Thursday, July 8, 2010


Amos The Extremist

Last week the first reading for the mass for Wednesday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time was taken from Amos Chapter 5, and included the following lines:

Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate;it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings, I will not accept them (Amos 5:14-15, 21-22)

What caught my attention right away when I read these verses was the prophet’s use of the word “hate.” First he tells his hearers to “hate evil,” and a few verses later reports God as saying “I hate your festivals.”

I don’t know about you, but I was always taught that hating is wrong. If when I was five years old I had come home and said to my mother: “Jack is a big bully. I hate him!” my mom would have corrected me right away: “No. You don’t hate him. You just dislike him a whole lot, but you don’t hate him.” And I, figuring that she didn’t really understand the way I truly felt, would have, with all the na├»ve sincerity of a five-year old, energetically corrected her, “Oh no, Mom; I really do HATE him!” As I recall, we weren’t supposed to hate anything – not brussels sprouts, not Palmer penmanship exercises (as a clumsy left-handed wielder of a fountain pen, I really did hate them), nor the neighborhood bully.

Hating versus Hatred

I’m not advocating that we should harbor hatred in our hearts -- Jesus came among us to do away with sin and hatred. (In fact, the oration for the mass at which the above reading was read begins, “Father in heaven, the light of Jesus has scattered the darkness of hatred and sin…”) But I do think that maybe we've lost something by being trained not to feel the strongest negative revulsion against certain things. In any case, it's obvious that Amos’ mom never corrected him in this regard!

Amos, being a prophet, was an extremist. He saw things in terms of black-and-white: for him “hate evil” was not an exaggeration or a Semitic figure of speech that overstated what he really meant. And frankly, it sounds like good advice. My own Superego-Mom too often seems to say to me, “No, you don’t hate evil and sin, you just intensely dislike them. You, well, you just try to avoid them.”

Is it Okay to Hate What is Evil?

Sometimes I wish that I hated sin a bit more than I do!
I wish that I could muster up the righteous hatred that made Amos the great prophet that he was.
I wish I could look temptation in the eye and scream something like “Listen, no more ‘Mr. Nice Guy;” I hate you! Get out of here!”

I wonder if it’s too late for me to start?


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. Too often the term hatred is used against Christians, I think. A while back I was deeply hurt when my non-practicing spouse declared, "You know we are the same, except you have hatred inside of you." This statement came about during a discussion on homosexuality. His position was that while he "didn't see the point" of homosexuality, we couldn't judge anyone else.

    When I challenged him on my "hatred", he changed his statement to say that there was "hardness" inside me. His supporting examples were that I insist on going to church (usually without him) every Sunday and don't change my beliefs when faced with a person who was practicing premarital sex or homosexuality.

    I've done a lot of soul searching - it isn't a good thing when your spouse calls you hateful or hard! But, I think that the world can also use the terms "hate" and "intolerance" to discribe and denegrate uncompromising faith. As a child I was taught to love the sinner, but HATE the sin.

    Pray for me and my marriage. I will pray for you.