28 Mar 2010

Amos: The Crimes of Nations, 1.1-2.5

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Amos, Bible, Contemporary Ethics, Hebrew Bible, Kingdom, Ministry, Preaching

War is Subject to Yahweh’s Righteousness

Amos continues to “redefine” righteousness for religious people. Justice/Righteousness is not simply a matter of personal goodness or morality. There is clearly a personal element in justice/righteousness but it goes far beyond that according to Amos. Amos believes that the personal dimension is taken up into the corporate structural behavior of the group. Thus in Amos there is a structure of righteousness that individuals are a part.

The first two chapters of Amos reflect a world that is full of “international terrorism.” One can see shades of al-Qaida or other groups dedicated to terror. But the culprits in Amos are not rogue groups but nation states. Here is a summary of the message of the first chapter and a half:

“Amos’ Yahweh watches over the established orders of international law not only in Israel but also among the other nations, and whenever they are broken he imposes a historical punishment upon the culprits” (Gerhard von Rad, The Message of the Prophets, p. 106)

The Crimes that Brought Judgement

As Amos chastises the traditional enemies of Israel (the named nations all border the Northern Kingdom) he uses a common hook: for three … even for four sins. But then he names only one. These nations do not have the Torah and their righteousness/justice is not measured in specific terms of the Torah. This is not true of Judah as we will see. However, Yahweh does hold the corporate entities of nations accountable for gross violations (i.e. attacks upon divine Image Bearers!) of human dignity.

Damascus: “because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth” (1.3b; cf. 2 Kgs. 8.12f)

Philistines: “she took captives whole communities and sold them to Edom” (1.6b)

Tyre: “she sold whole communities . . . to Edom” (1.9b)

Edom: “pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion” (1.11b)

Ammon: “ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders” (1.13b)

Moab: “he burned, as if to lime, the bones of the Edom’s king” (2.1b)

Judah: “rejected the law of the LORD” (2.4b)

These opening chapters of Amos sound like a catalog of violations of the Geneva Convention. It is almost as if Yahweh is saying:

“Yes war is evil and it flourishes in my fallen creation, BUT I STILL WILL NOT TOLERATE SOME FORMS OF EVIL … even in war.”

God hedges, and puts limits, on the evil of war.  There are standards of righteousness that corporate structures like nations will be held to. Rhetorically, on the canonical level, Amos 1.1-2.5 lulls the church going, and devout Israelite, into a sense of smug self righteousness.

“What can you expect from the Philistine!
What can you expect from a Edomite!
What can you expect from … a Muslim!

That is when Amos lowers the hydrogen bomb on the church people in 2.6ff! But that is for a future post. It is just important to note how the text functions.

What are the “crimes” in Amos’s day? Slavery, trafficking in slavery, lust for war, attacking civilians/non-combatants as a way to further political and military ends, desecration of a person, and finally departure from Yahweh’s covenant of love.

Bridging the Gap: Ancient International Crime to Modern International Crime

I want this blog to be “interactive” so I am going to leave it open ended. I have tried to take these opening oracles seriously. If Amos were to come to our church today, and he redefined or reconfigured our concept of justice/righteousness, what would he say?

I have thought about the world and sought “analogies” to the kinds of things that Amos says rather pointedly matter to God. Because the issues are “bigger” than any one of us (as they were in his day too) does not let us off the hook so to speak. What crimes would Amos call us to repentance for? I have listed four. I have numbered down to the perfect number seven. What should be listed there. Some of the things I have listed may bother some people but I am sure that some were bothered by Amos too … especially when he nails Israel to its tree.

What might be some contemporary violations of the principles outlined by Amos?

1) American slavery. Sounding much like Amos of old, American hero, Frederick Douglass, said:

“What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour. (“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” in Crossing the Danger Water: Three Hundred Years of African-American Writing, ed, Deirdre Mullane, p. 160)

2) Flying planes in skyscrapers

3) Targeting non-combatants. Many countries have done this through history: Ammon, Assyria (with their stakes); Romans; Crusaders; British; Japanese; Germans; Americans; Russians.

4) The Holocaust/ Japanese internment camps?

5) Lynching black men and raping black women?



46 Responses to “Amos: The Crimes of Nations, 1.1-2.5”

  1. John Says:

    Good job.

    The church defaulting her responsibility to care for the poor to the government.

    Did we actually ‘target’ noncombatants?

  2. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    John, thanks for reading and responding. I don’t want, and did not intend for, my post to be understood simply in terms of the USA. But I dont want to exempt us from prophetic critique either.

    However, I know it will be contentious with some but the USA has in fact targeted noncombatants many, many times. How many native American women and children were slaughtered? I can list the bombing of any city that is filled with civilians (the fire bombings of Dresden and other German and Japanese cities … the atomic bombs clearly targeted noncombatants). So yes we have done that.

  3. Randall Says:

    Looking at our history I suppose we could include economic slavery as it was practiced in the USA e.g. company towns where the mining company paid such a low wage and then owned the store that sold the groceries and owned the houses the workers rented etc. to keep them in debt forever. The muckrakers certainly told of other forms of economic slavery and/or abuse of workers.

    We could certainly speak of abortion and the millions of unborn that have been taken and thrown into the garbage. The might be doubly true of the late term or partial birth abortion procedure.

