Live and Love

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by Mimi Copp

Jesus says to love your enemies and your neighbors.

In some ways, that is all that needs to be said as to why I have decided to redirect my federal tax dollars away from war-making and towards life giving initiatives. I can’t figure out how to justify the killing of those who Jesus says to love. How am I loving them if I’m a part of their destruction? I am a Christian; a follower of Jesus and therefore I believe that I cannot support the things that make for war.

It has taken me many years to come to the place of redirecting my federal tax dollars. For the first time last year, at the age of 33 and after many years of paying my federal taxes, I redirected the money to two organizations suggested by the 2008 War Tax Boycott.

I grew up in the Church of the Brethren and learned about the nonviolent way of Jesus and of people who do war tax resistance based on their understandings of how Jesus calls us to live in this world. When people flew airplanes into buildings in the U.S. in Sept. 2001, killing many people, my government responded with the very violence it decried. It was at this point that I discovered the depth of my commitment to the nonviolent, third way of Jesus; a way that calls us to find an alternative to using violence or doing nothing at all when faced with violence and injustice.

I believed war and militarism were not the answers to our security, but I continued paying for it. While I prayed for the U.S. occupation of Iraq to cease; while I wrote my statement of conscientious objection to war at the beginning of the 2003 “Shock and Awe” campaign; while I studied Peace and Conflict studies at the Master’s level; and while I have protested publicly, I was also paying for the U.S. government to wage acts of extreme violence. In 2007, I could no longer do it.

I was self-employed for the first time in 2007 and so I owed the IRS money, which made redirection easier for me to do. In April, I paid my self-employment taxes and then redirected the money I owed in income taxes to an organization that provides healthcare for Iraqi refugees and to another organization that provides healthcare for people in New Orleans who are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. By May, I received a letter from the IRS saying I owed them money. In the middle of June, the IRS sent me a letter stating that the arguments I made for not paying my income taxes are “frivolous” and making such arguments can result in fines of $5,000. At the end of June, I got another letter saying that the amount I owed the IRS would be taken out of my economic stimulus check. The exact amount that I had redirected was in fact taken from my stimulus check and that was the last I heard from the IRS.

My resistance to militarization is different this year. I lived below the taxable level and therefore do not owe federal income taxes. However, I do owe self-employment taxes, which I will be paying. This was made possible in part by living in an intentional community and doing volunteer work in exchange for room and board.

From where I sit right now, I feel like I am following my conscience and religious convictions. This feels well with my soul. This sustains me in these beginning steps as I try to wrap my head around the details of how to do war tax resistance and as I put in the time and energy it requires. It also quiets the moments of anxiety and fear I have as I reframe how I will live day by day as someone who does this type of resistance and redirection. I seek out the stories of others and find courage in learning about them. The support from my community and other war tax resisters that I’ve met in the Philadelphia area has been a blessing and monumentally important in helping me take new and bold steps to show that war-making is not acceptable to me and to show another way to security by redirecting money to the things that will bring about Shalom.

From the April 2009 issue of More Than a Paycheck.