Yesterday, December 28, we commemorated the murder of innocent children, quite oddly just three days after we celebrated Christmas. The story is something we are all familiar with: Herod ordered to kill boys two years old and below in Bethlehem, hoping that Jesus would be among those who will be slaughtered. This is not something unique, several centuries earlier the Pharaoh of Egypt decreed the killing of Hebrew male infants. The Bible gives us a gripping narrative.
The slaughter of the Hebrew children in Egypt was decreed by a Pharaoh who knew nothing of Joseph (Joseph here is Joseph the Dreamer). Probably because Joseph had died a long time already. We read from Exodus 1:8-16, 22 “A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his subjects, ‘Look how numerous and powerful the Israelite people are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase; otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave our country.’”
The story goes that the Pharaoh then commanded all his subjects to “Throw into the river every boy that is born to the Hebrews, but you may let all the girls live.” Notice that gender preference comes with killing of infants.
Now let us move forward to Saint Quodvultdeus, not a very popular saint, but he had a very nice homily pertaining to the death of children. He reflected on Herod and what drove him to kill so many children. Quodvultdeus says, “Why are you afraid Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.” He goes on, “You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.”
Only the history recorded in Exodus qualifies as a measure for population control. Herod had another agenda for killing children. Both are serious deeds. If you take for example Herod’s command of killing boys at the age of two and below it’s literally wiping out several generations of Hebrew people.
These events in history are so ingrained in Christian and Catholic tradition and consciousness. At least for those who are aware of their history. We are talking here of the Kingdom of Egypt and the Kingdom of Israel ordering the mass killing of boys. It would not be far-fetched that this practice happened in other kingdoms as well. When taken seriously, we would easily understand why the Catholic Church is so allergic to any forms of ‘population control.’ Not simply because it is a religious thing to do, but because of history – probably even drawing from the Church’s own history as well. These measures were never good for any society.
Population control is a pejorative term, no matter how you sugarcoat it. Let us list the common elements we find in Pharaoh’s and Herod’s decrees: 1. infants, 2. murder, 3. fear, 4. power. You can list more, but the most important thing is to pinpoint the root of it all – fear.
There never was a sincere desire for the welfare of others that starts with fear.
It is still Christmas season. The birth of Christ is a light to the world. Literally. He was born in a society where men enslaved men, politics served only the powerful, the rich remained rich – a society where men bring their own darkness to one another. Not really different from ours. Come to think of it, God really is light, that’s why he came to us for man cannot produce his own. Nietzsche tried, but he could not start a fire.
Merry Christmas! Christ’s was a hard-won birth.