Reflections on Biblical Guidance for how to respond to the Tax Reform of 2017.
Herod the Great
Looking back, we knew it was going to happen.
In Scripture, Herod the Great has been backed into a corner. His Magi were supposed to tell him where the new king (predicted by the Bethlehem star) was born. They went out and never came back. Herod lost his opportunity to assassinate a threat to his throne, and the child lost to the sea of common masses (actually to Egypt, but Herod wouldn’t have known that).
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. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘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.’
A despotic king implemented a policy that deliberately targeted the innocents in an attempt to desperately cling to power in his corner of the Roman Empire.
Looking back, that type of violence was all Herod the Great knew how to do. He would never feel the effects of the violence wrought. The common people’s pain would never be felt or known or perhaps even acknowledged by him. It was a policy implemented arbitrarily and calculated to cause the most pain and suffering to people completely unlike him.
The first Christmas led to bloodshed, pain, violence, and class warfare. But all of it was after Christmas (perhaps even 2 years later).
“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” ― Sun Tzu,
Looking back, we knew it was going to happen.
This week (perhaps even as this blog is published) the Republican Party in America, whose elected plutocracy holds all three branches of government for its two-year reign, passed a Tax Bill that is brazen in its targeting of those in poverty and in the middle class, and craven in the “extras” that satisfy pet projects.
But we knew this would happen.
The Republican party, ashamed after being unable to remove Obamacare, needed one legislative victory to match the level of demonic interventions happening in the executive branch. They needed to prove to their mega-rich overlords that they could target the vulnerable and benefit the wealthy as easily as their counterparts did New Neutrality.
A calculated final push of their most harmful legislation that would ruin American opportunity for the vulnerable was placed when their waffling members would be the most receptive to desperation.
So a few days before Christmas 2017, Republicans implemented a policy that deliberately targeted the innocents in an attempt to desperately cling to power in the upper rungs of the American Empire. This Christmas 2017 will lead to bloodshed, pain, violence, and class warfare.
But we knew this would happen, didn’t we?
Why didn’t they wait?
The timing is most interesting.
The Republicans didn’t wait for Christmas, for the welcoming of the Christ Child. They didn’t match the readings of the escape to Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents. They didn’t wait.
They didn’t wait because their Savior had already come.
Their Savior had already come on January 20th, 2017. A Savior obsessed with the trappings of Empire: emphasizing crowd size, dispatching common decency, undermining the rule of law, and preaching a gospel of white Christian nationalism. A Savior to prop up the world the powers were afraid was starting to slip away.
And so, with their Savior in hand, they were not afraid of the voting masses and uprisings of the poor like Herod the Great. They were afraid of being defunded by their mega-donors. The American Empire runs because of unlimited involvement by the rich in public policy and unlimited ownership of the common areas of America by the same.
With those megadonors and corporations in hand, who could be against them?
How do people of faith respond?
This Tax Reform is Sin. Sin with a capital “S”, a systemic sin that will affect innocents before they are aware, and long after the perpetrators have retreated to their mansions and islands.
So how do people of faith respond to sin?
In Matthew’s Gospel account, Jesus and his family escape Herod by moving to Egypt. To Egypt! To the land where their ancestors had been slaves. They backtracked across the Red Sea and went back to the land of their people’s captivity in order to escape the Empire.
I take this Gospel wisdom to mean that to fight the Empire, we need to go back to where we are captives. Where we are captives of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the dark sides of capitalism. We must step across the street and see how the Empire affects the marginalized and those very different from whoever “us” is. We must name it, own it, and reform it…and that takes confronting it and going where our captivity began.
It is only when we’ve been in the wilderness of our own creation and our own privilege that we can see sin and uproot it. Jesus’ first sermon a few chapters later is “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The reign of God was near, close as a heartbeat, and the people needed to remove their blockages to experience it.
Only by confronting our captivity and proclaiming emancipation for all people can the Empire be truly and ultimately confronted and defeated.
If we don’t do this work of solidarity and reflection and advocacy, then the cycles of politics will simply rotate back to the other side which hasn’t done the emancipatory work to do Empire any different.
The work can be done in every neighborhood, community, church, and locality. In a world where the money is trickle-down (but really pretty stopped-up), our call is to trickle-up fidelity to the Gospel and solidarity with the marginalized.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing on social media.