I'll give you the names of those you must kill all must die with their children
Carry their heads to the palace of old hang them high, let the blood flow
Now, in this ugly world break all the chains around us
Now, the crusade has begun give us a land fit for heroes, now
Despite all the evidence that sticking people's heads on spikes and killing does not make this world less ugly, people keep falling for the idea that it might.
I have a suggestion why this might happen.
I reckon, deep down, people are pretty stupid.
I remember hearing the late Michael Saward saying that evangelicals are suckers for a prophet. But let's face it, lots of people are. And so many of those prophets are the ones encouraging the sticking of heads on spikes.
Sometimes these prophets are Islamists. But Communists, Christians, Fascists have all killed in the name of them being right and others wrong. The use of the word "prophet" here is generic. The Puritans fled persecution in England and Holland we say. Yes - but they went to the New World and started persecution in their own right, once they got in charge.
But the temptation is embedded right into the human soul and our natures.
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. (Luke 4:5-8)Thing is, this isn't just a story in the Bible. Isn't just a forty-five year old song. This is the stuff that happens every day. Kids who think they will fix the world get lured into joining the Caliphate in Syria or Iraq and go off happy to kill all the unbelievers in horrible ways in the hope of bringing in some equivalent of God's kingdom. They think they're right. But it's hormones, idealism, narcissism and stupidity.
A group of men and a woman are competing to become the rulers of the most powerful country in the world - still, just about. Not one of them - not even Donald Trump - goes off home to their secret lair at night and gloats about how, if they win, they will use their power to cause mayhem and pain to people. They all think they're the ones that can make things better, if only they had the power.
I don't think, in planning to attack Iraq, that Tony Blair was chuckling to himself about all the death and injury and civil disturbance he would cause. I don't know what the hell he was thinking - but I do believe that he believed he was using the power he had to do things that were right.
And we - when we grab small amounts of power - in a church, in an office - responsibility because we believe we are really the right people to use it - and we tell ourselves we will be totally the right people to do it - how careful do we have to be that what we are doing is truly right? Who do we listen to - which voices do we allow to seep in to say, "you're being a bit stupid now"?
Knowing Scripture ain't the answer alone - the Devil quoted scripture. Jesus - filled with the Spirit from his baptism - even in hunger and thirst and tiredness - quoted it back but took the full meaning from it - a meaning that wasn't about self-glorification. It wasn't about the conviction that - if it was only he who had the power - he would be the ultimate kindly tyrant. Jesus in the desert is like Galadriel in Lothlorien - offered ultimate power, but at what a price?
A few prophets turn away from the spikes and heads and stuff, and accept that - if you're really in line with God's will - you're more likely to suffer than to rule. And this one prophet chose a route that led to being hung up for people to look at him instead. He was offered the whole world if he could just make one small concession to receive power. Because the route to a better world goes over a hill with three crosses on it.