Today's PAYG was the commemoration of the beheading of John the Baptist - a cheery topic, not. But as I listened to the story being read aloud, I found myself thinking of the Genesis 2 account of the forbidden fruit and seeing, if not parallels, at least touching points.
In the Adam story that lamest of excuses 'she made me do it' (or words to that effect) are not so far away from Herod's actions 'because he had vowed in front of his guests' (or words to that effect). In other words, in each case we have foolish men making bad choices but 'it wasn't my fault'. Really? I think you'll find it was.
In Adam's story we have the woman beguiled - or at least misled - by the serpent; in Herod's the girl following (and adding to) the demand of her mother. So in each case we have stereotypical "woman = evil" potential, and certainly female sin preciptating male sin. Maybe we also have "male = numpty"...?
On Sunday the speaker at the church I visited made some remarks about people making foolish (or apparently) foolish choices. He spoke of drivers making rash decisions to overtake... then qualified this by saying it was men making rash decisions to overtake cars being driven too slowly by women. You can see what's happening here... the blame is ascribed to the women driving below the speed limit (maybe with good reason) and subtley removed from the men whose actions cuold, literally, result in a car crash.
I don't want to head off on some gender-related rant, I really don't, but we do need to be very careful that we don't slide into unhelpful and unhealthy dualisms and cliches that have the potenital to mislead our understanding.
The Adam and Eve story involved two humans each of whom falls prey to the temptation to disobey the one rule they have been given. It's a story about free will and choices having consequences; a story about God being sad and angry and compassionate all at the same time.
The Herod and Herodias story is, in part anyway, about powerful people making ill-conceived grand gestures and feeling obliged to follow through - choices have consequences (so much the same story). John, the annoying-but-intriguing prophet, is the innocent victim of Herod's foolishness, and maybe it is this aspect that ought to give us pause - who is it (individual or people group) that we find annoying-but -intriguing, infuriating-yet-attractive or whatever combination it is? And how easily do we, like Herod, fear losing face more than acting aright? Hmmm.
Many years ago I heard the story of a teacher who told the Herod story to a group of Asian teenage girls (presumably Hindu or Sikh, certainly not Christian). Asked what they would have done in Herod's place, one of them said, "I would have told them that John was in the other half of my Kingdom, the half I did not promise." I have always loved this example of lateral thinking, and hope that it might, in some measure, shape my own.