What Empires Do (A Holy Innocents Day Thought)

Unless I’m reading my calendar wrong, today is the most meaningful day in the liturgical year for me; Holy Innocents Day. And never has the traditional lectionary selections for this day been more prescient.

First is Jeremiah 31:15-17…..

15 Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
   lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
   she refuses to be comforted for her children,
   because they are no more.
16 Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
   and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work, says the Lord:
   they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
17 there is hope for your future, says the Lord:
   your children shall come back to their own country.

Then there’s Matthew 2:13-18…..

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

Now, I normally don’t say “X” is about exactly “Z” when it comes to the Bible, but this Holy Innocents Day the lectionary passages are striking.

Trump is Herod. And the American Empire–like the Roman Empire–in the hands of a madman will slaughter all the marginalized innocents in its (majority’s) path. Just this month there have been two refugee children, Jakelin Caal (age 7) and Felipe Alonzo (age 8), have been allowed to die while in the hands of agents of the Empire.

But lest we get comfortable thinking that this will change once the Trump madness is over, it won’t. Because empires, no matter who is at the top, will work to destroy its marginalized innocents. If you don’t believe that, just remember that Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water 5 years and many lead poisoned children later. (and that’s just one example)

Empires are evil friends. That’s why the Prophets spent so much time talking about how Israel should treat its own people, and how they transgressed.

So, the next time the American Empire does something (like continue to support the starvation and slaughter of Yemenese children), remember Herod. The reason he ordered the slaughter of the innocents was because he was scared and wanted to stay in power.

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The United States Is Not A Democracy. Stop Calling It One.

Before you jump in the comments to say that it is, answer this question:

When have African Americans had unfettered access to the vote?

With everything that is going on in Wisconsin, and Michigan. With the voter purges (of mostly Black and Brown people) in Ohio and other places. With North Dakota enacting a voter ID law that makes it plain that it was targeting First Nations. With Florida trying to reverse the vote that re-enfranchises 1.4 million people (most of whom are Black and Brown). Outright election rigging/theft in North Carolina. And let’s not even get started talking about Georgia. After this year’s midterm elections, one thing comes to mind…

The U.S. is not (and never has been) a democracy. It’s time to stop saying that it is one.