Greg Abbott, King Herod, and December 28th

James Taylor in Concert (h/t photographer Elizabeth Warren. Yes, that Elizabeth Warren)

Last January 5th, I wrote a post about a James Taylor song, “Home By Another Way,” which retells the story of the Magi and their interactions with King Herod. (OK, it wasn’t *only* about old King Herod and the old Magi, but at least as much about their modern heirs.) According to Matthew’s gospel, the wise men first came to King Herod, asking where to find this new king, and Herod tried to turn the wise men into unwitting spies. “Look in Bethlehem,” he told them, “and when you find this new king, let me know so that I can worship him as well.”


The wise men, says Matthew, were warned in a dream about Herod and his deceit, and so they “went home by another way” (thus the title of JT’s song) to avoid going back to Herod.

That’s actually only half of the story, December 28th is the day in the liturgical calendar where the second half of that story gets told. Spoiler alert: it is *not* pretty.  From Matthew, with emphasis added:

Now after [the wise men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

Let that sink in for a minute. According to Matthew’s Christmas story, Joseph took Mary and the newborn Jesus and fled their home country out of fear for their lives. In other words, Jesus and his parents were asylum-seeking refugees.

Which brings me to Greg Abbott. From the Washington Post:

Three buses full of migrants arrived at Vice President Harris’s residence in Washington from Texas on Christmas Eve amid bitingly cold weather, a mutual aid group said, the latest in an influx of newcomers sent to the Northeast by Southern states.

About 110 to 130 men, women and children got off the buses outside the Naval Observatory on Saturday night in 18-degree weather after a two-day journey from South Texas, according to the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network. On the coldest Christmas Eve day on record in the District, some migrants were bundled up in blankets as they were greeted by volunteers who had received word that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had sent the caravan.

Volunteers scrambled to meet the asylum seekers after the buses, which were scheduled to arrive in New York on Christmas Day, were rerouted due to the winter weather. In a hastily arranged welcoming, a church on Capitol Hill agreed to temporarily shelter the group while one of the mutual aid groups, SAMU First Response, arranged 150 breakfasts, lunches and dinners by the restaurant chain Sardis.

Greg Abbott takes refugees fleeing for their lives and ships them into the teeth of a horrible winter storm, without warning, without proper clothing, and without any plans for what happens when they arrive. On Christmas Eve, of all times. “Look how tough I am!”

Thank God Greg Abbott wasn’t ruling in Egypt when Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were fleeing for their lives.

On the liturgical calendar, December 28th is called “The Slaughter of the Innocents,” to which JT’s song gives a nod:

Steer clear of royal welcomes
Avoid a big to-do
A king who would slaughter the innocents
Will not cut a deal for you
He really, really wants those presents
He’ll comb your camel’s fur
Until his boys announce
They’ve found trace amounts
Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh.

To be clear: these asylum-seekers were fleeing from the very real King Herods in various Central American countries, who posed very real threats to their own lives. But when they reached Texas, Florida, and Arizona, Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis, and Doug Ducey acted like little Herods themselves, rather than following the example of the unnamed Egyptian leader in Matthew’s story. They really, really want that oval office, and they’ll do whatever they think will preserve their political power now and put them on a path to accumulating more power down the road. Who cares how many people have to die, right?

Once upon a time, the GOP was a party that billed itself as Christian. Today, apparently, not so much.

If you’d like a different vision of how Christians respond to refugees, let me direct you to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (emphasis in the original):

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is the largest faith-based nonprofit dedicated to serving vulnerable immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees in the U.S. Simply put, we resettle refugees, reunite children and parents, and rekindle the American Dream. 

For more than 80 years, LIRS has been a champion for migrants and refugees from around the globe. Our legacy of compassionate service has made a difference in the lives of more than 500,000 people who have sought safety and hope in America’s communities. Our history reflects our own deep immigrant roots and passionate commitment to welcoming newcomers, especially those who are most in need.

Three words for today, and — spoiler alert — one of these voices is not like the others:


“When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” Rooted in faith, LIRS believes that we are called to welcome those fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States.

SAMU First Response:

Given the migration crisis at our nation’s capital, SAMU First Response is delivering humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers arriving from Texas and Arizona. We are providing respite care to the children, women and men arriving to Washington, DC. Our support to these migrants aims to reinstate a sense of security and dignity so they can continue their journey.

Greg Abbott: What do you mean by “welcome” and “humanitarian”?

Happy Slaughter of the Innocents Day, sponsored this year by the Office of the Governor of Texas. In his honor, might I suggest donations be made to LIRS and SAMU First Response?

