Herod's Henchmen

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“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” ~ Matthew 2:16

Christian apologists for the state, its leaders, its military, and its wars are not known for being the most consistent group of religious people. They are, in fact, some of the most inconsistent, hypocritical, duplicitous, two-faced people — religious or irreligious — that one will encounter when it comes to people who defend the state’s military adventures. They may otherwise be good, godly, conservative disciples of Christ who don’t drink, smoke, dance, or gamble, but when it comes to the subjects of war, the military, and U.S. foreign policy, they can turn into crazed warmongers faster than Barack Obama used the word “change” in a campaign speech.

Ignorance greatly abounds, of course. But much of this is willful ignorance. It is one thing to be ignorant, but it is stupid to make a career out of it. Who else of all people should be opposed to war, militarism, nationalism, and imperialism than Christians who claim to believe the Bible, obey its precepts, and worship the Prince of Peace? Yet, it is conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist Christians who continue to be among the biggest defenders of Bush’s war in Iraq, the U.S. military, and American foreign policy. I know this is the case, not only because they themselves write to me and call me a liberal or a pacifist (I am neither), but because many of them are pastors whose church members write to me because they are so frustrated that their pastor is so blatantly partisan, willingly ignorant, and laughably inconsistent.

We can see the inconsistency of these imperial Christians in — of all places — the Christmas story found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Most people are familiar with the details. Wise men came to King Herod after the birth of Jesus looking for “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). After finding out from the leaders of the Jews that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, Herod instructed the wise men to “go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also” (Matthew 2:8). But after finding the Christ child, and after presenting him with gold, frankincense and myrrh, the wise men were “warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod” (Matthew 2:12). Herod, as most rulers — ancient or modern — was a despicable individual. He was guilty of many acts of brutality, including the killing of one of his many wives and some of his children. After Joseph was instructed in a dream to flee into Egypt with the young child and his mother because “Herod will seek the young child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13), the monster Herod, “when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).

Herod did nothing of the kind.

No, I am not a Bible critic who maintains that the “massacre of the innocents” never happened or dismisses it as more hagiography than history.

Herod did nothing of the kind — but his henchmen did. Not only could Herod have not possibly killed all of these children himself; the leaders of the state always rely on their nationalistic and patriotic subjects to do their dirty work.

The first martyrs for Christ were put to death before he was. They were killed by order of the state. But just like Bush and Cheney have not themselves actually killed anyone in Iraq, Herod is likewise not guilty of actually killing any of these young children. Yet, many of the same Christians who maintain that Herod has blood on his hands go out of their way to absolve Bush and Cheney of their war crimes.

Oh, the inconsistency of Christian warmongers! Oh, the inconsistency of Christian apologists for the state and its wars!

Christian, are you one of Herod’s henchmen? Would you commit infanticide if the government told you to do so? Then why did you vote for a man whose motto was “Country First”? Why do you incessantly recite your “obey the powers that be” (Romans 13:1) mantra? Why do you make excuses for the genocide that the United States has unleashed in Iraq? Why do you dismiss bombed Afghan wedding parties as collateral damage? Why do you defend an imperialistic and interventionist U.S. foreign policy? Why do you encourage us to pray for the troops as they mete out death and destruction to Iraqis in a war that has nothing to do with defense of the country? Why do you continue to support the Republican Party in light of that Party’s profligate spending, massive increase in government, mockery of the Constitution, destruction of civil liberties, and open-ended wars? Why do you applaud U.S. soldiers as heroes and defenders of our freedoms when they are neither?

How many Afghan and Iraqi babies and children have been killed by the U.S. military? Sadly, many Christians not only don’t know, they don’t even care.

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