“Ten University Students Speak Out”
By Harold Shank, National Spokesperson for CCFSA
Fall semester, 2006
Anyone who witnesses first hand the misery of others usually wonders how they can convince the Christian community to share the same awareness. For example, after a young couple hears about the dozens of abandoned infants kept in institutional foster care in their state, they seek to raise the alarm among others. The weekend after two college students stay in the home of a poor inner city family they urge others to take action. A Christian who sees a co-worker treated unfairly because of her race wonders why such injustice is seldom mentioned at church. How do Christians sound the alarm for God’s people to practice the mercy and compassion that should be characteristic of the followers of Jesus?
The eighth century prophet Amos sets an example. Amos witnessed first hand the misery of others (Amos 5:12). He noted how those who claimed to follow God lived in denial about how they oppressed the less fortunate around them. No doubt he saw Israelite men humiliated by corrupt courts (5:7), watched Samaritan mothers crushed by the uncaring women of affluence (4:1), and knew of children with nothing to eat because community resources all went to produce luxury beverages for the powerful (5:11).
Amos responded with harsh accusations (“[you] trample the head of the poor into the dust” 2:7) and alarming threats (“they shall take you away with hooks” 4:2). His complaints reached the head of the religious and political establishments (7:10f). Judges, store owners, managers of estate farms and the leisure class apparently knew of Amos’ stand.
A class of university students took up the question of whether Amos offered any guidance for contemporary witnesses. Jonathan, Karis, Candice, Tim, Kenneth, Derrick, Nathan, Carter, Cayla and Tanya realized that today’s culture both abhors those who pass judgment (“what right do you have to judge me?”) and yet passes judgment readily (“you Christians are so judgmental”). How can witnesses of abuse and injustice speak up in such a world? Here are their four observations:
- Public-Private. During their discussion of the issue, these students noted how Amos spoke out publicly (3:1) when the misdeeds were societal in nature, but privately (7:14) when confronting an individual. They reasoned that a current day Amos should raise issues with the Christian community as a whole. Their complaint about much judgment-making in contemporary society was that too often an individual is critiqued in a public forum resulting in unnecessary humiliation.
- Severity. The severity of today’s judgment, they reasoned, should reflect the severity of the misdeed. They argued that the harsh accusations and alarming threats of Amos were appropriate to the level of injustice in eighth century Israelite society. By way of application, they suggested that a professor’s response to a plagiarized term paper should not be as severe as their response to a fellow student physically abusing his girl friend.
- Prompt Improvement. Amos called the people to change. He repeatedly leaves the door open for altered behavior especially in chapter 5. The best expressed judgment should prompt positive change. Insulting people may only perpetuate the negative behavior. In Amos 1-6 the prophet speaks to the people on behalf of God, but in the last three chapters he speaks to God on behalf of the people. Amos sought to bring about a better Israel. The students noted that those who seek to raise awareness of injustice must, like Amos, use a means likely to prompt real change, not just guilt or resentment.
- Standards. Finally, this group of university students reasoned that people of faith must be reminded of the high calling God places on Christian behavior. The prophets often critiqued the community’s leaders for their failure to prompt a righteous and just society (see Amos 7). Their point suggests that those in the Christian community must not remain silent in the face of injustice (perhaps reflected in Amos 5:13). Christians must spur one another on to love and good works.
In a world that often deserts its own children, abuses its own families and oppresses its fellow citizens, these students speak out. Tanya, Cayla, Carter, Nathan, Derrick, Kenneth, Tim, Candice, Karis and Jonathan urge us to address the evils of our world, remind the Christian community of its duty, and refuse to remain silent in the face of wrong doing.
Harold Shank, Teacher