Top Ten Acts of Oppression

Just a brief Bible study to cleanse my mind of the combination of verses and images from Rumsfield that TimN posted:

All references are from the ancient Hebrew prophets:

1. Refusing to defend the needy- Isaiah 1:17, 23; Jeremiah 5:28
2. Stealing from the poor- Isaiah 3:14-15
3. Unjust judgments against the poor- Isaiah 10:1-2
4. Not assisting the needy- Ezekiel 16:49
5. Taking interest for loans- Ezekiel 18:15-17
6. Enslaving a people- Amos 1:6
7. Excessive violence in war, especially against innocents- Amos 1:13
8. Excessive rent against the poor- Amos 5:11
9. Accepting bribes- Amos 5:12
10. Turning away those who need shelter for a night- Amos 5:12

We boldly decry #s 6 and 9. But when will we see that the basis for the current economic crisis is #s 4, 5, 8 and 10?

Comments (12)

  1. Josiah Garber

    …and inflating the currency to impoverish and hurt the poor: So that we can go to war and kill the poor. Shameful.

  2. Daylight

    You are absolutely right in your scriptural basis against acts of oppression. I wonder though. If I posted a list of Old Testament scriptures to build a case against homosexuality, abortion, or to support such things as the death penalty and war, you might reject my list under the notion that we are New Testament people now. Why do liberal Christians have one list of favorite Bible causes and conservative Christians have different list? Both lists have a common source. Just asking.

  3. Marius

    (Hey all, so this is my first post here, nice to meet you)

    Daylight makes an interesting point, and I think the key to understanding here is that revelation is always subject to interpretation. That could go either way, ranging from a heavy focus on law and rule (in which God functions as some kind of earthly King, except stronger) to a more “loving” version, in which we let our interpretation be guided by a faith that reaches out to a God of Love (God as an invitation to reach out beyond a mere power struggle).
    If we wish to perceive God as infinite, that is, never definitely interpretable, His commands always remain subject to re-statement. In understanding the Faith that allows us to work this re-interpretation, some interesting notes could be found in mysticism. Generally mystics point to a transcendent God, inviting us to go beyond ourselves – beyond a power struggle. Reading the New Testament, it appears to me that this is also the point Jesus tries to make. The Law is not abandoned, but it ought to be interpreted by reference to a domain of love, which always lies beyond the law. I understand this approach is no less present in Jewish thought, but I’m no expert on that.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that what Daylight refers to as a “common source” could be understood as Scripture, which would mean any interpretation is as good as the other, but also as God, that is, Love. If we interpret Scripture by reference to such a transcendent God, we might see that some interpretations are indeed more loving than others – but even those “loving” interpretations can never be definite or absolute (there is only one Absolute).
    Well, I’m not sure if this makes sense, but if it does, I think we might be on to something here.

  4. Matt Stone

    I suppose that’s a fair question, maybe the answer is to be found in composing a New Testament list and comparing the two. Methinks various ways of exploiting the poor would still rank very high.

  5. SteveK (Post author)

    I have to admit, that while I am deeply interested in the Hebrew Scriptures, I don’t often use it as a source of moral truth, except when it explains what Jesus was saying. Jesus (and especially his brother James) spoke against the oppression of the poor. However, the definition of this, he depended on the Hebrew Scriptures, just as he depended on the Hebrew Scriptures for the defninition of “porneia” or sexual immorality. So this list is in the way of a definition.

    Also, although I know that there are “liberal” and “conservative” Christians, I don’t find that divide to be helpful. There are people who use the Scriptures for their own ideologies. I have no interest in them. I think that kind of interpretation of the Scripture is not only wrong-headed, but boring. I find truth in Jesus, and so Jesus is the way to interpret the rest of the canon. We understand him first, and then the rest of Scripture makes sense.

  6. Joe

    It seems to me that it is fairly obvious these are at the very heart of the things that offends God. I’m not too bothered about arguing over the other stuff – which seem to me like straining a gnat to catch an elephant.

    For me the problem is that by existing I am deeply entrenched in a lifestyle which oppresses. Like it or not, people exist in terrible conditions so that I can enjoy a lifestyle characterised by the pursuit of leisure.

    I can’t speak for God, but I honestly can’t see him blaming people for being within a structure they didn’t create. But I think he will blame us for knowing that our lives are oppressive and not doing much about it.