    Of course, we are aware and turn a blind eye to many atrocities of every sort around the world.

    I appreciate your lesson and hope others might choose to participate.

  4. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Randall agreed. Thanks for the contribution.

  5. John Says:

    I am on page 59 of your book. I will not likely agree with everything Lipscomb and Harding say, but, This quote from Lipscomb on p. 37 sounds like some of my preaching: (referring to the Sermon on the Mount containing) “the living and essential principles (of the Christian life)…which must pervade and control the hearts of men, without which no man could be a Christian.”

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    John, delighted to hear that. Hopefully you are finding it a stimulating read though. Follow the biblical sections through. And, in my view, make sure you read the prayers at the end of each chapter.

  7. kingdomseeking Says:

    The fact that most acts of war are really about protecting an ideology, status, and way of life that has nothing to do with the life we are called to live as God’s people, Amos would rebuke God’s people for support (in word and/or deed) the acts of war intended to protect such a life.

    I also wonder if Amos might not have something to say about the lack of civility that is increasingly employed in conversations about public way of living? People, for which Christians are not exempt, seem more and more willing to ignore the argument and instead attack (verbally) the person (their character, motives, etc…) with whom they disagree.

    Grace and peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  8. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Rex i cannot help but think you are close to the heart of Amos. And the lack of civility in public discourse, even among those who claim to be children of the Great King, is embarrassing.

  9. Veto F. Roley Says:

    As for our (United States) national sins, I am convinced that slavery comes in a clear third. And each of our national sins has a spiritual component.

    Our greatest national sin is the over 400-year war of genocide we waged against Native Americans, dating from Columbus’ “discovery” of the “New” World through the Massacre at Wounded Knee. In taking the land we now live on, we killed women and children, engaged in biological warfare (selling smallpox-infected blankets, for instance to Midwest Native tribes) and established death camps. Once we stopped the shooting war — the final “battle” was at Wounded Knee — we forced native children to dress in Western styles, adopt European names and strictly forbade the speaking of Native languages and the telling of Native stories. The reservations we forced the people onto were the most marginal lands in the West and should we make a mistake of placing a tribe on land with hidden resources such as gold, silver or uranium, we forced the tribe to either move or sign away their rights to these resources. It is, in my opinion, a national sin that is equal in horror to Hitler’s Holocaust or Stalin’s purges.

    And while most of what we did originated from greed and hatred, there was the stong underlying message of the United States being the New Israel, charged by God with conquering the West and creating a Christian nation. And, there was the underlying message that we were to bring Christianity to the West and convert the pagan tribes. I wonder if God would have told us that we did good in our desire to convert Native Americans to Christ, but that we neglected the greater command of love.

    Our second-greatest national sin, and one that is coming close to outdoing the horrors of the genocide we committed against Native Americans, is the holocaust of abortion. The number of babies we have aborted since Roe v. Wade would rank in the top 40 in national population if they composed a separate nation. I often wonder at how much we have impovrished ourselves today by ruthlessly destroying so many of the gifts that God wanted to give us through the lives, talents, potential knowledge and abilities of these babies we have aborted. And just as “Christians” participated in the genocide of Native Americans and in slavery, “Christians” have also lauded abortion. I’ve thought of the shame brought to the Body of Christ by “Christian” leaders applauding then President Clinton as he vetoed the partial-birth abortion bans passed by Congress.


  10. Anonymous Says:

    You need to take a look at Medved’s book, “The 10 Big Lies About America.” The distribution of blankets infected with smallpox is utter hooey.

    Truth is, smallpox did just fine in lethally spreading itself without any sinister blanket-bombing by Whitey. It’s unfortunate that this garbage has a willing audience that spreads it without verifying it first.

    And listen, I appreciate most of your comment, but the smallpox thing you really must investigate further.

    (Sorry, Googling some random revisionist blog doesn’t count.)

  11. Josh J. Says:

    Building on what Randall said, I think we can easily point to many instances of economic slavery that our country participates in or perpetrates today.

    For instance, “loans” we force upon third world nations in the name of development, with such high interests rates that they can never be out from under our thumb.

    A great example of economic exploitation is what most of the banks are currently doing. After August 1st, they are no longer allowed to overdraft your account when you use a debit card, allowing for huge overdraft fees. Those transactions must be denied, unless you intentionally “opt-in” and allow them to process transactions when you have no money. The banks are ramping up to spend millions of dollars in marketing so that they can continue to rape the poor and unsuspecting.

  12. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    I prefer you to sign your name. Your point of view is welcome but I do not like the cloak.

    My post was not a bash America post but we should not be afraid to be honest about our corporate sin. So claim that the distribution of small pox infested blankets is “utter hooey” does not in any way alter the painful reality that the ground cries out as surely as it did in Genesis 3.

    “Revisionist” is simply the cry of the person who (IMHO) does not want to deal with reality. “Revisionism” can be pure propaganda to placate the masses. “Revisionism” may also simply be REVISING our picture of the past as previously dismissed sources are integrated into the picture.

    Since you suggested Medved I would like to suggest:

    James W. Loewen’s “LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME”

    I do not agree with all of Loewen’s interpretations but he is on a one man mission for truth in history. Read it.

