Monday, January 17, 2005

The ruin of Joseph

Last month, retiring Senator Zell Miller made a speech on the floor of the Senate about "obscenity" in the media (think "wardrobe malfunction"). You remember Zell; he's the Democratic senator who endorsed George Bush at the 2004 Republican convention. The speech has been making the rounds on the Internet; maybe you've seen it. In support of his position, Senator Miller quotes extensively from the Prophet Amos, including the verse that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. loved to refer to, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).

It is interesting to note, however, that the good senator omits any mention of what was without a doubt Amos' greatest and most overriding concern: the vast disparity of wealth between rich and poor, the willingness of a few to indulge in obscene luxury at the expense of the many who live in poverty and squalor. This is the "ruin of Joseph" over which Amos laments.

Unfortunately, nobody, whether Democrat or Republican, seems too interested in outlawing this kind of obscenity these days.

Food for thought:

"Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals--they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way"
Amos 2:6-7

"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

"Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins-- you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate."
Amos 4:11-12

"Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away."

Amos 6:4-7

"Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, 'When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.'"
Amos 8:4-6

Bottom line: Martin Luther King got Amos' message. Zell still doesn't get it.

Happy birthday, Dr. King.


Anonymous said...

Those "cows of Bashan" - I've known a few. Good post.


Sampson said...

Thanks, Sally.

It has been pointed out to me, in the interest of accuracy, that this speech was actually delivered in February of 2004. But, hey, I just got it, so it's news to me!

I stand corrected.