• Erica Rosi Tham

Bird Room Meditations 7: Why People in Power Reject Jesus

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Here's a quick note on our adoption. We are adopting two girls from India, a process started two years ago, and are currently in a waiting phase. All of our paperwork has been done and sent off. In India, the virus situation is not good, though the vaccine rollout is in progress. We just have to wait. Please pray for us. Now on to the next Bird Room essay. You can read from the beginning here. You can also read more about the early days of our adoption journey here.

I am writing these bird room meditations to help people find or return to the Christian faith, and the next part of the story of Christ is essential in our times. After the joyous birth, we learn about the intense cruelty of the power-hungry. Just as birds in a room have a limited perception of the world, the power-hungry live in their own rooms of perception, and these are smaller and lonelier. In fact, we might say, that by making it into the inner circle of human society, the power-hungry are living in a room which is inside another room which is inside another. I use the term power-hungry because there are certainly good people who have wealth. Here I am only discussing people who have a desire for power.

When Jesus was only a baby, we see how thoroughly blind a person with this perception becomes.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him … Matthew 2:1-4

Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem and told them to find Jesus and return to him, but the wise men were warned in a dream not to obey Herod. After finding and worshiping Jesus, they left secretly. The family of Jesus was warned in a dream to escape to Egypt, and they did so before Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem. These soldiers killed all the male children under the age of two.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” Matthew 2: 18

We all live in our human rooms of perception, but those who have a strong desire for power are not content to live with the rest of us. They have a desire to be separate from us and to create their inner sanctum. From this room inside a room, they feel safer and more in control, though they need some security to protect themselves even further, yet another room. By the time they have fully insulated themselves, not only are they further away from us; they are further away from God.

As citizens within a society, we vote and hope that we are electing influential people who are not power-hungry, but since power has the tendency to corrupt, we cannot expect too much. And there are many influencers in our world who are more powerful than elected officials.

Let us think about what they see from their room of perception.

Firstly, they see their security people surrounding them. Secondly, they see the room they created to suit themselves, the room where they want to be left alone save for the other elites they carefully choose. Thirdly, they get glimpses of the people they want to keep out of their lives.

Why did Herod decide to kill all the boys under two? What did he see first? A security threat, someone besides himself who inspired worship. What did he see second? The power he wanted to keep for himself. What did he see third? The people he had always wanted to keep safely far from him. Why would the murder of innocent children matter to someone who views the world from such a small place?

They want to be worshiped, and they want to be separate, the elite. And they will behave viciously toward competition.

The Most Powerful Bird in the Room

If you have a room available and you like birds, I highly suggest creating your own bird room if for no other reason than this: watching them is a lot more interesting than most tv shows or movies. The drama is endless.

Imagine you have no hands. If something comes flying toward you, you have to dodge it. This is quintessential to the life of a bird, but they are not just responders or self-defenders. Birds frequently and mischievously fly at a companion, steal the perch, and sit there singing happily until another bird flies at them. This is why, if you see a flock of small birds in a bush, they are in constant motion.

Things can become much more serious. Male canaries are famous for being territorial, and two males usually need to be separated if space is limited. In my room, I have found ways to cajole multiple males into living together, and in the process, I have seen exactly how power works in the canary world. There is a relentlessness in the effort to subdue the opponent which is reminiscent of the relentlessly hopeless sentiments we can unwittingly absorb while zoning out in front of a screen.

A few years ago, when my canaries were becoming few and I had two younger female canaries who were not able to reproduce with the resident male, named Saga, I decided to find a new male at the local PetSmart. I found a plucky guy with a knock-out song, and as I drove home with him, I happened to meet the eyes of a robin hunting for berries in my neighbor’s shrubbery. Suddenly I knew my bird’s name: Mr. Robin.

It did not take long for Mr. Robin to decide that Saga was canary-non-grata. I watched to see what Saga would do and was a little disappointed by how quickly he gave way. He seemed to have no interest in defending himself or his territory, though perhaps Mr. Robin had so much youthful energy that Saga knew he was outmatched. Time and again, Mr. Robin flew at Saga, and Saga flew away without fighting back. And yet, for Mr. Robin, that was not enough. From Mr. Robin’s point of view, Saga’s existence itself was unacceptable.