Sing it again, Brother James!



34 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    A lot of Abbott’s fellow Christians say that they only have to be nice to members of their own sects. Or their own congregations. Or just people who agree with them on everything. Or …anyone but people who aren’t white male conservative Xtianists. Women? LGBTQ people? Not them, they’re not deserving of rights.

  2. Katherine Williams says:

    I’m thinking about the people who actually rounded up and placed the refugees on the bus, and the driver who took them thru the worst storm in the country this century. The ‘Good Germans’ Gov. Abbott relies upon to do his bloody bidding.

    How are they feeling about their actions? “I was just following orders.” ? Or did they delight in their cruelty?

    • Rugger_9 says:

      Unfortunately, probably both. The thing to remember about the Dominionists (they are indirect violation of several Gospel passages by their actions) is that they believe their souls are cleansed of all sin when they were forgiven while joining the flock. Once forgiven, they can sin no more no matter what they do and if there is a quibble long the way that too can be forgiven every Sunday. It leads to a mindset that accepts no accountability aside from God’s judgement and perhaps the judgment of their fellow sect members. Since they also believe God talks to them they assume God is OK with this. Maybe they need to read Matthew more carefully (the Didache [=Teachings] that predates the Gospels is too egg-headed to consider).

      Of course, the migrants were subhuman to them. I wonder whether they were enticed by another Perla or simply kidnapped across state lines by Abbott (which I thought made it a federal crime).

  3. Raven Eye says:

    Thank you, Peterr.

    I can’t get over the utter callousness of dumping people curbside at some place in a foreign land in order to score some short-term political points.

    You prompted me to make a couple of donations — this may get worse before it gets better.

  4. ernesto1581 says:

    and a bit older, from Coventry:

    Herod the king, in his raging,
    chargid he hath this day
    all men of might in his owne sight
    all yonge children to slay.

    That wo is me, pore child, for thee,
    And ever morne and may
    For thi parting nether say nor singe,
    By by, lully, lullay.

  5. mass interest says:

    Is the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS) involved in the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)?

    • Peterr says:

      Not institutionally, although they may cooperate with LIRS on specific projects. LIRS is connected with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and was founded years earlier by the groups that merged to form the ELCA in 1988.

      ETA: The LCMS has had a back-and-forth vision of cooperation with other Lutheran church bodies over its history. At times they have been closer and at other times more distant. Right now, they are at the “more distant” end of the spectrum.

      • mass interest says:

        Thanks, Peterr.

        I found it “interesting” that, during the Christmas morning liturgy at an area LCMS church, not a mention was made of the immigrant drop-off in DC the night before. LCMS seems, in my experience, to drift according to political climate over time.

        • nord dakota says:

          The Missouri Synod rejects the theology of most Lutheran churches and only allows members to participate religiously with churches “in fellowship” with the LCMS. In the US, this is limited to the American Association of Lutheran Churches. After 9/11, a LCMS pastor was removed from his position for participating in an ecumenical memorial service (which included Jewish and Muslin clergy as well as Christian) shortly after the attack. The refugee service collaborates with the ELCA, with which the Missouri Synod is decidedly in fellowship.

          They are pretty big on the concept of obedience to civil authorities–you can help undocumented immigrants, but you’re not allowed to hire them, for example, and probably not allowed to hide them when ICE comes knocking.

  6. posaune says:

    Wonderful post, Peter. Thank you.
    It felt a lot colder than 18F on Christmas Eve here in DC, with a pretty good windchill.
    Many of the bus riders did not have a coat (or gloves or hats)! The multitude of white blankets handed out to each likely provided barely adequate warmth. I was hoping that Natl Cathedral would take them in, just up the street. What a Christmas story! Abbott revelling in cruelty! And there were 90K people in TX without power.

  7. Former Philadelphian says:

    Peterr, thanks for your post and your perspective on the Massacre of the Innocents. Many years ago, my mother gave my family a print from an Irish artist depicting the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. I’ve always loved the depiction of this event because it was done in a recreation of early medieval Irish figurative art. I didn’t generally think more deeply about the significance of what was being depicted in the print until TFG became president. Since that happened, I’ve come to a deeper appreciation of the flight into Egypt as a parable for how we should treat refugees and immigrants in our country today and as an occasion for sending spiritual and material support to the refugees and to the organizations that serve them. Thanks for the tip about LIRS. I’ll definitely be donating to them.

  8. harpie says:

    they’ll do whatever they think will preserve their political power

    How utterly, utterly dispiriting
    to know that that political power abides
    in actual people, who could make other choices.

