You have most probably heard the haunting “Coventry Carol” sung principally during the Christmas season. It recounts King Herod the Great’s massacre of all males under the age of two in Bethlehem described in the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-18. Herod had been outwitted by the three Magi who had not returned to Jerusalem, as he had requested, to inform him of the location of the child-king they had been seeking. Herod had told the Magi he wanted to worship the child. In fact, he wanted to kill any pretender to the throne Herod occupied. Human history has been filled with Herods.
Another example, another from the Bible, appropriate to reflect on today, a day commemorated by Christians worldwide as Good Friday, is Caiaphas (pronounced “kahy-uh-fuhs”). He was a Jewish high priest in first century A.D. Palestine, the son-in-law of the former high priest Annas. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Caiaphas had been appointed high priest in 18 A.D. by Valerius Gratus, the predecessor to the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate (pronounced like the word “pilot”). Caiaphas was not removed for 18 years — until Vatellius removed him in 36 A.D. One commentator has observed that, at “a time when high-priests were made and unmade by officials of Rome, and when the principal quality required seems to have been subserviency, it is no credit to the character of Caiaphas to have enjoyed their favour so long.”
The New Testament reports on a dinner at a home in Bethany. One account says it was the home of Simon “the Leper” (he could not have actually been a leper, although he could have been ostracized). The other account says it was the home of Mary, Martha, and the recently raised-from-the-dead Lazarus. In both accounts, a woman poured hugely expensive oil, equal to 300 days’ wages, on the head of Jesus. Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus, became inflamed at this “waste.” Judas went to the chief priests who were meeting in Caiaphas’ home, plotting to put Him to death. Judas asked for their price and they gave him 30 pieces of silver. (Matthew 26: 3-15; Mark 14:3-11; John 11:45-53.)
After the reports whirled in the area that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin, saying to themselves, “If we leave Him alone, all will believe in Him and the Romans will take away both our land and our nation.” Caiaphas announced that “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not speak for himself, but in his official capacity. (John 11: 47-52, 18:14.)
After His arrest, Jesus was taken to Annas, then to Caiaphas, and then to Pilate. (John 18:13, 24, 28.) Jesus was subsequently tortured and executed by crucifixion.
Caiaphas was responsible for the death of an innocent man. He had two motives: keeping his job and saving his people from Roman wrath.
Leaving history and turning to the present: Would we resist such a temptation, the temptation to kill an innocent person to save ourselves, to kill innocent people for some good?
It is very sad to report that the killing of innocents for some supposed good is done every day. And it’s not perceived as a temptation but a desirable good. The Hezbollah have no compunction in firing thousands of rockets at civilian targets in Israel. And they use civilians as human shields. We have seen the killing of innocents for some supposed good by ISIS and similar ideologues in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, and elsewhere.
But there is more to say before we Americans get on our high horse, a term used by President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast in February. The President referred to the Crusades and the Inquisition, and in modern times, to slavery and Jim Crow, as having been justified by religion. On the last two, the President painted too broad a brush. No Republican has ever justified slavery or Jim Crow at all, much less by religion. As Jeffrey Lord has pointed on these pages several times, that “honor” belongs to the Democratic Party.
Furthermore, there are more current examples that the President ignored. The President is, as Jesus said, willing to criticize the splinter in his brother’s eye, while failing to recognize the beam in his own. (Matt. 7:3-4) The President ignored abortion and the destruction of embryos. These didn’t fit in with his theme of bad acts justified by religion. But these are justified by people who deem themselves religious (or spiritual) and see no contradiction. The President and his Democratic Party support abortion and the destruction of embryos as a matter of public policy, as a public good. They have their reasons. The other major party, the Republican Party, has absolutely nothing to do with any of this. Based on its founding principles, the Republican Party consistently deplores abortion and the destruction of embryos.
What of infanticide? On Tuesday, March 31, Jeffrey Lord authored a piece on these pages entitled “The Herod Procedure: After Birth Abortion Arrives,” detailing a recently published proposal by a group of Oxford “ethicists” to allow the killing of newborns because they are not “persons.” We know how Republicans would respond to such a proposal. But Democrats? When Republicans proposed a Human Life Amendment, consistent with the Party’s founding principles and with the Civil War Amendments, the Democrats rejected it.
To the extent that abortions and the research associated with the destruction of embryos are a matter of private action, the killing of these innocents is not committed directly by the Democratic Party or our government, but nonetheless is condoned by the Democratic Party and our government. In similar fashion, Pilate informed the crowd four times that he found no fault in Jesus, certainly, he declared, nothing worthy of death. In the third instance, Pilate said King Herod (the son of Herod the Great) agreed with his judicial assessment. (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22) Ultimately, Pilate condoned the execution of Jesus. “When Pilate saw that he couldn’t persuade the crowd, but rather that a riot was starting,” in a hugely symbolic act, he “took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just person,’” but told them to do with Jesus as they wished. (Matt. 27:24)
Pilate wanted to keep his job by keeping the peace. (He did not do it because Jesus was a competitor to the emperor. Pilate had been told that Jesus was “king of the Jews,” interrogated Jesus on this point, and dismissed the charge.)
In a few days, on April 14, we will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first assassination of an American president. He was the first Republican president. Why did the states decide to secede after his November 1860 election? Because they feared he might fulfill the Republican Party’s platform. And why was he assassinated in April 1865? Because he had fulfilled the Republican Party’s platform. Lincoln never washed his hands of slavery. He was no Pilate.
Obama and his Democratic Party, however, are the true heirs of the proponents of slavery and Jim Crow and lynching. Not only because the Democratic Party of today bears the same name as the Democratic Party before, during, and after the Civil War, but because they abide by the modern equivalents of those public policies.
They are, as Jesus said, hypocrites. He told the scribes and Pharisees of His day that, although they build the tombs of the prophets, garnish their sepulchers, and say that, if they had lived in the time of the prophets, they would not have killed them, they are indeed the killers’ descendants. (Matt. 23:29-32.) No, the Democratic Party today does not advance slavery, Jim Crow, and lynching, but they do promote abortion and the destruction of embryos. Is there anything more telling than they this very day object to an anti-sex slavery, to an anti-human trafficking bill (Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, Senate Bill No. 178), because it does not allow for funding of abortions?
How dare I compare a president and a political party with the killers of Christ? My answer: I compare them to anyone who kills, or condones the killing of, the innocent, thinking they have a good reason. Truth hurts. Surely it’s an “inconvenient truth” to which they must adjust, as Al Gore would say.
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