For a Time Like This
by Robert Hamerton-Kelly
January 7, 2007
Scripture: Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he that has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.'” –Matthew 2:1-2
“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.” –Matthew 2:16
Friday’s NYT had a colored photo on its front page of Nancy Pelosi, mother of five and grandmother of several more, waving the gavel of the U S House of Representatives over her own head and the heads of about twenty children, of both sexes, from a babe in arms to a 13 year old girl. This sight moved me; it struck me at the preverbal level where energies like hope are lodged. I do not expect the Democrats to solve the problem of Iraq, in fact I expect that problem to get worse, as the President sends good money after bad, and live soldiers after dead, nevertheless the picture of a woman and children in the place where formerly I saw only males in suits, refreshes and encourages me.
I remember the message of Christmas, that the power of God is the power of the bond between a mother and her baby, and I understand why the devil strikes always at that link of love, chiefly through war. Recall, according to the gospel, the politicians led by Herod killed all the newborn boys in Bethlehem in case the Wise Men were right and a baby king had been born there to usurp political office. If you think it an exaggeration that a politician could kill all the boys of a certain age in a small town, you have not paid attention to the history of Europe during the last decade or two. The murder of whole villages is what politicians normally do, and I emphasize normally, to gain and hold power.
If you wish to contest this “normally,” I refer you to the voting records on pollution of rivers, soils, waters and atmosphere, facilitated for business’ sake, and piously presented as service of constituents in search of jobs. I refer you to the mpg limits of Detroit as compared to every other auto maker in the world, and to the non-regulation indeed promotion of global warming sources. As in Herod’s time so in ours, it is not the ordinary folk who kill each other, it is the rulers, the political, commercial and military powers in the land who feed children to the monsters of power and productivity. If you think this is an exaggeration or simply a lie, you are simply ignorant or probably willfully ignorant of the state of affairs in our civilization today. Here is as close to a fact as one can get: when I came into this world in 1938 there were 2 billion human beings on the planet; today there are 7 billion, and if I live for another 20 years there will be 9 billion when I depart. that is, 2000 generations to 2 billion, two generations to 7 billion, 1 generation to 9 etc. We know that catastrophic change is underway that will leave us no second chance, that the future will not be like the past granting us reprieve after reprieve, and that despite all this, our governors govern not in the light of this future but rather in the light of a selectively viewed past, and not for children like Tamsin, but for themselves, and the families that they fondly think will not be victims of the crimes they are committing against our life support system.
When we look to the gospel for guidance we see the truth: we see wise men worshiping Jesus and politicians murdering children. This is the bleak alternative of reality, not an exaggeration or a scare story. One last hint at what a justification of this claim might look like: Who do you think is responsible for the daily murder of children in Iraq? Every politician in the US government starting at the top, and in the Iraqi government; for war is the function of government. I challenge anyone to refute that claim, and there I leave it.
Wise men came to worship Jesus, probably the last time that a wise person came out of the near east; ever since that region has produced mostly asses and assassins. Were those wise men disappointed because they found a peasant boy in his young mother’s arms in a stable? Did they withhold their worship because they had expected something more this worldly, more conventionally powerful? No they did not, and they are to be congratulated not only as the world’s most insightful politicians, and the world’s most acute connoisseurs, but also as the world’s most superb scientists. Only the last point needs elucidation here, they were real scientists because they were able to accept the results of their research even when it turned out to be clear contrary to what they has expected. They came for a king and they found a kid, and they received the kid as their king. They came for power and they found love, and they received love as power.
So in that space where all the nations focus when they look for political power and empirical truth the wise men show us a young mother fondling and guarding her little baby and a brave man standing guard over them knowing precisely that this is not his child. That is what we see in the Christian center of reality: Baby trust, young mother love, and male generosity. Rosemary reminds me every Christmas that Jesus got his earthly image of God as father from Joseph his earthly father-figure, and what was salient about this Joseph? Joseph did not turn his young fiancée over to the reprisals due fornicating teenagers; he broke with the barbarism of the regnant patriarchy, overcame his male pride and covered her and her child with his care. He took her shame into himself and covered it over. Today in Muslim communities young women are murdered by their fathers for being pregnant as a result of rape – as happened many times in the Balkan wars of the last decade.
So in that space where all the nations focus for power and truth we Christians have placed baby trust, mother love, and fatherly courage and kindness. I think that the transformation of Joseph is the most radical example here, showing us how to be a Christian man: to defy social custom so as to protect a girl from dishonor and death, to overcome ones own sense of male entitlement, implanted by social custom and evolution and undertake to raise the offspring of another.
So far a recapitulation of the Christmas message as represented by the Wise Men, who endorse it by presenting gifts and worshiping before it. The challenge of Epiphany is the question: How shall we make this message known and then effective in the wider world? My thinking for this sermon is wedged between two movies: one a CD called, “Islam, What the West Needs to Know” and another a movie by Al Gore, called “An Inconvenient Truth.” I recommend both of these strongly; the former is available from Amazon and www.whatthewestneedstoknow.com and the latter is on cable pay per view. The first shows beyond doubt the Islam is not a religion of peace but a militarist program for the domination of the world, beginning with the West, and the latter shows that the life of the planet is in extremis. Global warning is no longer subject to scientific doubt but is now in the same category as the link between smoking tobacco and lethal health consequences that the industry denied for so long and is now paying for so dearly.
There is no time to explore the ramifications of this here but let me try one suggestion. Islam is deliberately out to dominate us, that is, to control our politics and change our culture – that is, for example, to allow fathers and brothers to kill illicitly pregnant teenagers, or even those who go on unchaperoned dates, and to reduce women to chattels, less valuable that fine horses. We make possible this effort by the petrodollars we pay them, and thus we finance our own destruction. What would Christ’s message be to this world? Defend my Christian culture; cherish my mothers and sisters; save my planet. We can do both of these things, because we are a superior culture to Islam, and have shown in the past how flexible we can be. Where might we begin? Why not with conscientious conservation of oil-related energy? Why not a national effort to move away from oil as a source of power, and curb our consumption to the point where we can cater it from our own resources?
Everything I have said here is the tip of an iceberg of fact and argumentation. I have not doubt that much sounds extreme to some, but that is because those hearers are ignorant, willfully or lazily. Islam is a violent enemy of Christianity and our culture; petrodollars finance Islam’s war against the West. This is absurd; lets take steps now to curb the outflow of petrodollars and educate ourselves so that we can monitor the influx of Muslim propaganda, to the effect that Muhammad was a prince of peace when in fact he was a warlord with a program to subdue the whole world to the cruel customs of Arab nomads.
In the CD, “Islam: What the West should Know,” there is a long cut of a recent sermon in a Baghdad mosque. The corpulent mullah works himself up into a frenzy, shouting, sobbing, singing, crying, “Kill the Jews, Kill the Jews, Kill the Jews!” while swinging a scimitar in circles over his head. The mob responds ecstatically. When Hitler did such things at the Nuremberg rallies in the 30’s of last century most decent people discounted the significance of this vulgarity, George Bush’s grandfather continued to provide the Third Reich with financing and war materiel, and Churchill was in the political wilderness. As I watched this Baghdad mullah I saw Hitler as he is in Leni Riefenstahl’s movie, “Triomphe der Wille,” and I realized that we are at a comparable historical crossroads, with comparably corrupt and depraved political leadership. Where is our Churchill?
Well, they often said that Churchill’s chubby face reminded one of a baby. Any significance in that? For a time like this, only Christ is sufficient, “Come Lord Jesus!” In the mean time our Christian culture demands responsible action. I believe such action demands oil reform. Let’s go to it.