WHEN THE PROPHET AMOS walked down the main drag, it was like a shoot-out in the Old West. Everybody ran for cover. His special target was the "beautiful people," and shooting from the hip, he never missed his mark. He pictures them sleek and tanned at Palm Beach, Acapulco, St. Tropez. They glisten with Bain de Soleil. The stereo is piped out over the marble terrace. Another tray of Bloody Marys is on the way. A vacationing bishop plunges into the heated pool.
With one eye cocked on them, he has his other cocked on the unbeautiful people—the varicose veins of the old waiter, the pasty face of the starch-fed child, the Indian winos passed out on the railroad siding, the ragged woman fumbling for food stamps at the check-out counter.
When justice is finally done, Amos says, there will be hell to pay. The happy hour will be postponed indefinitely, because the sun will never make it over the yardarm. The cashmere sweaters, the tangerine-colored slacks, the flowered Lillys will all fade like grass. Nothing but a few chicken bones will mark the place where once the cold buffet was spread out under the royal palms.
But according to Amos, it won't be the shortage of food and fun that will hurt. It will be the shortage "of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11). Toward the end, God will make himself so scarce that the world won't even know what it's starving to death for.
- Originally published in Peculiar Treasures