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I'm haunted these days by a scene from Matthew's Gospel. Herod, learning that an infant has been born in Bethlehem who will become "King of the Jews," orders the slaughter of the town's male children two years old and under. Matthew captures the deed's mind-numbing horror by imagining that Rachel, one of the traditional Hebrew matriarchs, "weeps and laments and refuses to be comforted, because her children are no more."

How, I ask myself, would Jesus's followers have acted could they've been in Bethlehem on that frenzied day? Would they have remained silent? Would they have shielded the infants with their own bodies, buying the victims a few more seconds of life? Or would they have picked up any makeshift weapon they could find to protect the innocents from cruel death? [excerpt]

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