  13. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    That infamous philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Memory says, ‘I did that.’ Pride replies, ‘I could not have done that.’ Eventually, memory yields” (Beyond Good and Evil, p. 86)

    There is powerful wisdom in what Nietzsche said. Our pride hides our corporate memories from the us. Regarding the American indians, it would probably shock most contemporary Americans that Adolf Hitler was inspired and even praised the USA for its “solution” to the problem of the red man. According to John Toland’s definitive bio of Hitler the Fuhrer “often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s exterminiation-by starvation and uneven combat” the Native Americans. See John Toland, ADOLF HITLER (Doubleday, 1976), p. 702).

    Just something to think about.

  14. El Comodoro Says:

    No worries, Anonymous 12:04, here.

    Look, I agree that the ground cries out; I’m not disputing your (very good) post.

    I disagree with a single, clearly defined point in a comment (not yours): That smallpox blankets were intentionally delivered to Natives by Euros. It’s false. And perhaps I shouldn’t have used the term hooey, but it’s lighter and more colorful than faulty, erroneous, fraudulent, incorrect, unfounded or whatever.

    Again, I’m not saying that the ground doesn’t cry out. But it doesn’t cry out for that particular event, because it didn’t happen. Vast numbers of people died of smallpox et al, that’s incontrovertible, and so, so tragic. The response that no matter if atrocity/genocide X or Y actually happened or not, it furthers your point is, well, disturbing. There are plenty of true, completely verifiable instances that prove your point already.

    I only cite Medved because he makes the argument more elegantly than I ever could, not to throw books at people in a polemic way.

    Also, I apologize for my poor choice of the word revisionist. It’s charged, and I didn’t think it through. And please don’t misunderstand, I don’t (and didn’t) mean to imply that your blog is of that ilk. My point was simply to say that one can find whatever one wants to find online.

    Thanks for the response, and your blog. But I think I’ve learned my lesson about encouraging anyone to “investigate further.” Them’s fightin’ words.

    Peace and farewell,

  15. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    I did not mean to leave the impression that your challenge was unwelcome. I apologize. It is. Dialog is a two way street. And facts are important. I like light and humorous too. “hooey” in no way offended me. I hope you will hang around and share your point of view more in the future. As iron sharpens iron so we can help each other and that is my goal.

  16. Kerry Says:

    “History is written by those who tell it” someone once said.

    And so some who tell history say the Euro-Americans delivered small-pox infested blankets to the Indians and some who tell history say no such thing happened. Who’s telling the truth? Or better yet, does it really matter when anyone with just a wiff of honest observation can see that regardless of the details on what exactly happened to Native Americans, it is obvious that the Euro-Americans and subsuquently the USA committed some aweful acts of injustice against the Native Americans…of which the effects are still in place today.

    Here’s a question about reconciliation and restoration. If I steal my neighbors car, is it justice to only give him back the hood emblems or should I give him back his entire car? If we steal land rather than ask to equally share it, is it fair to give only a percentage of that land back (called “reservations”) or should it all be returned? I realize the later may be logistically impossible at this point in history. I am only trying to undermine any notion that the Euro-Americans/USA (many of whom claim to be Christian) have acted in a biblically just manner towards the Native American Indians (and the same can be said for other land aquired by war-making).

    And I also agree with Veto that the sin of abortion in this country is also a grave injustice that Amos would rebuke our nation for.

    Grace and peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  17. gensis5020 Says:

    A couple of observations on above examples, then one of my own:

    The atomic bombs were targeted at industrial arms factories (hence military targets), although it was known from their power that non-industrial areas and civilians would be destroyed, too

    Second, the European / American Indian clashes are best described as two incompatible cultures unwilling to adapt or adjust to the other. Tragic, yes, but neither side really tried.

    My contribution, taking advantage of and mistreating aliens in “our” midst (this applies to any country).


  18. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    The targeting of a non-combatant is a direct violation of the Just War Doctrine. That doctrine claims:

    1) there must a just cause for resorting to violence
    2) a state must have the right intention only for the reasons established in #1
    3) only competent and designated authorities of a state may DECLARE war
    4) War is justifiable only if it is the last resort. All other plausible and possible options must be exhausted
    5) the state is assured of the high probability of success
    6) the good achieved must be proportionally greater than the carnage caused

    Two rules follow the execution of the war:

    1) the state’s response must be proportionate to the specific ends as outlined in #6
    2) Armed forces must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilian population is immune from intentional attack

    This is the classic Just War Doctrine. Few countries have actually followed it but Christians should demand nothing less … (unless they are complete pacifists but the Just War is supposed to deter violence).

    A word genesis5020. Hiroshima was specifically targeted to produce civilian casualties. Lots of them. It was chosen over Kokura for just that reason. Dresden, the spring of 1945, was destroyed to kill civilians. Nearly a hundred thousand of them. It was a deliberate act. The targeting, indeed slaughter, of women and children, in the Indian “wars” was not uncommon.

    BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE is a most disturbing book.

  19. gensis5020 Says:

    Yes, Bobby. I have read “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.” Excellent book. Two cultures that did not try to get along or to understand the other. Tragically, one all but vanished.

    Hiroshima was HQ of the Japanese 2nd Army Headquarters, and command center of the defense of southern Japan. It was a communications center, a storage point, and an assembly area for troops. Japanese tour guides in Hiroshima today acknowledge its military importance during the war.

