This is a two part verse, so let’s look at oppression first. Zechariah speaks of four specific members of the population who are weak, and should be treated tenderly: widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor.
Widows were particularly vulnerable in ancient mideastern society, and throughout the Bible there is concern for caring for them. Widows in modern America are not universally poor, but many are. So let’s look at the president’s payroll tax cut which was an Executive Order in August. He calls it an aid to those who are struggling during the pandemic, but really it only applies to those who are working. And the bottom line is that the payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare, which almost every widow I know depends on. In 2016, he ran on the promise that he would not change Social Security. Yet just a few days ago, he said that if he wins in November, he will make that payroll tax go away. It’s a complicated issue; if you want to read more try this article from Forbes.
During the current president’s administration, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) and Medicaid will be cut 1.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years, and the eligibility rules were rewritten to lower the number of people who qualify. One in five children in the U.S. live in poverty (about 15 million or 21% of all kids), Put another way, the U.S. has the 11th highest child poverty rate of 42 industrialized countries. You can find a wealth of statistics on child poverty in this article in The Nation or the website National Center for Children in Poverty.
And the Wall? To keep immigrants out? This wall to keep immigrants out is estimated to cost 21 to 70 billion dollars. Our country was built on immigrants. Unless you are descended from a Native American, you are descended from an immigrant. Do our immigration laws need to be updated and modernized? Absolutely. Do we build a wall to keep immigrants out? Never. Do we separate children of immigrants from their parents? Never. Do we keep immigrants in holding cells until they can be sent back? Never. Do we send back those who have lived here for years and are valuable to our society? Never. It pains me to even think that I have to write these things…
The second part of this verse — Do not plot evil against each other — seems like a fundamental precept of civilization, doesn’t it?
In simple terms it means don’t stir up trouble. Don’t be an instigator. Don’t foment division. Don’t encourage chaos. Don’t sow hatred.
As I’m writing this on August 31, this week there have been protests in Boston and Washington D.C. There have been riots in Portland and Kenosha. Americans are fighting each other in the streets; rarely has there been this level of political, racial, and economic animosity toward each other. The president has been asked not to travel to Kenosha, but he’s going anyway. Just to stir up trouble. To keep our eyes on the violence, rather than try to heal it.
He has pitted Americans against one another in such an incendiary fashion as to make it almost impossible for us to talk to each other civilly.
Just one more example–he implies that the Democrats will ruin the suburbs by building more low income housing there. Is he talking about housing for the poor? Housing for immigrants? Housing for the fatherless? For widows? Or is this more incendiary talk to plot evil against each other?
We are all God’s children.
His political vision is division.
And it is causing a crisis in our democracy.