Reading and Pondering Amos, Part Two   1 comment

Above:  President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Societal Righteousness


Amos 3:1-4, 13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has has spoken concerning you;

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt;

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

Can two walk together

Without having met?

Does a lion roar in the forest

When he has no prey?

Does a great beast let out a cry from its den

Without having made a capture?

Hear [this], and warn the House of Jacob

–says my Lord GOD, the God of Hosts–


The book of Amos has provided inspiration for those who have pursued social justice out of their faith.  Modern examples include labor activists, civil rights workers, and adherents of Liberation Theology.

Abraham Heschel writes (on page 34 of The Prophets, Volume 1, 1962) that, in Amos,

God’s supreme concern is righteousness and that His essential demand of man is to establish justice.

This is justice, which, for Amos, can exist only in the context of God, who seeks intimacy with human beings.  This reminds me of the Baptismal Covenant in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which includes a promise to respect the dignity of every human being–In other words, to love one’s neighbor as one loves one’s self.

An individual can pursue this goal, which one ought to do.  And, by grace, he or she can succeed more in time.  But what about pursuing this good on a societal level?  Theocracy is not the answer, for (A) it leads to abuses of alleged heretics, and such deeds are inherent violations of the Golden Rule, and (B) there is no way to coerce goodness, which must be voluntary.  In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated a moral revolution, one in which U.S. society would come to value people more than things.  His vision has yet to become reality, unfortunately.

We–you and I–are parts of society.  If we do not like certain aspects of society, we need not resign ourselves and curse the darkness.  No, we can light a candle.  We can shed light in the darkness.  And we need to do so positively.  We might also succeed.  Social mores can change; they have changed; they are changing.  People change them.  May we change them toward economic justice, toward loving our neighbors more generally, and away from coercion.






Adapted from this post:


One response to “Reading and Pondering Amos, Part Two

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 8: Tuesday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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