By Mennonite Church USA staff, in collaboration with the Mennonites Against Militarism reference council
Some trust in their war chariots and others in their horses, but we trust in the power of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7
On December 27, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022, which authorizes $770 billion in defense spending. The measure was put forward with strong bipartisan support from Congress.
Federal budgets are moral documents, reflecting what we value and prioritize collectively as a nation.
As a faith community committed to the just and peacemaking path of Jesus, let us consider this expenditure in arms and military power, in light of other pressing needs:
- The $770 billion for defense in 2022 is 13 times the amount budgeted for the U.S. State Department ($58.5 billion), which is what our nation devotes to diplomacy and international aid.
- The advocacy group Public Citizen estimates that a $25 billion investment in vaccine production would produce enough vaccines to achieve widespread global inoculation against COVID-19. The bill passed by Congress is nearly $25 billion more than the president’s request.
- In 2020, the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes by war, climate disasters and oppression rose to 82.4 million, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations (UN) refugee agency, and millions of people hover on the brink of starvation in places like Yemen and Afghanistan.
- According to the Poor People’s Campaign, there are 140 million poor and low-income people in the United States today, yet military spending over the next 10 years is projected to be four times as much as President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative. In addition, the United States Census Bureau reported 28 million people in the U.S. had no health insurance coverage in 2020, and according to data from the EPA, in 2019 more than 30 million Americans lived in areas where water systems violated safety rules.
In his 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” In the context of our nation’s relentless pursuit of military domination, how do we give witness to life and a path to security marked by respect, just relationships and generosity?
Our Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) 2015 resolution, “Faithful Witness Amid Endless War,” calls us to seek and implement public ecumenical witness to our confession: “Some trust in their war chariots and others in their horses, but we trust in the power of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
- How do we place our trust in the power of God while a massive expenditure of our tax dollars trusts in high-tech weaponry to keep us safe? In this routine legislative act, we are challenged to reflect deeply on where we place our security and allegiance.
The creation of MC USA’s Church Peace Tax Fund provides individuals with a tangible way to support the church’s ongoing peace mission, while symbolically protesting government spending on war and militarism.
- Are there 100 new war tax resisters among us?
In a speech to the UN on September 21, President Biden promised to close this period of endless wars and open “a new era of relentless diplomacy.”
- How might we use our voice to reorder our nation’s spending priorities in the 2023 budget cycle? Might we call for a doubling of our investment in diplomacy and international aid, with a parallel reduction in defense spending? Might we call for an equal transfer of funds to protect our natural environment, which is increasingly burdened with toxins?
In this season, we remember the miracle of God among us as a vulnerable child, who fled the empire’s sword and became a refugee in a foreign land. Let us honor the Christ child among us today by listening to those who suffer displacement, hunger and violation. Let us seek their security and ours, not through weapons of war, but through Mary’s vision of a God who has “scattered the proud … brought down the powerful from their thrones … and filled the hungry with good things.” (Luke 1: 52, 53)
Updated Dec. 27, 2021 at 12:06 p.m. ET
Take action today!
- Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Article 22. Peace, Justice and Nonresistance
- Learn, Pray Join: Cost of War, an initiative to raise awareness about the economics of war and the impact of militarism on our communities here and abroad. View a recorded panel discussion, eductional resources, prayers and ways to actively practice war resistance.
- What Belongs to God? A reflection on the bombing of Nagasaki and the payment of taxes for war. Written by Titus Peachey for MCC, it includes a moving confession from George Zabelka, chaplain to the crew that bombed the city.
- Book: We Won’t Pay! A Tax Resistance Reader, edited by David M. Gross, 2008. Includes writings from over 2,000 years of tax resisters and tax resistance campaigns, covering both tax resistance as an act of individual conscience and as a technique of nonviolent resistance.
Consider joining in conscientious objection to war taxes.
- Donate to MC USA’s Peace Church Tax Fund, which provides funding for educational programs that address militarism and promote living out ways of peace, including an annual grant to support Mennonite youth actively engaged in resisting war and promoting peace in their congregation and community. (Give to #BringThePeace initiatives, designate “Church Peace Tax Fund” in the notes field.)
- National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee: A website filled with practical suggestions, stories of resistance, and helpful information about the consequences of war tax resistance.
- The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund: This campaign advocates for legislation that would enable conscientious objectors to war to have their tax dollars directed to a special fund which would be used for non-military purposes.
- 1040 for Peace: Encourages taxpayers with a conscience against paying for war to deduct $10.40 from their income tax payments as a witness for peace and against endless war.
Share about the cost of war in conversation, church and on social media.
- Adult Sunday School Curriculum “Returning Veterans. Returning Hope: Seeking Peace Together” from Mennonite Mission Network.
- A Loaded Conversation: An invitation to talk about guns, a resource from MCC that offers ways to engage, Bible studies and worship resources
- Preventing Gun Violence, an overview from MCC
Advocate for just policies in response to the impact of war by contacting your local, state and national elected officials.
- Contact your elected officials. Find them here.
- How to be an advocate, resource from MCC
- Sign up for Action Alerts on militarism and related topics from the Washington Office
- “Stir Up Peace: How nonviolent direct action creates change,” a resource from Mennonite Mission Network