    Nagasaki was a major seaport in southern Japan during the war and location of the the Mitsubishi Arms Works.


  20. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    Tucson has an air force base. It is a military target. Downtown is not. There is not a moral, much less distinctively Christian (IMHO), defense of the wanton destruction of civilians. The atomic bomb is inherently a violation of anything that resembles historic christian ethics. Hiroshima was chosen because it was major urban center that would result in massive civilian casualties. This is a fact of history. But the bomb needed to be shown off. Amos talks directly of making war on noncombatants and I have no doubt what he would say about the destruction of civilians on a scale he could never imagine.

    Bobby Valentine

  21. John Says:

    I have been re-reading Amos as a result of these posts. I am beginning Micah this morning. These are powerful texts. I am looking forward to the continuation of the Amos study.

  22. Randall Says:

    The comments here regarding mankind’s wanton destruction of men and women and the efforts and money we spend to develop weapons capable of the destruction of entire civilizations are such a harsh reminder of how far man fell and the ramifications our sinful nature.

    That the image of God remains in us and His love (hesed & agape) for us goes so far beyond anything we might have imagined speaks more than anyone could say about Him and what eternity will be like with Him.

  23. gensis5020 Says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. gensis5020 Says:


    I am not saying the atomic bomb usage was not tragic. I am saying that the ground zero-targets of both bombs – what the bombadiers were trained to aim for – were military targets. In facts, both crews were instructed that if they could not visually see or identify by radar the military targets they were to abort and dump the bombs in the sea. All the posturing we may make about the tragic loss of civilian lives does deny these facts, nor does it deny the overwhelming evidence that their usage may have saved hundreds of thousands if not missions of lives and untold suffering on both sides. And the denial of these facts and evidence minimizes the impact and message of Amos.

    You can play what if games and posture all you want, but the facts remain that as tragic as the use of the bomb was, it ended the war quickly and gave us all a warning that has probably prevented more tragic loss later.

    God bless,

  25. kingdomseeking Says:

    Does the intended target really matter? Those who gave the oders to drop the atomic bombs knew the mass casualty damage it would do which would include civilians. Given what Christianity has rerards as “just” within the just-war doctrine, the dropping of the atomic bombs were an unjust act regardless of what their intended targets were.

    The greatest tragedy since then is that many Christians praise their use. The scariest part is that the use and subsequent development of nuclear technology for pursposes of mass-killing has planted a seed that is going to blossom one day in a way that results in more mass casualty…its not a matter of “if” but “when.”

    Let those who profess Jesus as Lord and Messiah be peacemakers full of love rather than warmakers.

    Grace and peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  26. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    There may or may not have been specific military targets in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Doesnt matter one way or the other. It is a fact, beyond dispute, that Hiroshima was chosen in order to maximize the civilian casualties.

    This is not tragic in my view. It is what it is, evil. How the incineration of a hundred thousand women and children is not something Amos would condemn in light of 1.13 is beyond my ability to fathom. And according to Deuteronomy God limits the ravages of war against the environment. “Are the trees people that you make war against them?” (Dt 20. 19 … a most interesting text).

    I’ve had my say so I will let some else have the final say.

  27. gensis5020 Says:


    I do not your source, but of all evidence I have seen (not anti-war conjectures, but hard evidence), NONE indicated maximizing the civilian casualties as the reason for the selection of any of the cities.

    Here are a couple of on-line sources. These are by no means comprehensive, but they are represented of what I have seen:



    Please do not misunderstand my position. I certainly not a hawk, but I am also certainly not any fan of revisionist history.

    The lessons we can learn from the prophet Amos are NOT to look back and revise history through our modern are filters. The lessons of Amos are what are we to do with the situations and people we are faced with NOW, such as illegal immigration, how to deal with sectarian violence, and how to share our blessings with those in need.

    God bless,

  28. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    I have already commented previously on the use of the word “revisionism.” Revisionism is simply revising. So much that passes for American history is nothing short of propaganda.

    As for sources I have numerous sources to back up what I have said. But even if that was not so it still would not change one iota the gross immorality of the slaughter of a hundred thousand civilians. That is not revisionism. That is simply ethics that flow from the kingdom of God. But one very easily accessible source is the NEW WORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA’s online article

    “Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” located at this address:


    Note the subheading “Choice of Targets”

    Dwight D. Eisenhower had some pretty interesting opinions on the justice of the use of the bomb. His views are quoted and documented.

    If that is not good enough here is the official declassified Top Secret memo produced by the targeting committee that is now in the national archives. The committee met at Los Alamos on May 10-11, 1945. Here is the address:


    Civilians were targeted. They were killed by the hundreds of thousands in Japan and Germany. Dresden was bombed for the primary purpose of killing civilians. That is not revision but it is not popular. Reminds me of that Nietzsche quote i put up earlier.

  29. gensis5020 Says:

    Thanks, Bobby. Your first link did not come through, but being an encyclopedia, I suspect it would be edited to align with a pre-determined opinion rather than just a reporting of evidence available at the time the decision was made. But as Isaid, I could not read it.

    Your second link did come through fine and appeasdred to be a text version of the photocopied document available on the Japan website I listed for you (I think it is significant that both links I sent you are from Japanese sources). Nothing in the document targets Hiroshima for, “maximizing the civilian casualties as the reason for the selection of any of the cities.”