This is why birdkeepers usually keep male canaries apart.

Fortunately, I have a method.

For the next two weeks, I spent extra time in the bird room, and I assumed the role of lead bird. I stood by, and when Mr. Robin flew at Saga, I followed Mr. Robin and put my finger in the air to show that I might poke him if I was angered enough. Mr. Robin was relentless, but since I was relentless too, he eventually calmed and began to ignore Saga. Our room was tense during this time, but at last one day, the war was over, and we all started living normally once more. A few weeks later, Mr. Robin and Saga started singing together, though for different reasons. Mr. Robin competitively sang as loudly and forcefully as possible while Saga, ever the peaceful bird, simply joined in.

Though there was a happy ending, this story illustrates a grim reality that exists in both the natural world and in human society. When the power-hungry feel seriously threatened, they are not content with chasing away the offender. The existence of the offender is reprehensible to them, and they have the desire to destroy that person. Small birds can do this by chasing each other to the point of exhaustion until the weaker bird becomes sick or easy prey for a predator.

This is why regimes throughout history have persecuted the religious.

Unfortunately, many influencers in our society are working on delegitimizing Christianity through media and entertainment. As our country was founded on Christian values and has a Christian majority, this has been no small task; however, serious in-roads have been made. The percentage of American Christians has reduced from 85% in 1990 to 65% in 2018-19.

Why would modern influencers have an interest in doing this?

They need to be worshiped, they need to be the elite, and they need to pay for their inner circle. Christians inconvenience them on every front. We will not worship them. We do not see them as elitists, since we believe that everyone is equally mortal and subject to God. We will not buy everything they sell because our faith specifically outlaws addiction, covetousness, and immorality.

When we see that the powerful want to destroy something, we can recognize the goodness in what they seek to destroy. If Jesus had not been a threat to Herod, he would not have killed all the boys under two. What a huge threat Jesus was to him! If Jesus in our modern world was not a threat to those who want to remain shielded in their rooms within rooms, Christians would be fairly represented in tv series and movies, at 65%, and there would be fewer irreverent scenes in churches. There would be more Christian heroes and more references to real Christian ideas (not the fluff we sometimes get) in mainstream media. Check out other countries on Netflix, like Turkey, and you will see quite a double standard regarding how Islam is treated in Turkish entertainment compared to how Christianity is portrayed to American audiences.

Undoubtedly, Christianity has been under attack. If you have left the faith, feel reluctant to begin the journey or hesitate to tell people you are Christian, know that you have been influenced. When I was sick a few days ago, I binge-watched a series called Manifest on Netflix. Christianity was hardly mentioned until one episode when a couple who had received a premonition went crazy, printed bible verses, pinned them to their walls, and nearly killed themselves before they were saved by the heroes of the show. There were no overtly derogatory statements about Christianity, and yet the message was clear. A Christian is a superstitious zealot, someone who needs help from a wiser person. Such are the messages coming from those who have never placed their faith in God.

When Saga first saw Mr. Robin, he saw a bird of his own size with claws out and wings flapping coming straight for him. I saw something very different. I saw a small, energetic bird with an instinctual drive that I could tame with some effort. We can rest assured that from God’s point of view, we are all just like birds in a room. God has compassion for us when we face situations that seem terrible, but He knows they are far less terrible than what we see. He knows having a mansion and a jet does not give a human being all that that person needs, and that people with these things are just as mortal as those who will spend their lives paying off a mortgage or those who will never own their home.

We do need to be wary of those who would turn our hearts toward godlessness and the addiction, anxiety and depression that inevitably result. But our task is simple. We stay vigilant, and we look to God for all that we need. With practice, the Herods of this world appear less and less credible, less essential in our lives, and absolutely powerless in their efforts to control our hearts.

Erica Rosi Tham

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