Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Beheading of John the Baptist

A solemn mood hangs over those few Beaker Folk who are up this morning, as we consider the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist.

There are still those who think the Church can dictate to society on the basis of an institutional position; of a tradition of being a "Christian country" or some such appeal to inherited power and prestige.

John went to Herod and said, "you can't have your brother's wife" and so he was locked up, and eventually murdered. No need for due process of law in that cell in Herod's palace. No privilege of being part of the established church - you didn't get less established that a saint in the desert telling Roman soldiers what God wanted from them. Just a simple man, telling simple truth, and suffering the consequences.

He missed a trick, did old John. At the height of his fame - while he was still doing the hermit trick and everybody wanted him - he could have done a deal - got a little sinecure in the Temple. The "wild desert prophet" - still dressed in his loincloth during office hours, drawing the crowds with his new, slightly-less-apocalyptic message:

"After me comes one whose sandals I am not fit to fasten. He will help you all to undersstand God better. We will all feel redeemed - in a very real sense. Your spiritual lives will be revolutionised - but our society will remain as it is. Isn't that better?"

Then after work, out of the loincloth, into some crisp clean robes and back to a cosy hermitage where he could put his feet up and enjoy his new-found security. It's a hard life, after all, being a working prophet. A very hard life.


  1. Are you sure it wasn't for consorting with women and listening to music?

  2. I don't think prophets who wandered the deserts eating locusts went in for women and song much. You need the more urban saints (early lives, especially) for that.


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