  9. BruceF says:

    I would suggest there is only one solution to these abominations. Northern/Democratic governors begin to pardon violent criminals who agree to get on a bus to Florida, or Texas! We can be too soft and high minded in our responses at times. At some point Abbott and Raunchy D need to get a taste of their own medecine!

    • Peterr says:

      For those who know the story of Herod, it’d be hard for Herod *not* to come to mind when you hear about Greg Abbott’s Christmas Express.

  10. joel fisher says:

    Christians–actual Christians, that is– will pray that the typical GOP incompetence rises to the rescue and, thus, these refugees will be taken care of by decent people of all faiths and, as time passes, be woven into the fabric of of the US. Exactly the opposite of the outcome hoped for by the loathsome Governor. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

  11. Alan Charbonneau says:

    I live in Texas and I cannot stand Abbott and his deliberate cruelty and lies. In his debate with Beto, he was asked if he coordinated with the cities he was shipping migrants to. He gave an evasive answer involving “self-described sanctuary cities”, but essentially the answer is no, they don’t try and coordinate with anybody, they just put human beings on a bus and count the political points they score. He is a despicable man.

    • gmoke says:

      I’ve read some reports that the cities and the refugee support groups would be happy to coordinate with Abbott’s buses as most refugees are not planning to stay in Texas and trips to NYC or DC may be useful to them IF there was coordination to provide them with the services they need.

  12. mospeck says:

    sry OT — don’t look now, but those cantankerous Ukrainians are just about to take Kreminna George S Patton-style. Brave but freezing Russian conscripts are barely holding on cause the Colonels on the telephone say if she goes boys then it’s the whole shebang, our whole Western front falls. However this just in from CNN’s Anna Chernova and Irina Morgan —
    Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine can freeze sperm free of charge, state media reports. Russian soldiers taking part in the war on Ukraine will be eligible for free sperm freezing and storage in cryobanks, according to Russia’s state news agency Tass, citing a lawyers union.“The families of those called up for military service as part of the partial mobilization will receive free access to fertility treatment and the storage of biomaterial in a cryobank,” said Igor Trunov, the president of the Russian Union of Lawyers, which represents several couples, according to Tass. The Russian health ministry responded to a request for the creation of “a free cryobank of genetic material” and amendments to the mandatory health insurance system to allocate a free fertility treatment quota for Russian citizens taking part in what Moscow special military operation. “RF Ministry of Health has decided it is possible to use money from the federal budget to fund the fee-free conservation and storage of sex cells (sperm) for citizens mobilized into the Special Military Operation, in 2022-2024. Any subsequent free use of conserved genetic material in assisted reproductive technology is governed by the law, provided it is indicated as a part of [the individual’s] mandatory health insurance package” One Russian official said that it’s a long way to Tipperary

      • mospeck says:

        Oh, God, bmaz, i never learned the King’s. Nor about them paragraph sentences neither. Nuns tried to beat it into me, but just learned from the Kinks and Elvis Costello. My dear old ex she remains rightly horrified.
        Besides, the Russian official, he never even existed, and never said it’s a long way to Tipperary. That was all a fabrication, being as if the Russian spox gave a flying fuck for these clueless 20 year old no hoper cannon fodder joes.

  13. Ginevra diBenci says:

    Melville references this biblical story at the end of Moby Dick, when narrator Ishmael describes the terrible cost of Ahab’s quest, which has left only Ishmael–“another orphan”–alive for the rescue ship Rachel to retrieve. Yet Ahab had far more grounds for his monomania than Abbott, whose sole motivation seems to be a will to political power and possible competition with the equally soulless DeSantis.

    Thank you, Peterr, for taking us out of the present moment to show its predecessors.

  14. Vthestate says:

    The transported may be much better off in DC and on the front page than rotting under Abbots foolish thumb. This at least gives the northern’s a chance to show how gratitude, grace and generosity work. Every refuge that get transported is better off than TX incarceration. Yes? We can do better.

  15. Charles Wolf says:

    If Abbot’s sick “stunt” is not attempted murder by extreme cold, then it is at minimum a reckless disregard for life and malicious child endangerment… or whatever it’s called in DC.

    • bmaz says:

      Unfortunately, it is probably none of that. Criminal law is not what people want it to be, it is what it is, and it is FAR more complex than that.

      • Charles Wolf says:

        Well, you said probably so at least there is is better than zero possibility, somewhere, someday.
        Maybe charging kidnapping would work. I wonder if any minors were separated from their parents. Was anyone putting them on busses armed? … under color of authority and all that.

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