Amos and an Angry God

What follows came up this morning in the regular Tuesday morning gathering of our ecumenical lectionary study group.  A Portion of Amos is among the alternative readings for October 14, and it reminded me of work I did some years ago when teaching an adult class on the book of Amos.  They objected that the mean, vengeful God of the Old Testament was not to their liking.  They much preferred the loving, lenient God of the New Testament.  Maybe, I suggested, it would be a good idea to pay attention to the things that ticked God off.  We  might learn something from them.
Back home, I culled from Amos every statement I could find about what really irritated God, and rewrote each as it might have been said in contemporary English.  If this is what makes God so angry, perhaps the reciprocal would be what God desires.  From that exercise arose my take on God’s politics as made known to us through the pen of Amos thousands of years ago.  It goes like this:
What makes God angry is the destruction of an enemy’s food supply
  • Therefore, even for enemies don’t use the food of the people as a weapon.
Exiling whole communities makes God angry
  • Therefore, no ethnic cleansing
Betrayal of treaties and international covenants of friendship
  • Therefore, maintain integrity in international dealings
Fostering civil violence
  • Foster civil harmony
  • Establish conditions for security of person and property
Disrespect for legitimate civil authority
  • Respect legitimate civil authority
Selling or manipulating the working poor into bondage of debt
  • Economic policies and practices that are fair to all
Cheating the poor out of the necessities for life
  • Fair, honest dealings in all areas of trade, commerce, and personal relations
  • Interest that’s not confiscatory
Injustice for the poor
  • Equal justice for all
Oppression of the poor
  • Policies and practices that remove barriers to their success in life
Temple prostitution
  • Awed respect for God’s holy places
Promiscuous sex
  • Holy respect for all acts of intimacy
  • Sobriety
Commanding the prophets about what to say
  • Allow God’s servants to speak freely as God inspires them
The idle rich whose behavior shows contempt for the poor
  • Honor the dignity of every human being
Disrespect for the poor
  • Respect for all
Elaborate but meaningless religious ceremonies and practices
  • Honest, intentional worship of God in heart, soul and mind
Presumption of God’s grace for one’s self while oppressing others
  • Humility in God’s presence while eliminating conditions that oppress others
Corrupt courts and judges
  • Honest courts and judges
Unfair taxation of the poor
  • Fair taxation for all
Excessive gap between rich and poor
  • Policies encouraging economic well being for all
Arrogant pride in nation or family
  • Humble respect for the dignity of all
Lack of compassion for the suffering of others
  • Generosity of compassion

No doubt you’ve noticed duplications.  Perhaps they’re worthy of double attention.  You might want to go through Amos yourself.  If so you’ll probably come up with a slightly different list, applying it to our time and place in your own way.  In any case, it’s clear that what makes God so upset is our behavior as persons, as religious leaders, and as political leaders that departs from what God has said will lead to a more abundant, fulfilling life.  It’s not simply that we make a mockery of it, we replace it with violence and oppression while daring to claim righteousness before God.  It really gets his goat.

Leave a Reply