The Importance of Protecting the Vulnerable
As Christian political culture currently stands, there is a great deal of lip service paid to the idea of a united public policy, but when push comes to shove we typically fall along our entrenched, yet predictable, party lines. Liberals will make reference to the importance of preventing abortions, but rarely will they support legislation or candidates who actually seek to do so. At the same time, conservatives proudly claim that they care for the poor, but they have never met a pro-business bill or slash in government aid funding that they didn’t support. With all that being said, perhaps it is time to move beyond our rhetorical support of a broad, holistic political agenda and actually embrace some principles that will allow us to actually work together productively.
Before we can do so, however, it is important to understand what we mean by a broad agenda. Holistically biblical politics, as it is sometimes referred, is the idea that when the Bible is fully taken into account it will result in a political agenda that cannot be pigeonholed as either right or left, conservative or liberal. Rather, it will produce a political philosophy that is balanced in its concern for both the poor and the unborn, believes in protecting the environment and religious freedom, and supports family and community. The landmark document For the Health of a Nation, put together by the National Association of Evangelicals, is perhaps the single best illustration of such a balanced agenda. But today, over six years since the NAE adopted this declaration, it is debatable whether or not Christians, or even Evangelicals for that matter, are any more united. It has become more popular than ever for Christian leaders to pay lip service to the idea of a holistically biblical agenda, but as we have already stated, very rarely is this anything but a quick reference to a token issue before the individual or organization goes back to the partisan politics that have become so commonplace.
What then can we do? Let me suggest that by finding a foundational principle that both right and left can agree on we will be able to take the first steps towards greater unity in the Body. While there are many possible ways to phrase this idea, I believe that the notion of protecting the vulnerable is a rallying point for all Christians who seek to glorify God with their political engagement.
At their very best, liberals seek to care for the poor because of the vulnerable position in which the poor are trapped. Conservatives, likewise, point out that the most vulnerable a person will ever be is inside a mother’s womb. We can look for scriptural support for the idea of protecting the vulnerable in the rich passages of Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25. A careful reading of these passages will show God’s deep concern for the oppressed and vulnerable. Who can deny that systemic poverty is a form of oppression, likewise, who could argue that a mother having the “right” to kill her unwanted child isn’t also oppressive? Likewise, the issue of vulnerability goes far beyond the poor or the unborn. The environment is certainly vulnerable at the hands of mankind, the breakdown of the family leads to many different types of vulnerability, unrestrained warfare leaves both soldiers and civilians vulnerable, and oppressive and tyrannical regimes place entire populations in a position of vulnerability.
If we highlight the common concern that liberals and conservatives have for protecting the vulnerable it will show that the Holy Spirit is alive in the hearts of both sides. What is more, it will enforce a more charitable view of one’s political opponents by painting them in a more human light. And maybe, just maybe, a more charitable view of our opponents will help to stifle the raging political war we currently find ourselves mired in. We are a long way from consensus on the issues of poverty, abortion, the environment, or war, but when it comes to foundational principles, the right and left can agree that protecting the vulnerable is an important and godly task.