For three sins of Gaza,
even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.
Because she took captive whole communities
and sold them to Edom – Amos 1:6
I must admit that I find myself reading the minor prophets more and more these days. Perhaps it is because their topic is so often “social justice” – not in the perverse sense it is used today, but a true sense of justice and equality before God. The topic is, of course, near and dear to this blog.
A preacher once explained to me (I think in a sermon) the progression of judgment pronunciations in Amos, and how it would turn from “amen” to “hey, now you’re meddlin’”. Amos begins each pronunciation with “for three sins of [insert offender], even for four” and then tacks on the charges. Consider:
“For three sins of [...], even for four, I will not turn back my wrath”
- Damascus – Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth (Amos 1:3)
- Gaza – Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom (Amos 1:6)
- Tyre – Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood (Amos 1:9)
- Edom – Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion,because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked (Amos 1:11)
- Ammon – Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders (Amos 1:13)
- Moab – Because he burned, as if to lime, the bones of Edom’s king (Amos 2:1)
So far, so good, right? The prophet has laid the smack down on the people surrounding Israel, who have in times past been quite unpleasant. And if Amos had just stopped there, but no, he went on:
- Judah – Because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed (Amos 2:4)
- Israel – They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines. (Amos 2:6-8)
Now you’re meddling, preacher. You were doing fine when you were lambasting the pagans, but now you’re hitting the Israelites? Ouch.
Having laid some background in Amos, let us depart for a moment to an article by Porter Stansberry.
Porter Stansberry – The Corruption of America …
The above article is a good read. It’s painful at times, downright shocking at times, and certainly controversial, but worth a read. Stansberry takes on corruption in the political machinery, hitting at both Republicans and Democrats (and rightly so, for they are both guilty). The arguments lay out as follows:
- American per-capita GDP is declining as measured by sound money (peaked around 1970, with a local maximum around 2000). The “pain” of this is felt by the poor, not the rich. [Surely there are those who will argue with the "normalization" to "sound money" and whether it is correct. But, if there were not "changing scales" in our measure of stored productivity the discussion wouldn't need to happen at all.]
- The unemployment rate and the government spending rate (as a percentage of GDP) are highly correlated. [Stansberry hints at causality. While I agree with his conclusion, I do not believe the chart he presents, captures, or solidifies the argument.]
- The Democratic party has ensnared and enslaved generations of willing voters in the inner cities, fiddling while their lives were destroyed.
- In like manner, the Republicans have found themselves all-too-often siding with or otherwise ignoring “welfare for the rich” [great point about the billion dollar give away to hedge fund managers by Hank Paulson ... with no hint of an investigation].
- Public unions are a big problem – and a huge vote-buying apparatus for progressives. [Did I honestly read earlier today that Obama is attempting to cut health benefits for veterans but not public union employees? Any chance it's related to voting disparity between the military and the unions? More on that in a later post.]
Stansberry hits all over the place at corruption. It is quite clear to him, and to many observers, that corruption pays handsomely, and that people bribe government officials because it works. We’ve talked about this before, noting that the solution lies in denuding government of power, not in picking better, more righteous leaders who will use their massive power wisely. (“Don’t tempt me, Frodo!“)
Stansberry points briefly to an obvious solution to the constant deficits – make politicians pay the difference. Of course that would work, but is not about to gain acceptance. For crying out loud, these guys can’t even agree to set up term limits, they’re not about to place themselves at risk.
What I find more interesting, and what will be the main focus of the rest of this post, is Stansberry’s considerable devotion of time to the ongoing destruction of America’s inner cities, and their predominantly African-American communities. Stansberry points to a failure of socialism. While I agree in principle, this is a bit too easy – of course socialism fails, it always has. Simply castigating Socialism hasn’t led to its eradication though. Continual failure of Socialism has not brought about its decline as a theology.
I will point to a different problem / solution regarding the plight of the inner city
Salt and Light …
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” – Matt 5:13-15
When I see the destruction of generations of people, created in the image of God, and living in a country in which 80% of the people self-identify as “Christian” – I naturally think “where is the Church?” And when I say that, I very much mean “where am I – and the rest of my brothers and sisters?” We are to be salt and light in a dark and broken world.
In times and places where large majorities named the Name of Christ, great injustices were accompanied by a standing aside, a co-opting, of the Church. In the days of slavery, southern churches concocted simply weird doctrines to justify the practice. It was argued that “they” were better off as slaves in a Christian land than being free in Africa. Who knows, this may actually be true – but if it were true then it would certainly be even more true that the slaves would be better as free men in a Christian land. Ahh, but that would not be economically feasible. One also wonders if sending slave traders to Africa was more expensive than sending missionaries.
When Hitler rose to power the German Church, a significant majority, had to find a way to tolerate Nazism. Had the German Church stood against the fascists, then the game was up. No way could they have gained power against a broad-based resistance within the Church.
So too, I would argue, in American cities today. The doctrine of the vote-buying “progressive” that predominates political thought in the cities is one based in envy. The Bible clearly decries envy: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). And yet covetousness is the very basis of liberal class warfare.
The basis of “equality” as defined in their ramblings on injustice revolves around wealth. That is, we are “equal” if we have “equal stuff” – and if we do not have equal stuff then we are not equal. But this is equality before the false god of wealth. Jesus told us plainly that we cannot serve both God and earthly wealth: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matt 6:24)
The political ideologies that dominate in the city have given us the destruction of the family, the destruction of the education system, and the destruction of generation after generation. When vote-buying progressives peddle their nonsense to the impoverished and destitute, who only become more impoverished and destitute because of it, we the Church ought to stand in opposition. Where are we? The answer is all too simple. The Church in the city has been co-opted, and the Church outside the city has said “you get what you deserve” … this ain’t a good set up.
The Church has to stand against the destruction of the family, has to speak out against fornication and adultery, against abortion, and against the do-nothing infectiousness of the nanny state.
Right now I’m getting “amens” from the suburban Church. But where are we? (I don’t attend an inner-city church.) I’ll tell you where we are – we are all to comfortable to sit back and say “see, that’s what happens when you embrace bad theology and eschew personal responsibility, the whole thing falls apart.” Well, yeah, but is that an acceptable response? Can we get away with that? Let’s try this out: “Lord, we tried reason, but they were just bent on this crazy entitlement, envy-based theology so we let ‘em be.”
Generations are being destroyed, right before our eyes – and the gospel is the way of freedom. We, all of us, have to be concerned about this. And how do we stop it? I suppose there are a lot of things – but I don’t at all suppose I have the corner on all the good ideas. Search your heart and ask yourself what you can do. Obviously prayer is the place to start. Surely the Lord will give us wisdom with the rest.
I can’t speak from experience, but my friends tell me that, here in Baltimore, “Partners for Transformation” is a great organization.
For three sins, even for four …
In the end I surely agree with the problem Stansberry points out. Progressivism has destroyed the cities, just as crony capitalism has has destroyed the free market. To point to the brokenness of the system is to point to the sins of Damascus, Tyre, Gaza, and the rest. Eventually though, it comes back to Judah and Israel. Eventually, it comes back to we, the Church, both inside and outside of the destroyed communities.