Two days after Christmas Day, we commemorate the lives of the male children in Bethlehem who were killed by Herod's soldiers, when he felt betrayed by the Magi when they did not report back to him the location of the Christ child. St. Augustine of Hippo spoke of them as, “the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead sent”, and thus the Church has always seen them as the earliest martyrs.
However, beneath the paranoia and political machinations of a petty historical ruler, there was a supernatural element, an unseen spirit, at work. The same malevolent spirit that goaded Herod on to all his murderous acts (who, as an aside, was an Edomite, which means “red” in the Semitic languages of the area), was the same spirit that was cursed by God in the Garden to always be an enemy with the “woman” and her seed, and who later returned in the Book of Revelation (fittingly enough) in the form of a red dragon. Once again failing to kill the woman and her child, the dragon goes on to “make war with the rest of her offspring.”
The spirit of the Herodian dragon has persisted into our modern era, most particularly in its ongoing war against the true innocents of our time—the unborn. Yet, because of the nascent and unseen nature of the victims who cannot physically defend themselves, the Herodian spirit has also opted to wage a subtler war by weakening the resolve of those who would and should defend them.
It has done this by attacking the sanctity and integrity of the family for almost three generations now, so that in certain circles the idea of having a family is seen as just one choice among many—and an unimportant choice at that. Concurrent with the breakdown of the family is the what Jennifer Roback Morse, in her book The Sexual State, refers to as the “contraceptive ideology”, whereby “modern society should do everything possible to separate sex from making babies.” Together, these two ideas have engendered in a large segment of the younger generation a belief that wanting to have children is a bad or even detrimental thing to do.
This mentality was on full display in an article from last summer entitled “9 Brutally real reasons millennials refuse to have kids.” While the article is petulant in tone and rife with hyperbole and vulgarity, it does posit at least three real reasons that have appeared time and again in mainstream culture: financial difficulties, desire to pursue a career, and (of course) environmental reasons.
These reasons all have within them a grain of truth that warrant discussion, but the way they are presented in the article is in a manner bereft of any serious thought. Although, more to the point is that, once again, beneath these rhetorical machinations, lies the same old Herodian spirit mentioned before which continues to rob the dignity of the young in one key way.
Truth is Not Only Stranger, but Worse Than Fiction
In the 2006 film Children of Men, which was based on P.D. James' 1992 novel of the same name, the U.K. of 2027 is a police state and one of the last remaining functioning nations in a world rife with economic depression, war, and disease. Most importantly though is that the human race is in danger of going extinct since it has been suffering from a world-wide infertility problem for 18 years.
Amid the efforts of government forces trying to keep immigrants out and battling terrorist groups within, a former activist-turned-civil servant named Theo is asked to obtain papers for a young immigrant woman named Kee. She is to be transported to the Azores to a group called The Human Project, which is trying to cure humanity's infertility problem. On their journey, Theo finds out that Kee is pregnant, but rather than celebrating that fact, the government just sees her as another immigrant to round up. For their part, some terrorists want to kill Theo and use Kee as political pawn.
In one of the most moving scenes of the movie, Kee gives birth to a baby girl in the middle of a battle in a besieged building. As Theo leads her out of the building, like the shepherds in the Nativity account, the common people around them begin to weep as they realize that finally a child has been born and that there is hope for the future. Meanwhile, the terrorists and soldiers (watch what two of them do at the 2:38 mark in above link!) manage to stop fighting long enough to stop and look at the baby and let the Holy Family-like trio walk out of the battle—only to go right back to fighting when they are passed.
Unlike the fictional world of Children of Men, we do not live in a world where people are unable to reproduce, save for those who gamble with their fertility by waiting until later in life to have children. Rather, we live in a culture where too many people have been goaded—once again by the spirit of that Herodian dragon that is promulgated in state schools and the media—to willfully choose not to reproduce. Thus, we see what is, as mentioned above, the primary way young people are robbed of their dignity as human beings and what underlies the “brutally real” reasons young people won't have kids.
Whether it is based in fear or a lack of confidence in their own ability to deal with life's inevitable problems, there exists an intransigence of the will among much of the young that prevents them from seeing beyond their own immediate desires. Worse still, it is aggravated by the Progressive Left's obsession with victimhood and “systems of oppression” that effectively absolves them of personal responsibility, robs them of the dignity of moral agency, and gives them a ready-made excuse for their failures.
This has, not surprisingly, created a subculture of youth who are for better or worse stuck in a mood of, as one social commentator once quipped, “utter nihilism mixed with a touch of self-loathing, lathered in hedonism and a healthy pinch of narcissism.”
In the end, what this all amounts to is an utter rejection of the divine in general, and the Holy Spirit in particular, who as the “lord and giver of life” gives us the supernatural life of grace. Consequently, what we are left with is a culture that has become willingly ossified, not so much in the mentality of final impenitence against the Holy Spirit, leading to an eternal death, but of final impotence which for the time being leads to a moral death.
This suits the stratagem of the Herodian red dragon just fine, since by convincing the young not to have kids, he accomplishes two things: (1) encouraging more abortions and sterilizations, either chemically or surgically, in order to prevent the birth of any new children; and (2), just as the abortion industry is successful in hiding their butchery because they operate on the principle of “out of sight, out of mind,” decreasing the number of children in society as a whole decreases the chances that the young will learn to develop their protective instincts of the weak.
Instead, young adults will see kids as an anomaly and a hindrance to leading a life of freedom, like some over-demanding pet. By weakening the protective instincts towards the kids they can see, the Herodian spirit can further deaden the protective instincts and moral sensibilities towards the children they can't see. It becomes a vicious cycle. But it can and is being broken.
Honoring the Innocents
While all of this might seem rather dour, it is not the final chapter. The fact is that there is a marked change slowly happening in American society, that is bound to change such grim anti-child attitudes.
For one thing, the current crop of children, iGen, by all accounts is for more right-leaning and pro-life than the Millennials. Much of this has to do with a rather simple fact. In his 2013 book What to Expect When No One is Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster, author Jonathan Last points out that not only is there a direct relationship between being religious and having more kids, but for that last few decades the only people that have been having on average more than three kids, having them younger in life, and eschewing state schools to educate them are religious people—people who typically oppose the policies and platitudes of the Progressive Left because they are generally the same ones who can see the red dragon standing in the room. These are also the ones who castigated French president Emanual Macron on Twitter with the #postcardsformacron after he said what has to be one of the most out of touch comments made by a politician, that perfectly educated women don't have large families.
In the end, it is those who are willing to embrace parenthood and family life with all of its trials and sacrifices, who will also raise children who will be equally adamant in their own family-friendly views.
And this is how, commemorating the death of the Holy Innocents, we can honor them by committing ourselves to always fight back against the perennial spirit of that Herodian red dragon which is still running rampant in our culture. We can do this by speaking and acting against the culture of death, by encouraging and supporting strong, moral, and stable families, and by leading by example by forming and caring for our own. Ultimately, we must fight against death by begetting and nourishing life.