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I was working on a piece about Nebuchadnezzar on Wednesday afternoon when the world shifted. My wife called, and I watched the goons running amok around the Capitol for a few minutes until my disgust sent me back to my work. Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar’s tyrannical rule took on a whole new layer of relevance.

I was in Daniel 3, the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I was struck while reading the text how ridiculous the enormous amount of repetition is. Long lists of musical instruments and random officials are repeated. Nebuchadnezzar is called “the king” seven times in a few short verses. Even the names “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” have a sort of syncopation to them that keeps getting repeated. What is up with all that repetition?

The new book Performing the Plays of the Bible by Jeff Barker and Tom Boogaart offered insight. While preparing to perform this text with his Northwestern College theater troupe, Jeff Barker concluded the ludicrous repetition is there for comic effect. The story is a satire. Nebuchadnezzar had set up a huge golden idol and demanded obeisance. His ego knew no bounds. The story of God’s great reversal, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not only unharmed but unbound in the fiery furnace, takes all the air out of Nebuchadnezzar.

While performing the play, Barker’s team took a cue from a Jewish tradition during the celebration of Purim. When the story of Esther is told, the name of the villain Haman is met with a cacophony of foot stomping, booing, and noisemakers. In the case of Nebuchadnezzar, Barker had a crew member slip into the orchestra pit and strategically blow on her arm to make the sound of flatulence every time the king’s name was mentioned. It became “Nebuchadnezzar (pffffttt) the King.” Some of the stuffed shirts in the audience were offended, but the young people never had so much fun with the Bible.

In the long run, every tyrant is revealed as a fool. Their narcissistic preening and unquenchable need for adoration are eventually seen for what they are. There is nothing funny about tyrants, but laughter is a good way to retain your sanity when confronting one. I think of an old Woody Allen movie where clips of Mussolini were intercut with shots of Francis the Talking Mule. Or of Charlie Chaplin turning Adolf Hitler into Adenoid Hynkel.

I finished up Nebuchadnezzar and later on Wednesday night we watched the Congress reconvene. I was smiling, even though there was nothing funny about what happened on Wednesday. I couldn’t help thinking that Donald Trump had finally stepped on a banana peel in front of everyone. His henchman, Rudy Guliani, has already been revealed as a clown. Now it was Trump’s turn.

Wednesday was Trump’s great reversal, the day when his enablers finally turned on him. I’ve waited three years and fifty weeks for this to happen. Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham finally had enough of kissing up to our would-be tyrant. I cannot begin to imagine what the humiliations they’ve endured for the past four years have felt like. They suffered much from the Faustian bargain they struck for power. McConnell got the Supreme Court he wanted. I wonder if he feels it was worth it.

As for Pence, I always held out hope that as a sincere Christian his conscience would drive him away from Trump. It almost did when the Access Hollywood tape came out in 2016, but Trump proved as resilient as Rasputin in that election. (News flash: Rasputin eventually died.) I have no idea where Pence goes from here. Graham will slink along as usual with all the backbone of a windsock. In yet another news flash, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have obviously started running for President in 2024.

As for my social media friends who posted on Wednesday that there was photographic proof that it was Antifa who actually stormed the Capitol, it is sad that you’ve moved to a position where facts cannot convince you. When factual information conflicts with ideology, ideology wins, at least in the short run. You might do well to brush up on the story of Galileo and Pope Urban VIII. You don’t want to be the Pope in that story. Right now you are.

And as for the man who is still President for the next twelve days? Every time I hear his name I find myself chuckling, and then taking a page out of the Northwestern Theater group’s playbook and blowing a raspberry in his general direction. He’s earned it.

Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is the editor of the Reformed Journal. 

14 Comments

  • mstair says:

    Your choice of paralleling events with Nebuchadnezzar is a good one (Jeremiah , 43).
    Uncomfortable judgement then; uncomfortable judgement now…

    But what are chances the next “king” will stop the killing of babies; support Biblical marriage; successfully redistribute the wealth to the poor… ?

    • Gregory Van Den Berg says:

      Why do “Christians” do not care for the living? Why not be concerned about racial discrimination in this country which is encouraged by “Christians” in this country. How about the 18 million children in the United States lacking adequate housing, education, medical care, food, and education? Why don’t you advocate for them? Why are so called pro-life advocates proponents of capital punishment? The article I read reveals the foolishness of these kingdoms. Laughter is always good for the soul. Finally, please reveal to me where Jesus condemns abortions and defines biblical marriages? Please stick to scripture as opposed to right-wing rhetoric. The Lord reigns and mocks the temporal and immoral kingdoms of this earth.

      • Steve Van't Hof says:

        Well, I’m not as certain as you seem to be that mstair’s rhetoric should be labelled right-wing, and as far as your listed woes he may very well agree with you. Christ condemning abortion? Probably not directly, but since all scripture is “God breathed” I’d start out with the well known passage in Psalm 139:13-16 and go from there. As far as Christ defining biblical marriage, start with Matthew 19: 4-6 and Mark 10: 5-9.