    And by revisionism, I mean applying modern day opinions and transposing those opinions onto a prior generation’s decision making process. It is revising history to fit today’s opinions rather than what was the thought process at that time.

    In either case, I think you have let your opinion about Hiroshima cloud your judgement about Amos’ message. Rather than look back about what you wish someone else would have decided 65 years ago, how would Amos look at what you do today or tomorrow?

    God bless,

  30. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    Both of the links I copied and pasted again and they worked just fine. Neither is a Japanese source even if the second is referred to in your link. The the photo copy is of the actual transcript of the actual committee that met in 1945 in the USA (not Japan) and is preserved in the National Archives in Washington DC. The exact location in the archives is:

    U.S. National Archives, Record Group 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Manhattan Engineer District, TS Manhattan Project File ’42-’46, folder 5D Selection of Targets, 2 Notes on Target Committee Meetings

    Those records clearly indicate that the committee explicitly and expressly chose against a specifically military target. They further discuss the psychological and it needed to be “spectacular” in its “initial” use. A pure military target failed to meet the criteria.

    I have formed my opinion about Hiroshima in specific concord with the Just War doctrine and it cannot in any way be reconciled with it. Amos 1-2 address the conduct of nations in warfare. If it was ok for the incineration of over a hundred thousand civilians in 1945 then Amos was wrong in those chapters. It is that simple.

    I am sorry that offends you because that is really not my goal. But national pride cannot excuse or justify something that is simply wrong. Prayerfully read over those texts in Amos. They are powerful. They do not say oh Ammon did this and will be held accountable but the US had justifiable reasons for killing a hundred thousand non-combatants in Dresden and nearly 300,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan. I’m sorry brother. It doesnt.

  31. gensis5020 Says:


    I still cannot get your encyclopedia link to work – I think it has been cut-ooff when posted in the comment.

    I did not mean to say that the document copied was a Japanese document – it clearly is a photocopy of a U.S. document, but used as a refernce by the Japan museum site. I think it is significant that neither of the Japanses museum sites – who would certainly have cause to try make the case you are trying to make if it were true – do not. BOTH Japan museum sites acknowledge that Hiroshima and Nagasaki HAD military significance.

    Where you have erred is you have excluded the military significance of the targets because they were located within cities. You have erred by confusing targeting military targets regardless of there location with choosing a target so that it “maximizes the civilian casualties”. Neither is true and if you do not know it, you should.

    Your disregard for historical fact does not offend me. Your usage of Amos to promote your political interpretation and disregard for historical facts should offend all Christians.

    I wish nuclear war had never come upon us. But my wishes will not lead me to disregard historical truths nor to misuse God’s Word to promote a personal interpretation and a political agenda.

    I think you have missed the message of Amos entirely.

  32. Eric Says:


    I don’t think I saw anywhere that Bobby denied Hiroshima had military significance. It certainly did.

    However, it seems to me that you are the one ignoring the historical facts in the primary source Bobby pointed out. The encyclopedia link worked fine for me, and it is a citation of the document in question. Since you can’t follow that link, observe only the primary document.

    The first criterion for selection (Section 6, “Status of Targets”) was that the target “be important targets in a large urban area of more than three miles in diameter.” Why would the quality of large urban area matter? Surely part of the answer must be the nature of the civilian population in these areas as opposed to an isolated military base. The bomb was intended as a weapon of psychological warfare as well as physical ordinance. It’s effect depended upon the civilian population feeling vulnerable.

    This is confirmed by sections 7 and 8 of the document, sections which highlight the psychological importance of the possible targets and the reasons why strictly “military” objectives were unacceptable targets.

    Who is revising history? We cannot deny that Hiroshima was selected for reasons outside of its status as purely a tactical target. This bombing was undertaken for strategic effect; strategic effect that was carefully calculated to cause civilian damage and induce terror.

    Certainly Amos, as Bobby successfully shows, calls us at the very least to question the “rightness” of this act. The panacea that it saved lives does not justify the action. If we accept just-war as a reasonable guide, the lives of military combatants are the only acceptable expenditures of life and taking civilian life to save the lives of combatants is thus un-just.

    Certainly just-war theory has significant problems, but within the framework of this discussion, I don’t think that the atomic bombings can be categorized as “just-war” or as acceptable to the prophet Amos or to God.

    Undoubtedly, it is easy to second-guess history and our ultimate use of the prophets must be to question and inform our actions in the present. However, our examination of history certainly leads us to draw parallels with current situations and draw conclusions about war in general.

    Since the involvement of media in military operations changed from WWII to Vietnam, and certainly to today, it has been more and more difficult for military operations to proceed without any civilian casualty being played by the media as much as possible. Yet, over and over again we find that a successfully waged war invariably results in unintended casualties. In the case of Hiroshima, we find that what would now be unacceptable and unintended casualties were in fact the desired result.

    You have also ignored Bobby’s reference to the Dresden fire-bombings. Kurt Vonnegut, in his odd way, certainly captured the suffering of this act in Slaughterhouse V, and successfully captured the hypocrisy and lunacy of WMD (perhaps even warfare in general) in Cat’s Cradle. Certainly we, as a nation, are not innocent by the standard of Amos simply because we are the USA with “In God We Trust” stamped on our coins.

