“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, you who oppress the weak and abuse the needy… Truly the days are coming upon you when they shall drag you away.” Amos 4:1,2
In The Dukes of Hazzard, the spirit of the prophets lie in the fun-loving Southern cousins Luke and Bo Duke (playfully played by Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott).
But these prophets don’t live in the deserts of Israel or Judah, but in the Appalachian countryside of Hazzard County, Georgia; and while their goals in life aren’t the most noble, they do have a mission to stand up for a higher cause, which for the Dukes is the honor of family, friends, and fellow neighbors in the county.
Against this backdrop is the story of a corrupt county commissioner, Bogg Hogg (Burt Reynolds), who has plans to tear the unspoiled land away from the residents of Hazzard to make way for a coal mining operation. What makes Hogg so dangerous is that, to most people, he is an upstanding public official, when in reality he plots against the very citizens who trusted him with their votes. Perhaps by an accident of cinematic fate, it is the Dukes who see him for who he really is, and for the rest of the film, it is their goal to make a stand against his deception, corruption, and abuse of power.
In the media frenzy prior to the opening this supposedly ‘un-Christian’ movie, we must recognize the difference between what is precarious and what is truly evil or wrong. The Dukes are not evil, just a little mischievous. In the face of a greater wrong, Bo and Luke perform a little civil disobedience of their own in the form of high-speed chases, prison breaks, stealing Hogg’s large metal safe, and a little backroom moonshine business.
But Boss Hogg is truly a “cow of Bashan,” a term Amos used to describe those idolatrous Israelites who abused the power and trust given them by the people.
Amos saw it when others did not. Likewise, a few centuries later, John the Baptist saw it in the Temple priests of Jerusalem. In our time, Mahatma Gandhi saw it in the British colonial governors and Martin Luther King Jr. saw it in the high society of the 1960s.
Each generation has its prophets, and each generation has its critics. And more often than not, the critics win. As Christ said, “You are sent prophets and wise men, and some you kill, others you scourge, and still others you run out of your synagogues and towns.” (Mt. 23:34). What side do we stand on? The prophets or the critics?
In today’s world, we must seek out the prophets and listen to them. They are not the most popular, but more often than not, they are right. Conversely, we must open our eyes to corruption no matter how nice it appears on the surface or how many others are going in that direction. We are called to be prophets, too, to defend the marginalized, to take action for justice, and to point out corruption, abuse, and injustice in all its forms.