Monday, November 21, 2016

Herodias' Hate

It is disturbing that one of the most frequently painted New Testament scenes, is of the severed head of John the Baptist. Almost every room of the Louvre displaying sixteenth through twentieth century Biblical influenced art, has a John the Baptist's head on a charger, painting.

We are especially horrified when we learn the story behind the brutal decapitation of a man who was the precursor to Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist ruffled the wrong political feathers. He dared to openly criticize the illegal marriage of Herodias to Herod Antipas. The complication was that Herodias was still married to Herod Antipas' half brother Phillip. She had never been legally divorced; her pretend marriage was considered adulterous and incestuous under Jewish law. But Herod Antipas was the government authority, the tetrarch of Galilee and Petrea, and he considered his actions above the law. Herodias allowed the charge of adultery to fester and grow with hatred and blame towards the "heretic in the wilderness." To have him imprisoned in a dungeon was not enough. She wanted his head.

Salome was Herodias' daughter by Phillip. Salome was loyal to her mother and fiercely committed to avenge her mother's bitterness towards John the Baptist. She seductively danced before her step father in such a way that it led him to promise her any desire. Her desire was the head of John the Baptist.

As I have watched some of the political hatred, I have been surprised to see how far it has gone. Each protest seems to push any precedented level of decorum just a little further. I understand the frustration and even the fear some people have expressed. I have listened whole heartedly to my own students, some of whom have Mexican ancestry and feel especially oppressed by the previous rhetoric of our president-elect. But I have a strong conviction that once the president has been elected, it is our duty to sustain and uphold the office with respect. Eight years ago, I had the same requirement when some of my students were against the election of Barack Obama. "He is now our president and we will give him his due respect. Regardless of how your parents voted or your own political leanings, we speak respectively of the office and the man who now presides."

The less divisions our country has, the better--even in a high school classroom.

Yet, my daughter points out the absolute necessity of dissension, but I counter her argument with positive dissension--dissension with respect and voiced through the proper channels--dissension that may have power to change and not power to destroy.

"But we need to keep our eye on him and not let him get away with improper behavior," she retorts.

Yes, she is right. But the right must be handled in the right way.

The cast of Hamilton handled it the right way. Though their actions will continue as debate and news fodder, they were respectful and honest. They needed to be heard. VP elect Pence also handled it the right way, "I am not offended," he said. He left the debate of impropriety to others, but he applauded the sound of democracy, even in a Broadway theatre.

The unacceptable actions in the theater, were the people who booed Pence and his family.

Where will the political disenchantment lead us? How far can hate push its little tendrils?--like the determined growth of ivy, it creeps into the mortar surrounding bricks, creeps into the slices between glass and building. It takes over, and destroys the integrity of structure.

Disappointment is justified, but to allow hate a foothold in one's heart is inviting personal destruction.

I shake my head in disbelief at Herodias' hunger that drove her to demand another human being's head on a charger. It began so simple: a political calling-out, an offense, a seed for revenge--fed, watered--enough to destroy souls.