    While I am certainly thankful for the freedoms we enjoy in this country, we must always ask at what price, freedom? What does it profit us to gain the world but lose our souls?

  33. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    I have copied the address and pasted it once again and it works just fine for me.

    Why should it matter or take away from the importance of a document simply because a Japanese source refers to it? The source is not a prejudiced source but produced by the participants themselves.

    As for the claim that I have disregarded historical fact is bogus and insulting. I never said there was not military targets in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki i said that the city and the civilians within it were not military targets. I appealed to the example of Tucson, AZ. We have an air base (a military target) and downtown and suburbs (not military targets). I further pointed out that specifically military targets were dismissed by the Target Selection committee in favor of Hiroshima. Those reasons were not military. I further said the destruction of non-combatants was a violation of any semblance to the Just War theory that most Christians have used for 1500 years to talk about war (though I myself tend to lean toward pacifism itself but that need not keep us from using the Just War doctrine as a accepted guidelines).

    You claim that i have abused Amos but have not offered on iota evidence of that. I would like to see any discussion of Amos 1-2 that shows it endorses obliteration bombing of civilians as in Dresden, Tokyo, Hamburg, or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki … and how he would think that was ok with the sense of divine justice recorded in those first two chapters.

    Bobby Valentine

  34. gensis5020 Says:

    Bobby and Eric,

    I have never denied that there were civilians killed. The first link I posted included the same document Bobby linked. Een the Japanese deny Bobby’s point, and if anyone one group woukld have cause to agree with Bobby, it would be the Japanese. The Japanese deny Bobby’s error.

    My point was that Bobby errs specifically in regards to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in that he claims without any proof and evidence to the contrary that tagrets were chosen for, “maximizing the civilian casualties”.

    Non-combtants were NOT targeted in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is a lie or a gross ignorance of the evidence. Non-combatants were killed in the targeting of miltary-industrial sites, but never were non-combatants the target itself.

    If that were true, these wre many more attractive targets that had little if any military value but great emotional value. The emptional targets were eliminated and not in the final consideration. The military targets were kept for consideration.

    It is my opinion that Bobby abuses the messgae Amos for the purpose of pushung his error, rather than letting Amos speak to what we can do today

  35. Eric Says:


    In the two sites you list, I don’t see anyone “deny Bobby’s error”. In fact, these sites suggest by their very existence the horrors of the atomic bomb and the need for peace. While I have not explored the entire site-map of either the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum or The Hiroshima Spirit, they certainly acknowledge the military significance of the targets, but no where do they deny the secondary considerations that the primary documents cite. I think the creators of those sites would agree with Bobby, as a matter of fact.

    Just-War, as Bobby has pointed out, must follow some specific rules. Once war has begun, the second of those rules prohibits the intentional attack of civilians. That must include use of weaponry that knowingly cannot be limited to military targets alone. In the case of Hiroshima, the targeting of civilians became one of the military purposes of the bomb being dropped, because the effects of the bomb on a civilian population would produce psychological effects that conventional weapons or a purely military target would not produce. But even if that is denied, as you deny it, Just-War theory still does not excuse the bomb, if that is our standard for this discussion.

    Many factors contributed to selecting Hiroshima as a target. If choosing to acknowledge that civilian casualties was one of those factors, an acknowledgment supported in primary sources from the day, makes me “revisionist”, then so be it. Revising our historical assumptions is good and necessary when our assumptions are not supported by the facts of the matter. I do not pretend that use of the Atomic Bomb was a decision made in ignorance of its destructive power on the civilian populations of the area on which it was to be dropped. Certainly, even such knowledge at the time did not deter the use of the bomb, and perhaps the alternatives that the president and other decision-makers were faced with would have resulted in even more casualties, but we must still ask ourselves not “was it worth it?” but “was it right?”

    I fail to see how this doctrine or Amos would fall on the side of the use of WMD.

  36. gensis5020 Says:


    You have hit closer than Bobby to the point I am trying to make. There is a huge difference between “targeting noncombatants” and “military targets in which non-combatants are killed.”

    You are correct that the Japanese sites acknowledge both the cities’ military legitimacy and that the tragedies should point us to never doing this again. I have already stated that I wish the bombs had not been used. I have visited the Shrine to the Flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is a very moving memorial and message (the flame came from the ruins of houses destroyed along with its owners in both cities).

    But if we confuse “targeting noncombatants” with “noncombatants killed by legitimate military strikes” we might as well ask, “How many noncombatants did God target”?

    Did God target noncombatants, or were noncombatants killed when God authorized military strikes on entire cities or nations or peoples?

    I wonder if Bobby can tell the difference.

  37. Eric Says:

    It seems like you’re trying to skate a fine semantic line. When a “military target” is made a target because of its non-combatant population, it may very well be a military target, but is it a legitimate target in terms of righteousness and justice? Is collateral damage acceptable when the sole or primary target is military in nature? Strategically and tactically, sure. But again, in terms of justice and righteousness, the question is not so simple, and these are the questions we must ask ourselves first as citizens of God’s kingdom.

  38. gensis5020 Says:

    Perhaps, Eric, but an extremely important distinction. Anytime a bomb is dropped from an airplane, anytime a shell is fired from a cannon, anytime a object is hurtled from a catapult, it is a distinction that must be wrestled with.

