When I went to seminary, my Hebrew prof just loved Amos, the obscure prophet to Israel. The book of Amos has one of those trick beginnings. He starts off by clobbering all the nations that were enemies of Israel. The hearers and readers would have been tracking, getting gradually more excited as Amos laid it on. Here’s how it would have sounded:
Woe to Damascus…Preach it, Amos. Woe to Gaza…Right on. Woe to Tyre…You said it, man. Woe to Edom…You know it. Woe to Ammon and woe to Moab…Amen and Amen.
Then, just as the people are really starting to enjoy the sermon, Amos pulls a fast one. Woe to Judah; woe to Israel. Why? They deserved judgment too. They had neglected justice: “They trample helpless people in the dust and deny justice to those who are oppressed” (Amos 2:7). I realize I’m being a bit obscure, so let’s bring it up to today. A modern Amos might say, “Woe to the Taliban. Woe to al-Queda. Woe to North Korea. And, oh yeah, woe to Britain, America, and Canada too.” That’s how shocking it would have been. (Canada’s not implicated in the following scandal, but we’ve probably got problems of our own.) Amos might have something to say about things today. Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw writes:
The images of American military personnel abusing and humiliating prisoners of war horrify me. And not just because I am shocked by the thought that seemingly ‘civilized’ people can commit such acts. I am horrified because those images make me confront the evil that lurks in the deep places of my own soul. Ö That kind of evil is all too familiar to me. I see it lurking inside me, and once again I cry out to God for mercy and forgivenness, on my own behalf as well as for people whose misdeeds right now have become a matter of public record.
Indeed. The reaction of Christian organizations to the scandal, however, have been mixed:
American Christians may “feel profoundly betrayed in their humanity and in their history,” but so far few prominent Christian leaders have spoken on the subject. Searches for “Abu Ghraib” at the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, American Family Association, and other such Christian public advocacy organizations turned up nothing… Christian organizations that see themselves at war with the culture of death, who are proud to call themselves moralists, may want to start thinking about how they can speak directly about the images the world can’t get out of its mind.