John the Baptist was executed for speaking truth to power. He exposed the illegitimate and incestuous relationship of Herod with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matt. 14:4). That the slaughter of John the Baptist occurs in the midst of a sensual dance is indeed significant. It conveys that anyone who tries to disturb the intoxicated and inebriated dance of the sinful world order will be put to death. The caustic voices of dissent that thwart systemic evil will be silenced at any cost. In short, a perfect human isn’t offered a place in this sinful world. Therefore centuries before the Incarnation of Christ, Plato wrote in his 𝘙𝘦𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤; “Our just man will be scourged, racked, fettered…. and at last, after all manner of suffering, will be crucified.”
History testifies that all who did lay bare the evils of the imperial regime succumbed to the sword. Christ Himself was a victim of political vengeance for He stood a threat to the 𝘗𝘢𝘹 𝘙𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘢. The Crucifixion of Christ was evidently a state-sponsored murder. The imperial-critical hermeneutics provokes us to introspect whether we have placed the blame of the crucifixion of Christ exclusively on the Jews – a group that held no power to execute in the Roman imperial system (John 18:31) – thereby exonerating the real culprit i.e. the Roman Empire. Have we depoliticized the Cross by associating it with mere grotesque sentimentality?
The most fitting tribute that we can offer John the Baptist is to continue his legacy of sedition. A Christian shouldn’t be an accomplice but a seditious presence before the Empires of our time. Disconcertingly the gospel that many ministers preach today is distorted and imperially compromised. It no longer convicts the conglomerate of power. In fact as the preeminent biblical scholar N. T. Wright remarks; “In many churches, the good news has subtly changed into good advice.”
It appears that we are too afraid to speak truth to power for that might cost our lives. Yet this is the only way we can save our lives. As Christ says; “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).
Dayroyo Fr. Basil
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