peace with justice and an end to violence; they needed to live peace and freedom in practice.
I lived almost six years in the Argentine Chaco, working with the indigenous as Bible translation happened. So I learned to know several Tobas and their families very personally and heard from them about their hopes and dreams as justice was sought for their land ownership, for education, and for basic necessities. Clearly peace and justice are needed, very connected, and need to be lived in practice. One does not exist without the other.
Now I am an ordained Mennonite pastor doing chaplain work in a very diverse Chicago Catholic hospital. I respect and honor the wide diversity I find in both patients and staff. It is a privilege to serve people from different races and socio-economic backgrounds and to plant the seeds of God’s immeasurable love in the process. So “I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38)… not even death!
I want you to understand that I am not against paying taxes, but I am called to peacemaking. I believe that Christians do not know vengeance but rather are children of peace with hearts overflowing with peace, mouths speaking peace, and spirits walking in the way of peace. Jesus’ love and mercy is lived out as Christians participate in actively clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, comforting the sorrowful, sheltering the destitute, aiding and consoling the sad, seeking those who are lost, binding up the wounded, and healing the sick. Many of these tasks are daily needed at the diverse Chicago hospital where I presently work as a chaplain.
I am making the decision, consistent with my deepest convictions and calling to peacemaking, to mail my tax payment of $548.00 as a money order to Eastern Mennonite University, Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, STAR program (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience). The whole point is that I very much want to pay for peace rather than for war! I am committed to following Jesus’ way of peace!
I am hopeful that you can understand my deep convictions about the importance of practicing the example of love that Jesus taught and lived. It seems very clear that as an ordained pastor in the Mennonite Church U.S.A. and as a Board Certified Chaplain, I need to believe what I read of Jesus’ example in the Gospels, teach what I believe as opportunity unfolds, and practice what I teach about the Good News of Peace. How important the Good News of Peace for those searching for hope and renewal as health crises hit. Please consider carefully my request for an alternate use for Federal taxes so that my deepest beliefs and calling are honored and trauma can be transformed rather than passed on and on! I believe that Jesus’ Way of peacemaking can be supported with our dollars rather than violence and vengeance. THANK YOU KINDLY for listening to my sincere request to be recognized as a disciple of Jesus Christ who is called to peacemaking!
Ruth Anne Friesen