The Nature of Epiphany

Last year on January 6 we had an epiphany.  Many of us thought, I suspect, that since the angry mob wanted to kill Republicans and Democrats both that their actions would be condemned unilaterally.  Instead we learned that the Republican Party said, “Boys will be boys.”  And of course boys like to kill things.  A year later the GOP has stalwartly refused to condemn the attempt of a violent takeover of the government by a legitimately defeated candidate.  If the other party tried this they’d be calling “treason.”  We had an epiphany of a double-standard masquerading as evangelical Christianity.  Now, instead of thinking of today as the Christian epiphany, well, wait a minute.  Maybe that’s the epiphany we had—understanding what Christianity can become.

One of the tenets of democracy includes the freedom of religion.  Studying ancient religion can be quite revealing.  For one thing, we get a better idea of what religion was.  Few ancient authorities were concerned about what individuals actually believed.  Religion was largely what the powerful and influential did to placate gods who were easily bribed by sacrifice and praise.  The role of the average person was to be taxed to support this, and the monarchy.  I’ve been watching how, since the 1970s, the United States has been going that route.  We’ve always been a religious nation (“Christian” is much more debatable), but Richard Nixon’s ploy to swing evangelicals to the Republican Party worked.  Those not blinded by ideology will know that evangelicals tended to be staunchly Democrat.  Through the ensuing decades we watched Republican presidents giving our tax money to religious organizations they supported.  Why not throw another lamb on the altar while you’re at it?

The sacrificial system, you see, supported the temple staff.  Somebody had to eat all that meat!  Even in the Bible it was recognized that God didn’t exactly consume it the way a human being would.  Then last year on Epiphany, the party that’s supported just this kind of thing tried to throw all but Trump—yes, even Pence—onto their sacrificial pyre.  A year later we see those very senators saying, “well, it might be useful to have such people in reserve, just in case.”  Early Christians believed that you could tell another believer by their actions.  In that they weren’t wrong.  And those who are able and eager to kill in order to get their way have revealed, by their actions, their true beliefs.  It was, and still is, an epiphany indeed.

6 thoughts on “The Nature of Epiphany

  1. Dennis

    Just curious: the painting I’m guessing is a …. Magi…something. Who did it and why is the guy with the blue sleeves look so grumpy?

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    • Good question, Dennis. Yes, these are supposed to be the Magi. The painting is Adorazione dei Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. I don’t know anything about Murillo except that he painted this in the seventeenth century. I’m not sure why he made one of the Magi grumpy. My guess is there is some symbolism in it—he kind of looks like standard portraits of Jesus as an adult. My art history, however, isn’t my strong suit. Some research on Murillo might turn up something! Thanks for the comment.

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      • Dennis

        Thanks! I thought the painting was Baroque but Italian. (per Wikipedia)-> Murillo was Spanish very much of the Baroque period. He was a contemporary of Velasquez although it’s unclear if they ever met. Did you notice the one child staring straight out at the viewer? It’s not uncommon for patrons’ faces to show up in these works as faces in the crowd. Still the attitude of blue-sleeves intrigues me, I don’t know what to make of it.

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        • Interesting. I haven’t spent as much time with the painting as I should have. I didn’t notice the child in this one, but I have noted the figure looking at the viewer in other group paintings. My take–completely unprofessional–on blue sleeves is that he might symbolize an adult Jesus knowing what will happen to the child. That’s just a guess, but it fits with some of the theological overlay.

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