  • Wonderful writing. Thank you.

  • John Paarlberg says:

    From the January 7, NY Times: “Authoritarian leaders are desperately afraid of ridicule because so much of their power comes from social connectedness,” Dr. Singh [a professor at the Naval War College] said, and treating them as if they are respectable reinforces that power. But, he said, treating Wednesday’s attack, and Mr. Trump’s support of it, with the “ridicule and umbrage it deserves” is a way to undermine any suggestion of legitimacy or authority.
    Thank you Jeff!

  • Gregory Van Den Berg says:

    Great article! Please keep up the good work. More writers in this journal should follow your example and base their writings on scripture and not subjective feelings. As one reads your article, one wonders how so called Christians could follow the teachings of the autocrat, Mr. Trump. I was always taught to follow the teachings espoused in Scripture and not the teachings of humans. Thank you for allowing us to be part of the satire as seen in Daniel 3. Levity is so important in these times of crisis. Again, I express my gratitude for such an insightful essay.

  • Marilyn Norman says:

    Thank you for the insight and humor in this article. . I love the lines” every tyrant is revealed as a fool” and “stepped on a banana peel’. I don’t want to name the one who stepped on the banana peel. Keep writing.

  • Ky says:

    Jeff! I miss you. Wondering if you have any thoughts for the 12 and the opening prayer for Congress. Not the Amen / A woman part. The prayer part. Maybe you could also reference Daniel as well. Double in the program.

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    Jeff,
    Thank you for the great article. I laughed hardest when you said, “I wonder if he [McConnell] feels it was worth it.” Now that was an amazing joke and well timed. The other outstanding joke that brought me to my knees went something like this, “As for Pence, I always held out hope that as a sincere Christian his conscience would drive him away from Trump.” Again, well timed satire, I was rolling on the floor. And the “coup de grace,” “Graham will slink along as usual with all the backbone of a windsock.” As if the media isn’t thirsting for the old, serious Graham to book him on every TV show … just killing me with all the humor.

    I agree laughing is the remedy to so much that brings tears. I appreciate the insight. I need to remember to laugh more often. It might help to heal the broken heart.

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    I am troubled by this. I didn’t want to write anything, lest I come off as self-righteous. Yes, you’re right about the foolishness of tyrants, and ridicule. But there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh. On Wednesday night I was grieving and close to tears and I was afraid. I think now is the time to lament. Especially for the “goons.” (Arthur Boer taught me, as a pastor, to “never call them ‘jerks’.”) Yes, goonish behavior, but I’d rather think of those “goons’ as victims, culpable victims indeed, who should be held responsible, but victims of lies, manipulation, propaganda, the suasions of heretical Christian Nationalism, fear-mongering, and violence-incitement. They should be held responsible legally, but at the same time, for me as a Christian person, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Now, as to Ted Cruz, that’s a different story, no holds barred.

  • Jeff Barker says:

    Thanks so much for reading Tom’s and my book! We’re so grateful. The Bible has so much beyond its proverbs. Its truth appears also in its raspberries!

  • Jim Gum says:

    Your essay reminds me of the preface to the Screwtape Letters – where C.S. Lewis quotes Thomas More, “The devill… the Prowde spirit… cannot endure to be mocked.” Remember when Trump spoke at the United Nations and claimed that his administration had done more than any previous administration. (“In two years my administration has accomplished more that almost any administration in the history of our country.”) The audience began to laugh. Those in power should have laughed him off instead of fearing for their political lives if they crossed him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nIhBZqZBmQ

  • David Hoekema says:

    I share Dan Meeter’s deep ambivalence: weeping and laughing at the same time, horrified by the spectacle of a president fomenting sedition while pretending not to, fearful of what may yet lie in store–yet also uplifted by measured words and meticulous planning we are seeing from the adult who will soon replace the petulant toddler in the Oval Office.

    For some wise observations on the chaos being sown I recommend today’s Op-ed columns in the NY Times by Paul Krugman (a warning that appeasing fascists never works out well in the end) and David Brooks (an impassioned plea for sanity from a chastened conservative).

    But for some reason what popped into my mind as I read was not very serious: in the back rows of my Sunday School the heroes of faith in the story of the fiery furnace were Shake-the-bed, Make-the-bed, and To-bed-we-go.

  • Mary VanderVennen says:

    Thank you. I watched the whole day, much of it with tears in my eyes. At the very end after Biden was certified, the Senate chaplain, a black preacher, gave a closing prayer. He provided the only note of grace and truth of the day as he sounded a note of repentance for everyone of whatever political stripe. Too bad it came at 4:00 A.M. But can the church take up the mourning and repentance needed for our nation? I truly hope so.

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