Institutions Will Not Save Us

“Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem” where they told “King Herod” of their quest. They seek a newborn holy one, “We saw his star rising.” The Magi are scientists and believers open to epiphanies, to experiencing the essential meaning of divinity present in the world. They cultivate care for the natural world and all that gives birth to new life. In their wisdom, the Magi know to depart from Herod. They know he is a ruler and not open to epiphanies. He does not cultivate care for nature or life and instead devises institutions that stifle birth and cause death. The parents of “boys” “two years old and under” learned this truth when the mass murderer Herod “ordered the massacre” of their children.

Of late, institutions devised by rulers are lauded as the people’s salvation. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently proclaimed, “Institutions Saved the 2020 Election.” This and other corporate media hailed U.S. institutions for holding firm against threats. For example, media hailed the government’s 3 branches; executive with an elected president, legislative with Senate and Electoral representatives, and judiciary with a constitution. Yet it is exactly these institutions, and others, that stifle birth and cause death. The executive branch institutionalizes voting for president once every 4 years to divert from rulers ordering poverty and death every day. The legislative branch institutionalizes the Senate and Electoral College precisely for inequality in representation. The judicial branch institutionalizes constitutional protection for soldiers and ICE to kill people, including children. In a 2016 essay, Autocracy, and an updated 2020 book, Surviving Autocracy, Masha Gessen advises a less naïve view about institutions. Gessen asserts “American faith in institutions has a sort of religious quality to it. We imbue institutions in the way we talk about them with sort of magical qualities.” Gessen is originally from Russia and knows all too well institutions that stifle birth and craft a culture of death, especially under the autocrat Putin. The author asserts Putin’s protégé, Trump, in Gessen’s now adopted nation of the U.S., is himself an autocrat who also stifles birth and also crafts a culture of death (e.g. Covid-19 crimes). At the end of the autocracy analysis, Gessen oddly supports the institutions of the ruling class, placing special hope in the 4 year electoral cycle. With Trump voted out of office, Gessen asserts the U.S. system will retreat from the edge of autocracy and return to being a wise democracy. Since when and for who? For children in the U.S. suffering under institutional poverty, inequality, and inhumanity? For children around the world suffering so, and worse – Muslim children in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere? The children suffer because George Bush, with institutional support, decided to invade those nations and wage unending war. He stifled birth and caused the death of 1,000,000 people including over 4,000 U.S. soldiers – and how many children? President Bush, like King Herod, is a mass murderer. Barack Obama, with institutional support, maintained it all causing the death of over 127,000 human beings – and how many children? President Obama, like King Herod, is a mass murderer. Donald Trump, with the same institutional support, continued it all causing the death of over 20,000 human beings – and how many children? President Trump, like King Herod, is a mass murderer. Institutions devised by rulers will not save us. They will not give birth to new life. How is it that we who call ourselves Christian lack even the wisdom of the Magi? They knew to depart from and not support rulers like Herod who devise institutions that stifle birth and cause death, especially of children. They knew to give themselves to cultivating care for the natural world and all that gives birth to new life. What will it take for us to again be open to epiphanies, to experiencing the essential meaning of divinity present in the world?

Human beings creating caring communities will be our salve-ation, our healing. A ruler attempting to reform an institution guilty of deadliness into a community capable of healing, is Pope Francis. Writing from the Vatican on January 1, the World Day of Peace, he knows we do not need a deadly Herod like world. Francis writes, “a culture of care” is needed. “We have a “human vocation to care.” Care is the “ministry of Jesus” and a “culture of care (shows) in the life of Jesus’ followers.” Care is our mission for “each person,” for “every one of our neighbours, near or far.” We are to “care for” “every aspect of social, political and economic life” “which allow people” “to reach their fulfilment.”

Prayer: Holy Spirit, open me to epiphanies.

Question: What are the communities of care I am bringing to life?

January 03, 2021         Gospel Matthew 2:1-12         Feast of the Epiphany

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