Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money!
Allen Ginsberg, Howl
Moloch is a god mentioned in passing in Leviticus 18:21, but his presence seeps through the Bible – and most of ancient history. He is a god who thrives on the blood of the innocent.
Moloch is one of those themes that most of us assume is dead and gone and far from our daily lives – until he emerges almost larger than life.
Moloch promised – and still promises – safety, security and prosperity if only we would sacrifice our children.
And again, we act as if this transaction was too evil and ancient to even consider, but then we find ourselves in the middle of this grim bargain.
“It’s the cost of freedom” he said, on national news, with a shrug and a sense that we should all agree that the occasional sacrifice of a classroom of children is a fair exchange for those among us who long to combine a thirst for fame and blood with the latest murderous fantasy toy.
Except they’re not toys, or even tools in the usual sense. A tool is something you use to repair or build.
A semi-automatic high-powered weapon would never be used for hunting or sharp-shooting. These are mass murder weapons and everyone knows it.
Moloch has an array of soothing slogans, each as cold, shallow and contradictory as his eerie promise.
You can feel the hiss behind each one.
“Guns don’t kill people.”
Really? That must be why we train, equip and deploy our troops with yes, guns.
And “People kill people”?
Yes, any glance at human nature or history will confirm without question that people do indeed kill people; with knives, stones or anything else they can get their hands on. Doesn’t that tell us that, above anything else, we should limit what raging humans can get their hands on?
And my personal favorite slogan of Moloch, in terms of its incoherent absurdity; “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”. This one is technically true – though meaningless.
If you substitute any other noun, you immediately see how ridiculous it is; “If donuts are outlawed, only outlaws will have donuts”.
This is a monument to surreal, but somehow soothing, circular logic.
I hear people use these slogans as if they believe them, with the conviction of the entranced.
Allen Ginsberg, especially in his poem “HOWL” rages against a culture (1950s America) that readily, even eagerly sacrifices its children to Moloch for the vaporous promise of security and prosperity.
Ginsberg rails against conformity and complacency and a life lived among slogans and simple solutions.
Moloch is an relenting, never satisfied god who claims our children, and everything we love, in exchange for vapid promises of ‘security’, ‘safety’ or ‘freedom’.
What kind of soul-dead human being could believe, or choose to believe, that the sacrifice of children is worth any ‘freedom’?
This isn’t freedom. In fact it is slavery and deception of the highest order.
As our children die, we don’t feel a surge of freedom. We feel a surge of rage and powerlessness.
Moloch raises his evil head and mocks us.
And we ‘howl’ in pain and shame that we have swallowed the lie once again.
But we can do more than howl.
We are not slaves of Moloch any more than we are slaves of history.
We can refuse the tantalizing easy answers of more guns – or even more laws.
We can resist the gravitational pull of revenge and internalized violence.
We can claim our destiny; we can work toward a more – not less- human community.
This is not the time for a one-size-fits-all answer. But it is the time to say ‘No more. This is not the world we want to hand off to our children. We can, we will, do better than this.’
Moloch never has enough, and if we believe his lies, we will never have true freedom. Or dignity.
We can live in the bland, numbing fear of these slogans or we can speak the costly, sacrificial, complicated truth.
We can sacrifice, again and again, our children to a lie, or we can protect them with something vastly better than armed guards; our presence, our belief in them, our protection, our guidance and our prayers.
It is a strange message indeed when we tell our children security is based on killing power. But some of us have not forgotten that our security is never in our weapons (Zechariah 4:6).
And to Moloch, and all who act in his name and repeat his empty slogans, we all need to say ‘no more’.
We forget – or deny – that God alone has authority over life and death (1 Samuel 2:6-8). And God pleads with us to turn away from the lie and choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
But the pinch-faced, hostile faces of the current prophets of Moloch make their hollow pronouncements and propose armed guards at every school, at every entrance, or every classroom, perhaps even every student, but to what end?
Personal safety recedes, like the drug addict’s pleasure until even they are weary of the blood-letting.
The ultimate irony though, is that many of these proponents of death call themselves Christians.
And Christians take as a core belief, that we are redeemed, or saved, by His blood.
No other sacrifice is needed – and none would be sufficient.
From a theological perspective, this is heresy at its core – that we could imagine that we would find ‘security’ in our own weapons or ‘salvation’ in increased firepower is delusional if not blasphemous.
God tells us that He will avenge, that is clearly not our role, but this is also the God who forgives and by his loving-kindness and winsomeness wins our hearts.
Turning swords into plowshares is a sign of God’s kingdom (Isaiah 2:4). Investing our personal, as well as our national budgets – and our national attention to weapons is just another indication of our allegiance to death.
We don’t need an enemy, we are killing ourselves, but the gun apologists would tell us not fast enough.
Death and destruction, Proverbs 27:20 tells us, are never satisfied.
But why are we so passive?
What have we become?
We have become silent and complicit witnesses in our own destruction.
If anything, we are at war with ourselves – or with a fantasy of ourselves.
But if I were the parents, or grandparents, of any of those children killed, I would, for years, feel as if I had been pulled inside-out with an aching seemingly eternal numbness.
And it is out of respect for them, and their 100% preventable pain, that I urge the rest of to stir our petulant Congress to put aside their ideologically driven agendas and legislative inertia and step up in courage, and yes, even sacrifice to do what our nation’s soul cries out for.
What would this look like?
But we do know that climactic events create leaders.
And we know that history will judge whether we acted in courage or craven fear.
We have been captive to fear long enough.
Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.