    It is one thing to identify an evil institutional structure and quite another to work out what to do about it. This seems to me to be the great question of our time – if we claim to have something to do with Jesus of Nazareth, how can we continue to live like we do?

  7. Regina

    Actually the main factor in the downfall was idea that started by Bill Clinton, allowing people to take out loans that couldn’t afford them.. (high risk morgages) the banks tried to package them with nonrisky loans, however-the government sponsered loans were too risky.. the democrats once again while trying to help the poor brought the economy down tumbling down. It happened before, read “The Death of an American Jewish Community: A Tragedy of Good Intentions.”

    Perhaps the reason a liberal democracy was such a wonderful idea was because people helping people was alway the best and most Biblical way.

    If you were oppressed by Saddam Hussein would you be wishing America would not have spent billions of dollars to free you? That seems like it goes along with your social liberal philosophy. EVERY war kills innocent people, read about WWII but that doesn’t make it a waste….. Read Romans 13.

  8. SteveK (Post author)

    I understand your perspective, and I deeply appreciate it. It is one the main focuses of my life since as a teen I spend time in Kolikut (Calcutta) and Bangladesh. I am a part of a wealthy, oppressive nation, and what is my response to it.

    I personally don’t feel that God is so much judging us for being a part of our culture, but is calling us to be free of it. Jesus isn’t in the judging business, but in the deliverance business. So when he told the rich young ruler, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” he was calling him to be free of what was oppressing him.

    So, for me, the response I have to God is less in speaking out against injustice– although I do that– but in living a lifestyle that frees me from being oppressive, a lifestyle that sets me apart from a culture of leisure and spiritual and cultural narrowness.

  9. SteveK (Post author)

    Every human is not only an individual, but a whole society, of thoughts, cultures and endeavours. Every human is a little piece of God. Should any society or group decide that a number of innocents are worthy to be killed, not by their own choice, then it is not only a tragedy, but a travisty. It is a disaster for a whole culture, if the death of innocents is so casually accepted then justice is turned upside down and we have accepted the Big Brother who tells us that the lie is truth.

    I have read Romans 13. It says that a government holds the sword, not to harm innocents, but to strike fear in those who do evil. I have also read Romans 12 that says that we, who believe in Jesus, need not take vengeance, because that is God’s job, not our own. God himself will judge those who determine that the life of the innocent is unimportant.

    Read Psalm 82.

  10. Marco Funk

    You make an interesting point. But I think the list at the top still stands as the top ten ‘acts of oppression’. Some might argue that this is a ‘liberal’ list of no-no’s. I would argue that this is an adequate list of actions and practices that oppress and violate God’s love for people (especially the poor). You hint at another list of things: homosexuality, abortion, death penalty and war. I’m not so sure all of these fit into the same kind of category, i.e. actions that oppress. War, abortion and death penalty are things that act violently upon someone else (fetus, enemy, criminal). They are actions that oppress. Homosexuality within consenting adults does not oppress.

    That said, the Old Testament does have other kinds of lists. There are lists of things that ‘disgust’ God, things that are unclean and detestable to God. At least one form of homosexuality fits into that list. This would also be the case with the New Testament and Paul’s description of the depravity of humankind in Romans 1.

    There are at least two kinds of lists to be made: things that oppress those whom God loves (murder, extortion, charging interest, death penalty, homophobia, etc…); and secondly, a list of things that are detestable to God (incest, bestiality, homosexuality, adultery, etc…).

    The problem with lists is that they leave things out. In both lists there is an element of oppression and there is an element of disgust. Is it perhaps that ‘liberals’ have a problem with viewing God as someone who detests certain things? Is it too narrow of God to detest certain realities, attitudes and actions? Does it offend liberality to detest things? On the other side, does it bother ‘conservatives’ to think that it detests God when the poor are exploited? Does God actually detest it when his children place their hope in money and affluence?

  11. Tim Baer

    My experience is that liberals and conservatives both love oppression. They just decide who gets oppressed a little differently. For instance, conservatives have no problem calling gays “sodomites”, “queers”, or “fags”. But liberals have no problems calling conservatives, even those that are much more moderate, “racists”, “bigots”, “rednecks”.

    Neither side wants the other side to increase in power and resort to low blows to ensure it. Oppression.

  12. Josiah Garber

    You make a very good point Tim.

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