Margaret Atwood has a short story/essay called ‘Epaulettes’ in which she lampoons the patriarchal competition of war-making and military excess. In it the male characters compete through the elaborate nature of their military uniforms – whose are more colorful, more braided? Which epaulets are wider, hats higher and more resplendent. The expense and attention poured into this foolishness only make the expense and attention and seriousness with which war, military and nationalist allegiance are taken look more foolish.
I thought of this because I am thinking about the magi in their search for a king. They are seeking a king with a fancy uniform with gold braid and a starched hat and legions of troops behind him. They are not seeking an infant born to a teen-aged girl in a stable. They king that they find not a war-making, death-seeking heir into earthly power, as is Herod ‘the Great’ to whom the men from the east first go. He is a different kind of king.
Many feminist authors use the terminology ‘kin-dom’ instead of Kingdom with reference to the era ushered in at the birth of Christ. Jesus rejects all that is associated with earthly kingship. In the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus has a confrontation with the Satan, the Adversary, who tempts him with food, and displays of his power, and with all the kingdoms in the world (Mt. 4:1-11). Jesus rejects this power outright. He offers a kin-dom ruled by love, non-violence and the blessing of “anyone who takes no offense at me,” (Mt. 11:5) outcasts included.
In Matthew 11, Jesus is on a bit of a rant, first against the people who rebuke him for eating and drinking with outsiders, and then against those who see the things he is doing (restoring sight, hearing, mobility, health and life) yet do not believe. He is quite vitriolic, in fact. But he is also Wisdom, welcoming her children home. He says, “the Son of [Humanity] came eating and drinking and the said, ‘look a glutton and a drunkard, friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (Mt 11:19) and he invites the weary to unburden themselves and find rest. That’s the kind of kin-dom that I seek.
For more on my inspiration, see this article by Letty Russell.