King Herod is a type of ruler common in human history. He presents himself as a benefactor of the people – and, in many ways, he is.* He seeks total domination and, in the process, enriches himself personally. Saddam Hussein was a contemporary example of such a ruler. However, while both men were hideously brutal - even to close family members - their instruments of control were fairly crude.
Today a potential Herod has within his reach some extremely refined methods of control – not just the media of communication, but the ability to select the very physical makeup of their citizens. Doctors currently use prenatal testing (e.g. amniocentesis) to identify defects, with the hope of a cure, but more often to kill defective children before they are born. Some scientists have the seeming noble goal of modifying the genes responsible for cancer, diabetes and other infirmities. Ambiguous diseases like depression and alcoholism might also yield to genetic manipulation. Perhaps they could even genetically remove such undesirable traits as anger and narrow mindedness. It seems like the sky is the limit.
C.S. Lewis noted that if this process develops to its logical conclusions, we would eventually arrive at a point where one generation could perfectly determine the characteristics of the next. Ultimately some one man would have the final say on what every other human after him would be like. He would be the “last man” because those after him would be automata carrying out his determination.
Herod did attempt to use the scientists of his day to achieve his goal of total control. Nevertheless, other factors came into play. When the men of wisdom discovered the Child, they knelt in worship – and they placed their treasures at his feet. May the great minds of our day follow their example.
*Few ancient rulers could match Herod's record for public works - including the dazzling Temple of Jerusalem. (see Mk 13:1) It was no accident that he became known as Herod the Great.
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