The Nativity in the time of Herod

The Nativity this year will be different from other Nativities. Generally, it is the holiday of familial fraternizing. For Christians, it is the celebration of the Divine Child who came to assume our humanity and make it better.

However, in truth, in its place there appeared the horrible figure of Herod the Great, (73 BC– 4 BC), linked to the killing of the innocents. Jealous of his power, he heard that a baby king was born in his kingdom, Judah. And he ordered the killing of all little boys under two years. Then were heard some of the saddest words in the Bible: “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” (Mt 2,18).

This story of the killing of the innocents continues, in another form. The ultra capitalist policies imposed by the present Brazilian government, revoking rights, reducing salaries, cutting social benefits such as health care, education, social security, pensions and freezing for 20 years the possibilities of development have as a consequence the perverse and slow killing of the innocent, of whom great majority are the poor of our country, Brazil.

The lethal consequences flowing from the decision to consider the market more important than persons are not unknown to the legislators. Within a few years we will have a class of super-rich (there are now 1,440, according to the IPEA, about 0.05% of the population of Brazil), a middle class afraid of losing its status and millions of Brazilian poor and the excluded, who fell from poverty into misery. This implies hungry children who die from malnourishment and totally preventable diseases, adults who can find neither medicines nor access to public health, condemned to die prematurely. This slaughter has an author: a large part of the current legislators from the so-called “The PEC of death” cannot be exempted from the guilt of being the present day Herod of the Brazilian people.

The monied elites and the privileged managed to return. Supported by corrupt parliamentarians, with their backs to the people and deaf to the clamor in the streets, through a coalition of forces consisting of constables, the Public Ministry, the Military Police and parts of the Judiciary and the corporative and reactionary mass media, and not without the backing of the imperial power interested in Brazilian wealth, forced the marginalization of President Dilma Rousseff. The real motor of the coup is the financial capital, banks and lenders (who are not affected by the policies of fiscal adjustments).

The political scientist Jesse Souza denounces with reason: Brazil is the stage of a dispute between two projects: the dream of the majorities of a great and strong country and the reality of a rapacious elite that wants to usurp the work of everyone and sack the wealth of the country to line the pockets of half a dozen. The monied elite rules, by the simple fact of being able to “buy” all other elites (FSP 16/4/2016).

It is sad to show that this process of pillaging is a consequence of the old politics of conciliation between those with money, among themselves and with the governments, that comes from the times of the Colony and Independence. Presidents Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff did not accomplish or did not know how to overcome the sagacious art of this ruling minority that, with the pretext of governability, seeks conciliation among themselves and with the government, ceding some benefits to the people at the price of maintaining untouched the nature of their process of accumulating wealth at the highest levels.

Historian Jose Honorio Rodrigues, who studied in depth class conciliation, always on the backs of the people, rightly says: the national leadership, in their successive generations, was always reformist, elitist and individualistic … The art of thievery is well-known and ancient, practiced by those minorities and not by the people. The people does not steal. The people is stolen … The people is cordial, the oligarchy is cruel and pitiless…; the great success of Brazilian history is the Brazilian people, and the great deception are the Brazilian leaders (Conciliação e Reforma no Brasil, 1965. pp. 114-119).

We are living in Brazil a repetition of this malefic tradition, from which we will never liberate ourselves without strengthening an anti-power, coming from below, capable of defeating this perverse elite and of creating a different type of State, with a different type of republican politics, where the common good prevails over individual and corporative good.

The Nativity this year is a Nativity under the sign of Herod. Still, we believe that the divine Child is the liberating Messiah and the Star will generously show us better paths.

Leonardo Boff Theologian-Philosopher and of theEarthcharter Commission

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,

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