The Old Testament: Isaiah I – Throw off the Yoke of Oppression

It’s always interesting when a rising political star makes his or her mark on the national stage.  What issues will influence his or her political identity? How well will he use words in a speech? How strong will she be in the face of opposition (or poll numbers)? Sadly, the strong showing some of these politicians have, typically landing in the spotlight every four years at either Democratic or Republican convention, often fades, as the candidate wrestles with which issues to back and which causes to champion. In the end, a successful politician is a strong cheerleader who backs issues for the right reasons and can rally the base when the team is down.

For current Republican, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the issue is immigration. And as a child of Cuban immigrants, this makes sense.

But his heritage isn’t the only thing influencing his passions. As Rubio told a recent gathering of Christian conservatives at the Faith and Freedom conference in Washington, DC, the Bible is an influence in his life.  Given this influence, Rubio believes that we should be compassionate.  According to him (in this recent speech),“We know every single human life has value…Every single human life matters” and “deserves protection of our laws and values.”

Well said.

He took this mentality a step further, where, as one who identifies as a Catholic, he urged those in attendance to remember that “faith compels them to do something.” This suggests that if you are also influenced by the Bible that you should make sure that the laws you back are ones that reflect this compassion.

In the Book of Isaiah, The Prophet Isaiah is trying to rally Israel to change its direction in life or face severe consequences. He often warned kings that their armies could only do so much: they needed to get their spiritual houses in order. In fact, much of what he said didn’t sound so rosy; however, he believed every word of it, in part because he knew who was providing him the information: God. He desperately wanted to get his people to understand the error of their ways so that they could change before it was too late.

Although Senator Rubio might be attempting to pull off the same type of instruction with his base, unlike Isaiah, his words are hollow.

His immigration bill hit a roadblock, and it seems (based on his comments) that the people who were looking to expand the compassion afforded people in his Immigration Bill by including LGBT couples have ruined it. What he fails to realize is that LGBT couples are often torn apart when one is not a citizen and, since we can’t marry, must return to his or her country of origin. Fixing this takes compassion, especially if you don’t “believe” in homosexuality.

It seems strange to discourage people from honoring the very thing Rubio endorsed. Yet he says he’s done with the bill if gays are protected.  Why would he do that? He’s said that, “This is already a difficult enough issue as it is.” Apparently the only immigrants who matter are the straight ones. (You can read more of the story here: http://huff.to/12BgHVY)

Clearly Rubio has skipped some parts of the Bible, for if he’d read it all, he would have encountered Isaiah, who in his Book of the Bible is the cheerleader for the people of Israel, and he commands them to (among other things) throw off the yoke of oppression.

Among the inspiring lines, he tells the Israelites to “not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults” (51:7). Now, this is great advice for anyone to hear, as it bolsters confidence in yourself. You should be able to stand by what you believe in. But I guess if you’re a politician, you have to cower to people in your base or even your own party.

This advice continues when Isaiah lets the people know that what they are enduring—referred here as “fasting” as the right kind of fasting, which will “set the oppressed free” (58:6). This is carried further when they are told to “do away with the yoke of oppression” by ditching their sinful ways and recommit themselves to following God’s ways (58:9-10). Could the yoke of oppression be read to be the people (Babylonians) holding them captive or following the wrong gods?

Regardless of the context, the message is still the same: don’t cave to oppression and, by extension (as we see in Ezekiel), if you follow God you should not oppress.  So if you are using the Bible—as some politicians and other conservatives do (like Marco Rubio), they are not exactly being the good god-following, I-read-the-Bible-and-I’m-doing-what-it-tells-me, individuals.  For if they were, they would not be siding with the oppression of LGBT people.

Even sadder: people in his audience who don’t point these elements of the Bible out to him (and those who use it in the same way).

(You can read an article about Senator Rubio and the others who spoke at the conference: http://nbcnews.to/160zKak)

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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