    And when we consider that God commanded entire peoples obliterated, it is a distinction that gets even more challenging for us mortals to understand.

    God bless,

  39. DADoser Says:

    Wow – very interesting discussion.
    I’ll try not to get too detailed here.

    Even though we are talking 65 years ago for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Justifying those bombing based on military targets seems to me like the modern equivalent of dropping an atomic bomb on Bagdad in 2003 – i.e. Saddam was the miliary target, so to insure “we” get him (the military target), let’s just nuke the entire city.

    This is from total memory – but I thought that one reason Hiroshima was chosen was because it had not been bombed prior to the atomic bomb. The US wanted a clear demomstration of the power of its new weapon. If we would have dropped the bomb in an area that had been previosly fire-bombed it would be harder to distinguish what the atom bomb really did.(So if Hiroshima had not been bombed prior to the atomic bombing, it must not have had THAT much significance as a military target.)

    Additionally, my understanding is that dropping the bombs was as much of a demonstration for the USSR’s benefit as for the Japanese.

    The irony is that we demanded unconditional surrender, but we accepted a surrender under the conditions that Japan would keep their emperor. Had that been an accepted condition up front, Japan (most certainly) would have surrendered prior to the atomic bombings.

    I know it has been ingrained in the collective American memory that an invasion of Japan was “a must” and the atomic bombs aved the lives of Americans who would have died in the invasion of Japan.
    But my question is “Why?” Japan is an Island – by August 45 – they had essentially no offensive military capability. The US could have simply blockaded and bombed indefinitely. I don’t understand why the invasion of Japan was necessary.

    From my study of Just War doctrine – there are some holes. Basically just about any war waged by an agressor can be justified thru this doctrine – from the US in Iraq to Hitler’s “pre-emtive” march/war into the Rhine-Ruhr and Poland; etc. etc. Just War theory seems to me to just be a way for Christians to justify going to war.

    So much for being brief 🙂

    In the spirit of brotherly love –

    (I grew up in the Church of Christ not giving a second thought to any conflict between Christianity and modern American militarism/war. Over the past 9+ years I’ve been able to see and embrace the pacifist message of Jesus and the pre-Constantine Christians. So much so that I resigned my deaconship and left the C of C (Oct ’08) and now worship in a historic pacifist denomination.)

  40. Doug in Phoenix Says:

    “…And when we consider that God commanded entire peoples obliterated, it is a distinction that gets even more challenging for us mortals to understand.

    God bless,

    Alan –
    This is where I think we (as Christians – i.e. followers of Jesus) make it more complicated that it needs to be. This is not a struggle – As followers of Christ, we are to be “Christ-like” – not “God-like.”

    I have to ask myself – as a Christian – Would Jesus fly a plane that dropped an atomic bomb on folks who are created in God’s immage? Would Jesus torture a Muslim to save American lives? If the answer to qquestions like that are “no” – then to follow Christ I cannot engage or condone those actions. “If my Kingdom were of this earth, then my followers would fight to keep it.”

    As a Christian I have to have a love stronger than my fears (that lead to condoning and participating in wars and harming my brother, created in God’d image.

    In brotherly love –

  41. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    First I want to thank every one for the good spirit reflected in this discussion (for the most part i think it has been good).

    Second, Alan I think you are sadly mistaken. You are hung on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have mentioned Dresden repeatedly but the same can be said of Tokyo as well. But Dresden in particular Civilians were simply the target. The purpose was to kill German civilians.

    Third, regarding Hiroshima itself. The docs preserved in the National Archives make is crystal clear that there were “pure” military targets available for the use of “the bomb” on. Those “pure” military targets were rejected. The Question is WHY??? WHY?? There is no need to speculate here for the document says why. A pure military target would not be spectacular enough. Obliterating the army is not spectatular enough … no! What is? Obliterating a whole city! Now that is spectacular.

    Fourth, Alan you say that God obliterated entire cities so there is precedent. Well I would suggest THAT is a gross misreading of Joshua especially. When we turn to the Torah itself it recognizes (like in Deuteronomy 20) that the “invasion” of Canaan is a UNIQUE event. The taking of the Land was not warfare as usual. It was “holy war” and Israel functions as God’s eschatological instrument of judgment. After the initial conquest Deuteronomy dictates normal rules of warfare including limiting attacks on the environment.

    But if we stick with the text and say well Joshua did it them my respond will be: WHERE IS THE COMMAND OF GOD FOR US TO DO THE SAME? When did God command Truman to do that? Even Eisenhower thought it was militarily unnecessary. But again when and where did we get divine command to obliterate an entire city of women and children? I know of no such command.

  42. gensis5020 Says:


    I appreciate the discussion, and I still think you are in error in your definition and ignoring of history of “noncombatants”. I have not made any reference to Dresden or Tokyo or London or NY or Prague or Stalingrad or Leningrad or anywhere else because those are not the situations where you have spoken in error (in fact, the head of the Allied Air Command was raked over the coals by Eisenhower for his bombing of Dresden by the British and American bombers).

    I did not say, “God obliterated entire cities so there is precedent” so you are in error one more time. I did say that if we confuse “targeting noncombatants” with “noncombatants killed by legitimate military strikes” as you have erred in doing then we might as well ask, “How many noncombatants did God target”?

