The Precedented Unprecedented
The interdisciplinary team working at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas recently disturbed the modern conscience with their latest discovery. The team led by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University and sponsored by the National Geographic revealed that their Peruvian archaeological dig contained the, “largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas— and likely in world history.” The scientists and historians found the remains of more than 140 children and 200 baby lamas that had been murdered and mutilated some 550 years ago by the Chimú Empire. And less than a half mile away from where children’s hearts were ripped from their chests, the empire conducted their affairs of state. Calculated trades and negotiations took place just minutes away from unbelievable horror.
The pictures of the excavated skeletons lying face up with broken ribs are dark and disturbing. Though America is increasingly defined by violence, the mass premeditated murder of 140 or more children still disturbs the modern mind as evidenced by the magazine’s bold claims. And evil of this magnitude should be noted in the press and mourned.
But the Kristin Romey, one of National Geographic’s editors that covers archaeology and paleontology, missteps when she attempts to help audience appreciate the magnitude of the slaughter being studied. She writes,
The discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimú civilization is unprecedented in the Americas—if not in the entire world.
Romey’s captures the sentiment of the moment, but she wrong assumes that the sacrifice is unprecedented in world history.
In one sense, her claim is justifiable. The whole sale slaughter of 140 plus children at one religious event is noteworthy. But when compared against the annals of world history, academics cannot say this is unprecedented. If we go back only four years in the historical cannon of world history, we discover a far greater slaughter.
In 2014, the United States legally aborted 652,639 children (the most recent statistical year in file) according to the CDC. Americans aborted more than 1,788 babies per day in 2014 down. Such acts of horror took place down the street from hospitals, gas stations, factories, restaurants, and government buildings. Clearly large scale infanticide taking place in close proximity to a nation’s established societal institutions is not unprecedented in the Americas as Romey claimed.
Admittedly some will object to the comparison, pointing to the religious nature of pre-Columbian event. Few if any abort a child to appease the gods or to convince them to send rain. Few if any cut out the heart of their child to determine their future or to connect with the life force of the gods.
But the basic ideas that drove those men and women to murder children 550 years ago are still driving modern men and women today.
The Chimú people sacrificed those 140 plus children because they believed their deaths would benefit society by alleviating hardship and winning more wealth and happiness. Today, boyfriends and husbands, parents, and ultimately mothers abort their children for their benefit. They do not want to be saddled with having to care for the child’s physical, emotional, and monitory needs. Modern adults do not want to sacrifice their educational goals, their financial plans, and their personal peace for a child. Instead of sacrificing for the child, they sacrifice the child for their needs. As C.S. Lewis thoughtfully showed through his book, That Hideous Strength, modern science divorced from Christian morality often becomes little more than cruelly efficient paganism. The Chimú people could kill 140 or more kids in one day at one location. We can kill 1,788 or more kids across 50 states in a day. We too rip apart the bodies of our dead children seeking to find brighter futures filled with medical advancements. For all of our advancements modern men and women apart from Christ are still quintessentially pagan.
As believers we should mourn the discovery at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas. But we must not leave our gaze in the past. We must fight against our nation’s annual sacrifice of children to the gods of ease, comfort, and wealth. We must support foster care and adoption. We must speak for the unborn. We must engage in the political community. We must do all that we can to end this slaughter.
We do not find fault God for bringing the Chimú government to end. If this is true, can we find fault with God for one day bringing our nation to an end?
God be merciful to us!