Today’s feast is the Passion of St John the Baptist and I am remembering our visit to Jordan during my recent sabbatical. One of the sites we visited was the city of Madaba and the church of the Beheading of John the Baptist. In the lower crypt level is a shrine dedicated to the event which took place nearby in the fortress/palace of Machaerus–recently explored by archaeologists. Check out this video of the site.
The story is well known: Herod Antipas–one of the sons of Herod the Great–the murderous tyrant of the nativity narratives–decided to divorce his wife, the daughter of Nabatean king Aretas IV–the king who, according to my theory in Mystery of the Magi–sent the wise men to Bethlehem. He got rid of her so he could marry Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip. This act of immorality–combining divorce and re-marriage with incest–sparked the wrath of John the Baptist and Herod Antipas threw him in prison. Herodias’ daughter Salome danced before the king and so pleased him that he promised her a great wih. Her wicked mother told her to demand the head of John the Baptist–and so the prophet’s martyrdom took place.
John the Baptist’s conflict with Herod Antipas and Herodias echoes the conflict of Elijah and King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Read their story here. These conflicts with power are reminders that the illicit sexual passions are ultimately violent. Our decadent society likes to think that sex is a just a pleasurable past time–as harmless as a young girl dancing. However, within the passion of sexual pleasure lies the seed of violence. Notice how sexual deviance ends up in the realm of sado-masochism. That’s where sexual passion and endless curiosity and experimentation leads–to bondage, leather, whips and bloodshed. Popular opinion spouts the untruth that sexual playtime between consenting adults doesn’t harm anyone and therefore there is nothing wrong with it.
Should you express disapproval, however it soon starts hurting someone: the person who objected. The sexually promiscuous will lash out in anger toward anyone who, like John the Baptist, attempts to correct them or pronounce Gods’ judgement on their actions. The violence will be swift and ruthless. First in a verbal attack, then in an attempt to mock, ostracize and cancel them. In our day this violence has taken an even more subtle form. The Herod Antipases of our day pretend to play the victim. They say they are being marginalized and persecuted for their “love”. Then as faux victims, they turn their rage toward their supposed attackers.
What is this link between sex and violence? It comes about because of the distortion of sex by concupiscence and sin. Sex is, of course, supposed to be the natural link not with violence, but with the opposite of violence–life and love. But when sex is separated from God’s recipe for love: between one man and one woman for life–then sex is distorted and it tends toward violence instead of towards a union of life and love. Sexual activity that is opposed to life and love will eventually lead to the destruction of life and love. It destroys love and sex that is opposed to life will eventually take life–abortion being the prime example.
Declare these truths if you will and be prepared to join John the Baptist in the dungeon.