Monday, January 17, 2005

Zell Miller and Amos

Funny that the Old Testament prophet Amos should come up twice in one day. Amos 5:24 was famously cited by Martin Luther King: "Justice shall roll down like waters, righteousness like a mighty stream." And then I get an email from my mother-in-love (that's the mother of my husband-in-all-but-law) with a speech given by Zell Miller on the Senate floor, invoking Amos in support of a bill to limit federal court jurisdiction, a bill to protect public religious displays, and the Federal Marriage Amendment. (The speech occurred last February, but it's amazing how these things get a second life on the Internet, where it's actively circulating.)

While I can share Senator Miller's appreciation for the oft-neglected prophet Amos, I can't agree with his conclusions on the matter. Amos raged against a people who had become decadent in their wealth and uncaring for the poor among them, and who abused the courts to dishonestly favor the powerful against the poor. You'd think that Senator Miller, wielding the words of this Old Testament prophet, would be leading up to introducing some new initiative to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless, or at least provide basic medical coverage for the 44 million uninsured Americans. No such luck.

Amos was quite concerned about fair courts, and it's hard to imagine he'd have been impressed with the misguided and misnamed Constitutional Restoration Act that Zeller was endorsing -- an effort to circumvent our fundamental checks and balances, and undermine an independent judiciary.

The most ironic kicker is the Liberties Restoration Act, whose purpose was to protect Judge Roy Moore and other public officials who don't get the separation of church and state. Amos tells us that the Lord especially despised people who came to the Temple to make ostentatious sacrifices, but then kicked the widow and denied the poor on their way back to their mansions. This sanctimonious defense of Ten Commands monuments (from a bunch of people who probably couldn't even name more than three commandments) is just the sort of empty piety and hypocrisy that brings down the Lord's wrath.

Miller should be particularly mindful of what Amos relates about nations who neglect the poor and interfere with the courts, while making empty shows of piety:
"I will destroy her ruler
and kill all her officials with him,"
says the Lord. [Amos 2:3]


GayPatriotWest said...

Tom--Since you don't have e-mail, this is the best place for me to thank you for your regular commentary to (and frequent criticism of) my posts. Thanks for engaging me and my readers and keeping the discussion going.

Dan (aka GPW)

Anonymous said...

1. I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not place false gods before me.

2. Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath Day.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

4. Honor thy father and thy mother

5. Thou shalt not steal.

6. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

7. Thou shalt not kill

8. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.

9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

I'm forgetting one, but not bad for an atheist, huh? I think maybe the first commandment I listed is actually the first two commandments smooshed together. Sister Nicky made us memorize those back in the third grade and, like the periodic table, I've never been able to forget.

It's always been a source of amusement to me that so many religious folk rail against homosexuality as an abominable sin, but that God Himself (I still can't shake the whole capitalization thing) didn't see fit to put it in the top ten. Quite obviously He feels that lying, swearing and lusting after your friend's wife are worse than having sex with another guy.