Continuing this small series on the decline of culture, a word from the Prophet Amos in today’s reading (Thursday of the 13th week of the year) paints a brief picture of what happens when we a nation demand that the Word of God be banished from it hearing. The picture is not complete and may need a bit of adjustment to fit our times but the basic parameters are clear. Let’s look at an excerpt from the reading and seek to apply it.
Amos has been ordered by the Amaziah, priest at Bethel to be silent and go away. This may seem astonishing coming from the High Priest at shrine of Bethel, but many of the religious leaders were corrupted and tied to political leaders more than to the Lord. Hence, Amaziah silences Amos with the authority of Jeroboam, King of Israel. Amos replies:
You say: prophesy not against Israel,
preach not against the house of Isaac.
Now thus says the LORD:
Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city,
and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword;
Your land shall be divided by measuring line,
and you yourself shall die in an unclean land;
Israel shall be exiled far from its land. (Amos 7:15-17)
In effect Amos says, “Fine, you will soon discover the cost of banishing the Word of God from your midst; great disasters will befall you.” All these things and more befell Israel when the Assyrians conquered them in 721 BC. Banishing God’s word left Israel without the warnings and the strength that comes from knowledge of and respect for God’s Words. As such they grew weak, for when the faith is not strong neither is the family and close-knit kinships that make for a strong and united nation. When human relationships are beset with injustice and sin, divisions increase and become bitter.
In our own time the Word of God and religious influence have also, in increasing stages been banished. Prayer is banished from schools and many public events. Nativity sets and other reminders of the faith such as crosses are more difficult to display. In many newer towns it is difficult to get zoning that permits the building of churches in prominent locations. And, in large numbers most Americans seldom if ever go to church any more. There is a bland secularism where God and the faith are seldom on many peoples’ minds. There is also a militant secularism that strongly opposes any religious influence. This too is having many negative effects, some of which have been detailed in my previous columns from this week. But for today, Let’s take Amos’ list and adapt it to our own times.
Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city – It was common in ancient warfare to kill at great number of men but allow the women and girls to live. What Amos likely meant was that many women, destitute and without husbands, fathers or sons, would be reduced to the cruel of fate of prostitution to survive or be used as sex slaves. In our own time we do of course observe that sex trafficking (another name for sexual slavery) has very sadly resurfaced to serve the sex industry: pornographers and pimps, all those who sexually exploit vulnerable women and children. It is a grave sin! But in a wider sense in our culture we also observe that many people “play the harlot” through widespread sexual promiscuity. As the word of God is increasingly banished from our culture, men and women engage in many forms of illicit sexual activity from pornography, fornication, adultery, homosexual acts and cohabitation. While these things were not unknown in more religious times, they were considered shameful and sinful. But in these times of a secular and non-biblical worldview, these sins are widely approved of and even celebrated. Hence vast numbers in our culture play the harlot and even vaster numbers approve and celebrate this.
and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword – As always it is children who most pay the price for adult misbehavior. Since 1973 in the US alone, more than 50 million children were aborted. They literally fell by the sword and other deadly means. 85% of abortions are performed on single women which causally links most abortions to fornication and unchastity. A vast number of other children fall by a more figurative swords as they are subject to the seemingly endless suffering wrought on them by adult sexual confusion and misbehavior: single-motherhood, absent fathers, higher poverty rates, divorce and all the frustration and confusion it causes them (with daddy this weekend, mom next weekend) and dubious experiments of “gay” adoption. Every child deserves to have a married father and mother stably present in their lives manifesting the masculine and feminine genius of being human. Today, less than half of children experience this, and it becomes like a sword that cuts them to the heart. Add to this, early exposure to pornography many of them face and the heavy promotion of contraception, homosexual acts and transgenderism foisted on them even in very early years of the government school system. It is no wonder so many of them fall by swords of sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy, sexual objectification, sexual abuse, loneliness and an ever-deepening sexual confusion that could not even be imagined just ten years ago. God’s Word provides clarity on the selfishness and sinfulness of sexual misbehavior. But we have collectively banished this Word from our culture and some even call Scripture hateful and outdated. Having sown the wind, we are now reaping the whirlwind.
Your land shall be divided by measuring line – A “measuring line” is a biblical expression that usually refers to a just judgment that comes upon a person or nation; good results for just behavior, bad results for sinful behavior. The people of Amos time came up short; and so have we. Our land today is a crisis of division that threatens our very existence as a country. Not since 1861 have our political divisions been so deep. It is not at all a remote idea that certain regions and states in the U.S. will begin a secessionist movement. In an earlier column this week I traced the tyranny of relativism and how it has intensified our divisions and made reasoned discussions nearly impossible. In this climate, the “winner” of a debate is the one who yells the loudest, or has the greater power, or publicity. Our culture has become fierce and contentious and both social and regular media help to further overheat it. Many of the very ones who speak of tolerance end up being the very one who use raw judicial power to get their way and demand that we will either comply with their agenda or face increasingly punitive measures. Our divisions are very deep in this country now, so deep as to reach the boiling point. As we discussed in a previous column this week, the biblical worldview used to provide a general framework for consensus. But having jettisoned that, deep tyrannical divisions are now emerging. Our land has been measured and found wanting, yes we are lacking the Word of God.
and you yourself shall die in an unclean land; Israel shall be exiled far from its land – While actual exile for most of us is unlikely just now, we do increasingly experience an alienation from this Land. Most of us who are older, barely recognize the America we once knew, especially as regards family life and free speech. That America was flawed, to be sure, but still functional and with a central vision and dream, the “American dream.” That America was confident, perhaps to a fault, and we admired our founding principles even if we lived them imperfectly. We were also a very religious country and the land of the free and the home of the brave, and the biblical framework helped us to mend or worst flaws. The abolitionists and the Civil Rights leaders emerged from the churches. That America is hard to find now and it is hard not to feel like an exile in a foreign land at times. But God has left the building and collectively we showed him the door.
Yes, life gets pretty miserable without God and when we banish his Word from our midst. Amos says it plain.