    Doug is correct in that the military sought a good environment in which to demonstrate the power of the bomb – they had great fear that the bombs would not even work – but that is still not the same as “targeting noncombatants” and Bobby, you have also now shifted from targeting noncombatants to not targeting pure military sights. I am guessing you are realizing the error of your argument.

    Bobby ignores the evidence by the Japanese themselves that Hiroshima and Nagasaki WERE legitimate military targets. One other official document that has been ignored by Bobby states that the scientists – not the military – Arthur H. Compton, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence and Robert Oppenheimer concluded that there was no other choice than a military use: “We can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use.” (Manhattan Engineer District Records, Harrison-Bundy files, folder no. 76, National Archives, Washington D.C.)

    We wish the bombs had not been dropped. We would not make the same decision now or then that they did (and Doug, in case you missed it, I have also said that I would not have chosen to drop the bomb, and wish it had not been so. I have also said I am by no means a “hawk”). But we are not at liberty to revise history and ignore the evidence with our own convenient definitions: The scientists believed there was no choice but military usage. The most “spectacular” (and purely cultural or civilian) targets were eliminated from the list. The targets chosen were NOT chosen for maximizing civilian casualties but chosen for their military and industrial significance. Even the Japanese who should be the ones agreeing with Bobby do NOT agree with Bobby. Why? Because Bobby is in error and the Japanese know better the truth that Hiroshima and Nagasaki WERE legitimate military targets.

    So ask your self why would Bobby claim something that no one else there at that time or the victims since claim?

  43. Eric Says:

    Bobby is not claiming what no one else claims; certainly he is not claiming things that were not claimed even by the decision makers who dropped the bomb. Civilians were a target; it was known that civilian deaths would occur in Hiroshima.

    Knowingly choosing a target that will result in civilian casualties, according to the doctrine of Just War, and I think according to any Biblical perspective of war, must immediately remove that target from the list of “legitimate” military targets, no matter what the end benefit to military strategy may be.

    Some of the scientists who were involved with the Manhattan Project felt other tactics should have been taken than first targeting a civilian center. James Fanck and Leo Szilard in particular circulated a letter to the effect that at the very least, a demonstration of the bomb should be made for Japan before any lives were taken by it.

    Truman himself refused to use a third bomb specifically for the reasons of refusing to take the lives of any more women and children.

    The Hiroshima Peace Museum nearly withdrew support of an Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian because it refused to acknowledge the Japanese victims of the atomic bomb. Notably, against great political pressure in Japan, this very museum does acknowledge that Hiroshima had a significant and important military presence and acknowledges that Japan is not innocent of crimes in WWII, yet there is still a sense in Hiroshima amongst the victims and their descendants that the deaths of over 100,000 civilians were not justified.

    Furthermore, a chaplain based on Tinian at the time shows that some of those most directly involved still harbor great reservations about the use of the atomic bomb. http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig7/mccarthy5.html

    For more perspective on military chaplains, I recommend a paper from a Major at the Air Force academy: http://www.usafa.edu/isme/ISME07/Kammer07.html

    Certainly both websites have a certain bias and agenda, but the interview from the first appears to be legitimate. I will grant, also, that the Lutheran chaplain who was responsible for blessing the planes and crew of these missions was supportive of the bomb until the end of his life, but that does not deny that even at the time there were those with grave reservations. What Bobby is doing is not ignorant or revisionist.

    I will try to make this my final word on the subject from this angle; however, there is another question that I would raise. How do we minister to those affected by war? Certainly this shifts the discussion from a prophetic perspective to a pastoral perspective, but I don’t think the two need be exclusive.

    If a young pilot, soldier, or marine returns from Iraq or Afghanistan, how do we address their time in combat? Do we ask if they killed and how they feel about it? What is our role as ministers or as congregations? What prayers do we offer on behalf of our soldiers? Do we pray for our enemies? And how do we pray for them?

    Certainly the example of Amos makes us ask what role “national” sin has today, especially in a secular country. The prophetic and pastoral perspectives must go hand-in-hand with repentant and confessional perspectives. This is certainly not limited only to historical events or current events, but both. This is not limited to armed conflict and warfare, but many other sins, which is how this entire discussion opened. Certainly we are guilty of complicity in national sins, just as we have been victimized by the sins of others. What is the proper response to both guilt and victimization in this complex world we live in?

  44. Danny Says:

    Wow! Bobby, great post and discussion. Bobby, you never fail to stimulate thought and bring out fresh ways to imagine Scripture.

  45. Anonymous Says:

    were the japs allowed to bomb perl harbor?
    are we kingdom seeking by seeking to uphold a way of life so roght in the clutural dinamic of fear of a lost life? is any life really lost to god.
    my ways are not your ways…
    amos shows how deep corrupshion goes un abated through evil.and even effects the kingdom seekers.the fat cows of baseen
    .we are a multtidude of clutrual people who want to look at each other’s shovel and point at the shovel ,then never asking where the bodies are baired.
    crap i do that all the time look for someone blame and never look in the pervebal merrior through the lens of the truth.of gods righteous works and words…

    sorry about the spelling

    rich constant

  46. Zach Says:

    How about the sin of blind acceptance of the Warren Commission which set a terrible precedent?

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