Beware the corrosive nature of unearned privilege!

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Dear Editor,

If there is one good thing about a one party state, it is that it has the political muscle to deal with institutions and individuals who are so used to privilege and special treatment that they think they are above the law. 

So I for one fully applaud government taking on the E.F.K.S. church and it’s, haughty and misguided pastors who think they don’t have to pay taxes like everyone else. Samoa may have lost its democratic bearings under 30 years of H.R.P.P. stewardship. But as we say in times like these, “e sau pea malama” “there is light at the end of the tunnel,” “every cloud has a silver lining” 

A democratic Samoa may have to wait for the next lot of leaders to emerge and the next lot of voters, better versed hopefully in the values, the benefits and mechanics of democratic government. 

But we see hopeful signs today with the proposed changes of electoral boundaries in line with democratic principles of equal representation rather than according to historical and traditional divisions.

One also sees a willingness to tackle some of our sacred cows, mostly aspects of the unholy alliance between church and culture that are the very opposite of the light yoke Jesus promised his followers, and a drag on the nation’s development and progress. 

But back to the E.F.K.S. pastors and not paying taxes. In Friday’s Samoa Observer, the Prime Minister criticized the General Secretary of the E.F.K.S. church for not explaining the law to the E.F.K.S. church leaders and pastors. I suspect that as an employee, the General Secretary has little say in the matter. 

But a lesson in equity and fairness, the theme of government’s current budget would have been a good start. Equity and fairness are values that emanate from God himself, and in the matter of taxes, it’s about every Samoan irrespective of position or status contributing to the country’s development by way of paying taxes in accordance with their ability to pay. 

Government uses the revenue from such taxes to provide services like education for all, and affordable health services for all. Protection under the law for all. 

An improved standard of living for all. Samoa has seen major improvements in these services in recent times, but much more needs doing. Many of the services we enjoy today are made possible by the taxes of other people overseas, many of whom if not the majority don’t go to church every Sunday or proclaim from the coconut tree tops at every opportunity as we do, that they are Christians. 

But one would have thought that when it comes to putting the Godly principles of equity and fairness into practice, the pastors, God’s self-proclaimed “God’s representatives on earth” would be the first to pay up. But not our increasingly mercenary and privilege loving Samoan church ministers.

Which poses the question; what exactly is the God they claim to represent? The God of money, of privilege and of position, or the God who said it is not those who say “Lord, Lord, but those who do the will of my Father that enter the Kingdom of God” 

The Bible is clear about the duty of all Christians to perform their civic obligations as good citizens, to obey the law of the land, and to be subject to the God ordained institution of government as the apostle Paul wrote (Romans 130 And however it is argued, the E.F.K.S. refusal to pay taxes is contrary to God’s will as given in His Word.

The privileged position the E.F.K.S. church seeks to continue is based on pagan Samoa’s social elevation of religion and its practitioners (the Taulaitu) before the liberating light of the Gospel arrived. It is an elevation that is based on superstition and fear which has continued, in spite of the skin deep appearance of Christianity today. 

Perhaps in time and with God’s grace, the Gospel message will result in true Christian conversion. In the meantime, we have blindly continued this elevation and privilege for the church in Samoa, which now puts the EFKS church on a collision course with Government and with the rule of law. 

Jesus himself had to deal with such church leaders and a similar situation in his time. Knowledge of God’s will and character had been grossly perverted by Jewish tradition and culture, taught and perpetrated by church leaders. 

And we know from Scripture (Mathew 23) that Jesus did not mince words when it was time to expose the hypocrisy, the greed, the love of praise and position, and the lawless behavior of these self-styled “God’s representatives.” Sadly, it’s a situation that has much in common with our very own Samoan form of Christianity today.

Reports that some of the church ministers have come forward themselves and started the process of paying their taxes is joyful reassurance that Jesus is welcomed and accepted in His church, if by a few only.

Perhaps in hind sight, the subject could have been handled more delicately by government knowing the pride and love of position in the church. But that is probably too much to expect given the authoritarian nature of power monopolies.  

A monopoly on power is what we wanted and what we allowed to happen to our system of government. And as the saying goes, the people deserve the government they get. But we await with interest whether the rule of law prevails over privilege and self.

 

Sipili Tesi Lamina Fiafia

A Cheerful Taxpayer

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