Advent, Herod, and Liberty University

As I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I read words that made me rub my eyes to make sure they weren’t deceiving me. It turns out a prominent president of a Christian university encouraged his student body to take up arms in the event that they would be faced with a similar situation like what occurred in San Bernardino.

Jerry Falwell Jr. said, “I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in.”

There are multiple points of concern with this line of thinking. One is the notion of “more good people.” Mr. Falwell’s line of thinking presupposes that good people (however we are defining this) are morally capable of administering justice and peace if only they were armed. What this quote fails to acknowledge is the mixture of good and evil that characterizes every human being. As the great Russian writer Aleksander Solzhenitsyn has said, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.” Every human being is capable of doing the same acts we find revulsive in others.

As concerning as this first point of “good people” is, as I read Mr. Falwell’s statement (and visited his Twitter profile to make sure his words weren’t being misrepresented), I couldn’t help but notice a stark contrast in light of the Advent season we are in. Advent presents us with two ways of being in the world: the way of Jesus & the way of Herod. Click To Tweet

Advent presents us with two ways of being in the world. The way of the unarmed, infant Messiah, Jesus, and the way of the armed and fearful leader, Herod. Make no mistake about God’s approach to rescuing the world. When Jesus is born into this world, gospel writers make a point to contrast these polar opposite approaches to securing peace.

Herod is the fearful leader, anxiously using his power to take up arms to defend his power and security. He was trained to see others as a threat, whether the people in mind were so or not. The infant Jesus has taken a different approach to peace. Jesus comes to disarm Herod and the ways of his violent kingdom.

When God entered the world in the person of Jesus he came in the most surprising and subversive way possible. In coming as an infant, unarmed and vulnerable, he establishes the way of the kingdom from the onset. The kingdom will not be characterized by the way of fearful, self-protective, violent strategies. The kingdom will be characterized by the way of vulnerable trust. The kingdom will be characterized by supernatural love. The kingdom will not be characterized by fearful, violent strategies, but by supernatural love. Click To Tweet

As stunned as I was by Mr. Falwell’s statement, it produced an opportunity for my own self-reflection.  Through his words (misguided as I believe them to be), I have been focusing on my own self-protective, fearful ways. I have spent time identifying the subtle ways I choose the way of Herod over the vulnerable trust of the infant Jesus. By the grace of God I have once again come to realize the impotent way of Herod does little to contribute to true shalom and human flourishing. One of the questions I’ve been wrestling with this Advent season has been, “Is my default posture to those that threaten me one of crushing, or one of kingdom love?” This question came out of a book co-authored by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier entitled, “Living gently in a violent world.” In the book, Hauerwas contrasts his approach to opponents and adversaries with Vanier’s. His words force me to assess my posture. He writes,

Where I see an enemy to be defeated, he sees a wound that needs to be healed. That’s a deep difference.

Herod only sees enemies to be defeated. In his insecure and fearful way he preemptively wipes out those that served as possible threats to his kingdom. Herod essentially said, “let’s rid ourselves of these imminent threats before we fall into their hands.”

As I absorbed the words of Falwell Jr, they reiterated the sad and dangerous reality that the spirit of Herod permeates our country, and even our Christian churches and institutions. The spirit of Herod permeates our country, and even our Christian churches and institutions. Click To Tweet

When will we see that the way of vulnerable love is the way of the kingdom of Jesus? When will we realize that to subdue Herod with Herodian tactics further perpetuates violence and mitigates against the kingdom that we truly long for? When will we embrace the supernatural truth that perfect love casts out fear? Until we do so, we are all little Herods protecting our present with no regard for our future.

Perhaps the most insidious consequence of the way of Herod is the crushing weight that marks and diminishes our souls. Perhaps this is why Dr. King has said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Herod and his violent ways know nothing about the way to peace. His way actually bring about a false peace that ultimately continues the cycle of violence.

This Advent season is an opportunity for us to courageously entrust our lives to the one who offers true peace. It’s the way of vulnerable trust.

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