Rachel Weeps

Today is the first of 3 days commemorating "The Massacre of the Innocents" (Matthew 2: 13-18) - today  the Syrian Church marks it, tomorrow the western church, and then on the 29th the Eastern orthodox churches do... and over the next few days there will doubtless be much blogging on the recent massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown Connecticut... I've stayed broadly silent on this subject on this blog over the past fortnight, largely because I believed that it would have been somewhat self-indulgent and crass to be commenting on a situation thousands of miles away, during a period of mourning and I remember my annoyance at American commentators pontificating from across the pond about our little local difficulties.

But the parallels between the Biblical account of what happened to the children of Bethlehem and what happened in that smalltown school  are painfully obvious for all to see, right down to the fact that most estimates of the number of children to die in Bethlehem are about 20... although as a proportion of the population that would have been much larger than the Newtown event.

However, despite the massacre, Bethlehem's historic image has been suitably photo-shopped by the church,  so that most people think not of the death of 20 children, but the birth of the one child that precipitated it. I don't think that Newtown's previous claim to fame as the place were Scrabble originated will be sufficient to offset the horrors now associated with it. Whatever else flows from this event, spare a thought for those whose lives will inevitably be turned upside down, not through their immediate loss, but by association with this now notorious small town.

Certainly the media coverage and especially the free for all on the blogosphere will not have helped. The first that many outside the immediate environs of Bethlehem would have heard of the massacre there would have been perhaps 60 years later with the writing of Matthew's Gospel in or around Antioch... I doubt that 60 minutes had passed before the news of the Newtown massacre had circled the globe and prompted much comment.

And, as I have said, there will doubtless be another wave of blogging on the subject over these next few days, with many pushing a particular religious and political agenda... Now, I've got my own opinions on some of the issues being raised (and I'll come back to those tomorrow) but I am extremely uneasy that children, and more particularly their deaths, are being used by people in a big political power play... But then it was ever thus. As Stocki pointed out on his blog last week, Herod was prepared to massacre children to bolster his position of power, and today politicians (and Christian leaders) are prepared to use this massacre to bolster public opinion in favour of their platform, whether it be gun-control, prayer in school, or even opposition to Obamacare...

Whilst things must be done in the wake of such a tragedy, indeed, to do nothing would be to write off the deaths of these children as meaningless statistics, I am extremely dubious about legislation being drafted in the heat of emotions... There needs to be change, but to rush to the microphone or megaphone to push a particular agenda is both unwise and inhumane...

First, we should weep with those who weep... Not claiming that we understand their pain... We can't... But simply showing some basic humanity. Did Herod weep over Bethlehem? I doubt it. Should President Obama have wept publicly? If it was a natural outpouring of his emotions, yes he should... But then he, and other political representatives need to get on with their jobs, not bolstering their own positions or pandering to political interests, but seeking to protect the innocents and make it less likely that another American town becomes forever associated with the events in Bethlehem after Jesus' birth.

But meanwhile... Rachel still weeps...



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