This Sunday marked the beginning of Epiphany on the Christian calendar. For all you heathen, the next six weeks celebrate Jesus Christ as the Light of the world, Savior of Gentiles as well as Jews. God revealed this truth in many ways, whether leading the non-Jewish Magi to Christ’s cradle or testifying at His later baptism, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."
Coinciding with Epiphany this year are presidential primaries in 31 states and the District of Columbia. If those elections are anything like Iowa’s, they’ll flummox us with a mystery as old as the Magi.
The little we know of these ancient travellers comes from St. Matthew’s gospel. Whatever Magi are (some scholars translate the word as "wise men"; others take the opposite tack and go with "kings"), they reached Judea by following an unusual star. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, they dropped a bombshell: "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
They seem to have asked the city at large, but their question soon thundered through the palace of Judea’s ruler, Herod the Great Thug. Now in his 70’s and approaching death, this monster figured the Jews already had all the kings they needed in him. The Roman Senate agreed, having confirmed his title some thirty years before. Since then, he had murdered much of his family as well as countless subjects to keep his job.
Herod was one of those honest brutes who expose Leviathan’s essence. He spouted none of this of,-by-and-for-the-people cant as he pillaged and plundered. Everyone knew he was in politics for himself — and for his Roman overseers, of course. He paid Rome a hefty percentage of his take for soldiers to strong-arm Judea’s farmers and fishermen.
Herod’s wickedness dwarfs even the vilest of private criminals’. He foisted on taxpayers cruel and "costly games in which men were condemned to fight with wild beasts," incinerated 42 political opponents, and starved a couple of his sons to death after a kangaroo conviction for treason. A true politician, he seems to have publicly observed his subjects’ religious rules down to their dietary prohibition on pork. Yet he enthusiastically violated the Ten Commandments, especially the Sixth and especially among his own family. He killed so many of his offspring that Augustus famously punned about preferring to be Herod’s swine (hus) rather than his son (huios).
Herod capped a lifetime of evil with his Massacre of the Innocents. He couldn’t answer the Magi’s question regarding the Messiah’s location — though you can bet your Christmas presents he wanted to know as badly as they did. No doubt he fancied himself quite crafty when he ordered, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also." And here’s evidence for the Magi’s being kings, not wise men: God had to warn them in a dream against reporting His Son’s whereabouts to Herod. That gave Herod an excuse to kill every boy 2 years old and younger in Bethlehem and environs. The despot who murdered his own children rather than yield his throne wasn’t about to spare anyone else’s son.
Behold your government if you live in Jerusalem during the last three decades before Christ. Surely you’re hopeful, albeit secretly, every time there’s whiff of another plot to overthrow it. You probably don’t care anymore who forces Herod off his throne, so long as someone does. And hey, a newborn Rebel is as good as any, right? This One even has wealthy Magi traversing field and fountain, moor and mountain to bear Him gifts: maybe they’ll stick around to help Him oust Herod. That’s got to put a smile on your downtrodden face.
Actually, it doesn’t. Matthew tells us, "When Herod the king heard [that the Magi were seeking another King], he was troubled, and" — pay attention now, because this is just too incredible — "all Jerusalem with him." Taxpayers footing the bills for Herod’s enormous construction projects and his abominable games, victims who could be hauled to prison and tortured at a twitch of his finger, serfs whose freedoms varied with his moods, were "troubled" at the prospect of losing such misery.
The same phenomenon shows in the primaries. Political slime oozes from state to state in pursuit of the presidential nomination. They promise to kill more of our fellowmen overseas, torture those they don’t kill, extend the American empire, raise exorbitant taxes higher, spy on us wherever we go and whatever we do — in short, they vow to enslave us with more chains than Herod ever dreamed of forging for Jerusalem.
Wouldn’t you expect voters to cheer the shining exception to these dismal, dangerous dunces? Wouldn’t you think they’d stampede to Ron Paul? He alone talks of freedom and morality, peace and prosperity. He’s a giant of integrity among chattering pygmies, the one who can save us from the Republican Herods now and the Democratic ones later. True, his campaign is snowballing, with 10% of Iowa’s Republicans voting last Thursday for a Congressman most had never heard of a few months ago. But I want more. And not just Republicans and independents, either. I want 80% of all voters in New Hampshire polling for Dr. Paul, 85% in Michigan next week, 90% in Nevada and South Carolina a few days later. We can’t shoot for 100 because of Leviathan’s legionnaires: 1.75 million at the federal level, let alone the hundreds of thousands sucking our blood for the states and municipalities — a whopping 10% of the population, according to an estimate from 1996. We can hardly expect these leeches to vote for the hero who will send them out to find honest work. But what about everyone else? Yo, slaves! We can strike off the chains! We can finally live free!
No wonder Mitt and Mike and the Johns and Obama and Hillary are troubled. But how confounding that Jerusalem is, too.
Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.