Reflections on the Prophets: Amos 4

By Bill Mefford

Each week (hopefully), I will look at a chapter in a book of the Minor Prophets, moving through them chronologically. As it should be with the Prophets, I will reflect on what they are saying in their context and relate it to ours. 

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, “Bring something to drink!” (Amos 4:1)

As someone who has been repeatedly told by people that they don't like my "tone," or that I am "too judgmental," or too "harsh" in my statements, I absolutely LOVE Amos 4. This chapter begins with, "Hear this word you cows of Bashan!" Yes, Amos is talking to rich women, the wives of those who actively oppress the poor and he calls them "cows." And he specifically calls them cows of Bashan, an area rich with fertile pasture lands for cows to graze. So, Amos is calling them fat cows, in essence. 

Whenever people tell me I am too harsh in my tone I usually just advise them not to read Amos. Or the rest of the prophets. Or Jesus in Matthew 23. Basically, just stay away from the Bible.

I will never completely understand why so many people - especially white men - are so fragile. This past week I have seen many posts on Facebook by white men who were so bothered by the protests at the Brett Kavanaugh hearings in the Senate last week. They all tended to say the same thing: “I might be more persuaded by their message if they quit screaming and protesting and being so radical.” Never once do they publicly do any self-reflection over why people feel forced to scream and yell and protest; on why people are so marginalized and not listened to, particularly women and people of color by white, male-driven systems that perpetuate white domination and exclusion. 

But of course, Facebook is not a vehicle for self-reflection. 

I can't help but wonder how the affluent women whom Amos directs his remarks to thought about Amos' tone. And did Amos really care? 

Apparently not. What Amos is upset about is the continued oppression of the poor and marginalized and the benefactors of that oppression. Indeed, if oppression was not profitable it would not continue, would it? What is particularly galling to Amos is that those who benefit from oppression continue to act like they are righteous: they continue to pray and bring sacrifice. 

Come to Bethel—and transgress;
    to Gilgal—and multiply transgression;
bring your sacrifices every morning,
    your tithes every three days;
bring a thank offering of leavened bread,
    and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them;
    for so you love to do, O people of Israel!
says the Lord God.

Amos is more sick to see the empty practices of righteousness than he is of the actual wickedness itself. It reminds us of Jesus and his intoleration of Pharisees and their hypocrisy. 

And it does not take us very long to see a current day correlation. 

Present day evangelicals who support donald trump and claim he is doing things that "benefit" the church are exactly like the cows of Bashan for Amos and the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. They are practicing a very public religiosity that is antithetical to the biblical Jesus. They maintain a form of godliness without the power of God.

Here, let me list just a few of the policies of trump's administration:

  • Banning Muslims from entering the country

  • Banning most refugees from entering the country. The number of those allowed in has dropped significantly from both the Bush and Obama administrations (from roughly 60-70,000 a year to now about 15,000)

  • Increased deportations against all undocumented people with no distinction given to those who present no threat to their local communities

  • Building a wall on the southern border

  • Zeroing out most items in the federal budget that benefit poor or low-income people

  • Attacking Obamacare without offering any substantive replacement for making healthcare more affordable

  • Tax cuts that benefit millionaires and billionaires

  • Seeking to arm teachers in classrooms to stop gun violence in schools while making guns more accessible to everyone, no matter their history of criminality or inclination to violence

These are just a few. Now, try and find one of these policies that can be supported with a single verse or passage from the gospels. Try and imagine Jesus supporting a single one of these policies. 

It is impossible. But yet, these evangelicals of Bashan have cozied up to trump, claiming he is committed to carrying out a “Christian” policy agenda. It is nauseating how wrong they are and how they have twisted the gospel to fit their nationalized, self-indulgent message of good news for them and bad news for the rest of the world. They are closer followers of this man than they are of the Prince of Peace. He owns them and he knows it. He can do no wrong. 

And so what is our response? We, meaning progressive Christians, rarely say anything.

I think that should stop. We need to call these pseudo-Christians out. I know that makes progressives uncomfortable, but we have equated being nice with being Christian for far too long. Robert Jeffress, Paula White, Kenneth Copeland, Ralph Reed, Franklin Graham, Richard Land, Johnnie Moore, and so many more are all a brood of vipers. They are hypocrites in the highest order and have done more damage to the Kingdom and universal Body of Christ than we can know in this life time.

Yes, we must have a greater understanding and articulation of our vision of what living allegiance to God’s Kingdom means in an America First world. But we must also point out the proclamation of fake kingdoms that scratch itchy ears.

And if people don’t like our tone, then so be it.

Let’s be faithful.

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