The Arms of Moloch

People of religious faith are sometimes accused by secularists of wanting to "turn back the clock" to some kind of pre-modern ideal society. In fact, orthodox Christianity favors the advancement of civilization through technology. It is the modern-day pagans who wish to revive certain unpleasant practices that disappeared long ago.

In the Old Testament we read about various idols that were worshiped in the nations surrounding Israel, and at times by the Israelites themselves. Non-Biblical sources mention them as well. Moloch was one of these. Moloch appears to have been a sun-god, represented as a man with the head of a bull.

Like most idols, Moloch demanded sacrifice - human sacrifice. Human children, in particular. At a place called Tophet, just outside Jerusalem, a large iron statue of Moloch was left hollow so that a fire could be built inside. The metal would grow hotter and hotter until it glowed. Children were then placed in the hands of the red-hot Moloch to be burned alive. A 12th-century rabbi named Rashi described it this way.

... they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt; when it vehemently cried out; but the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.

Other sources tell us that "... people gathered before the Moloch were dancing on the sounds of flutes and tambourines to drown out the screams of the victims." There are stories of similar customs at Carthage in North Africa. Moloch-worship, in various forms, seems to have been fairly common in the ancient world.

Now fast-forward to the 21st century. We do not - so far at least - burn children alive in the arms of iron statues. We do, however, use sharp tools to rip them apart, suck their brains out and crush their skulls. By doing all this while they are still in the womb and unable to scream, we remove the need for drums and tambourines.

The harsh truth is that child sacrifice is still very common in our culture. The Israelites gave their children in hopes of acquiring material wealth and other favors from the gods. We do it so that we can live the good life, pursuing pleasure without the burden of little ones who might get in the way.

Moloch is not a god and has no power, but the idea of Moloch is very powerful indeed. Today's pagans, and more than a few people who call themselves Christian, bow down before this idol asking for wealth, power and pleasure. Are we really so different now? Is there any need to turn back the clock? Is Tophet so different from L.A., or Houston, or Atlanta?

The fire still burns. The drums still beat. The glowing arms of Moloch demand more, and more, and more. We cover our ears and pretend not to hear the children scream. We laugh and sing and dance, confident that our sacrifice will gain favors for us.

What we do not want to face is that another god, the true God, is watching all this, and He is not pleased. In due course He will silence the drums. The slaughter of the innocents will end; the suffering of the guilty has not yet begun.

His mercy endures forever. Now is an excellent time to beg for it.

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