Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 25 October 2004

Scripture is adamant in pronouncing Divine judgment against those who through their creation and manipulation of unjust laws further oppress and exploit the poor and needy.  During the long span of human history there have been few times when the rich and powerful did not exert political and economic control over the masses.  But this situation will change as Christ's earthly kingdom draws near.

by Jim Jordal

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights, and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.  What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar?  To whom will you run for help?  Where will you leave your riches?  Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain.  Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.
                                                                                                                                          Isaiah 10:1-4 (NIV)

…The humblest citizen…when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error.  I come to speak to you in defense of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity….When you…tell us that we are about to disturb your business interests, we reply that you have disturbed our business interests by your course….The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer….We have petitioned, and our petitions have been scorned; we have entreated, and our entreaties have been disregarded; we have begged, and they have mocked when our calamity came.  We beg no longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more.  We defy them….Upon which side will the Democratic Party fight; upon the side of the “idle holders of capital” or upon the side of the “struggling masses?”….Having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world…the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down this crown of thorns upon the brow of labor; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, 1896

      In the passage quoted above the prophet Isaiah promises Divine anger and judgment upon those oppressing the poor and helpless through legal manipulation or extra-legal stratagem. At the time of America’s colonial revolution against Great Britain, one of the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, realized that the power to manipulate or apply the law was the power to control society.  It was at least partially because of this belief that he helped create a political system placing most power in the hands of a strong central government controlled mainly by wealthy landed persons.  And it was in The Federalist Papers, authored by Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay that Hamilton first proposed a Supreme Court capable of determining the constitutionality of acts of Congress, thus anticipating the Court’s assumption of the power of Judicial Review by some 25 years.
      So it’s well established in the American system that wealthy, powerful people will control the law-making and -interpreting processes.  Only a few times since the beginning of the nation has popular democracy strongly influenced the political process.  Andrew Jackson, the frontier president, fought the money powers and their economic control by attacking and finally destroying the dreaded Bank of the United States, which Jackson labeled “the Monster” and a “hydra of corruption,” due to its vast control over the nation’s finances.  But the Panic of 1837 and the weak presidencies of Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, and John Tyler allowed most reforms to be lost as power returned to the elite over the next decade.  
       During the 1880s and 90s there appeared a new ray of hope in the form of agrarian reformers and the Populist and Progressive political parties.   Angered at the excesses of the “Robber Barons" as exposed by a group of progressive writers known as "Muckrakers," and led by the likes of Oliver Kelley, “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, Ignatius Donnelly, and the illustrious William Jennings Bryan, common folk in the midlands demanded and got considerable reforms in the form of the Sherman Anti-trust Act, Interstate Commerce Act, and other regulatory measures.  Popular democracy lived again!
      The reform era reached its crescendo in the Election of 1896, pitting “gold standard” Republicans under William McKinley against populist “free silver” Democrats who nominated William Jennings Bryan. In the melee that followed, Republican campaign manager Mark Hanna browbeat massive contributions from banks, insurance companies, and the wealthy, enabling McKinley to narrowly defeat Bryan.  Perhaps the high-water mark of reform was Bryan’s famous Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic nominating convention of 1896.  Bryan spoke eloquently against the gold standard and its wealthy proponents, whom he accused of crushing labor and enslaving the people under policies of tight money and limited credit.
      Thirty-seven years then passed before Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to power during the worst days of the Great Depression.  Roosevelt comprehended what his opponents did not, that strong action was necessary to help the people and combat economic malaise.  He knew, as his predecessor Herbert Hoover did not, that the market does not always heal itself.  Roosevelt’s famous “First Hundred Days” of the New Deal gave common people their best hope since Bryan as a host of relief and recovery measures were passed by Congress and signed by the president.
      In the half-century following World War Two, moneyed classes reasserted their control over the United States.  Trade unions were largely crushed, the somewhat-elitist Federal Reserve System controlled money-creation and interest rates, and the political machinery came increasingly under the power of lobbyists for big business and a corrupt campaign contributions system.
      Today, the battle appears to be mostly over.  The rich and powerful control virtually every facet of American society, contrary to the needs of common people, the demands of economic justice, and the word of God.  But Winds of Justice swirl through our society today as perhaps never before.  As people awaken to economic injustice and oppression, they increasingly demand their due as human beings and citizens of a country that can certainly afford to care for its own.

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