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Conservatives for the oppressed

Poverty

Upon the death of England's good King Edward VI in 1553, the Scottish Reformer John Knox confessed his and his nation's sins. He saw these as related to God's sudden withdrawal of the blessing of good government. Among other items of repentance, he included "oppression and violence we have not abhorred." Conservative evangelicals in America need to abhor oppression.

"Oppression" is a word that gets tossed around a lot on the political left, often with dubious justification. But oppression is a political and economic reality. The Bible speaks of it with deep concern and quite often. The Lord "gives justice to the oppressed" (Job 36:6 NKJV). He is a "refuge" for them (Psalm 9:9). Shouldn't godly government have the same concern? To all His people in their various spheres of life He says, "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke" (Isaiah 58:6)?

Oppression is the inhuman use or cruel treatment of the weak and helpless by the stronger and more secure. It's the little guy getting mugged in some way by the powerful and well-connected. The left associates oppression with capitalism and with corporations in particular. Evangelicals have become active in fighting the oppression that comes from drug traffickers and sex traffickers. Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission has mobilized a generation of young evangelicals against the beastly evil of human trafficking. But cruelty and injustice may also come from a local employer, a labor union, or a government agency.

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Government's job is to protect everyone's liberty, but especially those least able to protect themselves. It's often the poor who suffer oppression, though just because you're poor does not mean you're oppressed. The Bible mentions the fatherless, the widow, and the alien. But people of this sort, who are especially vulnerable to oppression, or shall we say, abuse, attract surprisingly little attention from the political class. Whether they are in the liberty-for-all wing of the Republican Party or the social justice camp of the Democratic Party, they all claim to speak for the middle class. But members of the middle class can fend for themselves. Their chief threat comes from government social and economic engineering. No one ever mentions the poor. At best they will speak of "working" people, by which they mean highly protected, unionized employees.

As the party of liberty, human dignity, and the rule of law, the Republican Party should take up the cause of the poor and the oppressed-the little guy, if you will-as the cause of all. If the weakest among us are safe and free, then we're all safe and free. And conservative evangelicals should lead the way.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.

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