Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When God Really Does Order Genocide

How would you like to kill some women and children?

I don't mean just a few. I mean all of them, every one you see, from where you stand to the horizon in every direction and beyond. And you'll kill them from no more than four feet away.

She may be drop-dead gorgeous, but the only thing you're to stick in her is your sword. Or she's a toddler, squealing in terror as she sees you decapitate her mother—she's next. And you can nail that suckling child and his mother with one thrust.

Are you having fun yet?

And don't forget: in order to kill them, you first have to kill the men of the town who are defending them. Ragheads don't care about women, of course, but they sure as hell care about themselves and their property, and there's no more valuable property than a woman, so between their instinct for self-preservation and their jealousy over their property, they will fight as fiercely as they can.

Then you get to dispose of the bodies. And no "accidentally" letting the women's clothing fall off.

How about it? You up for it?

This was precisely the invitation the Israelites received when they left Egypt. They were to kill the "Amorites," all the occupants of Canaan. No one was to be spared.

I believe that the Bible is the word of God, so I have to believe that God did indeed command the Israelites to kill the Amorites. I also believe that God is incapable of evil, so that command must have been moral when he issued it. I will admit to harboring the thought that the omnipotent, omniscient, compassionate, and righteous creator of the universe and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ ought to have been able to think of a better way to take the Israelites into their homeland, but the Bible says what it says: the God who does not change ordered genocide. Like it or find another religion.

Can we use the invasion of Canaan to justify Christian participation in Uncle Sam's wars today? Does the death of innocent people then justify "collateral damage" today?

The warfare Uncle Sam's army is waging today is nothing like warfare then. The invaders of Canaan were hand to hand with their enemies; an arrow, a sword, a spear, or a stone could have come out of nowhere and killed any one of them. God had promised them victory, but he didn't promise that none of them would be killed. And indeed, some of them were killed, and not just those who died from Joshua's error at the first battle of Ai.

It's one thing for us to sit in our comfortable houses and read the accounts of the conquest in the past tense. It would have been quite another thing, even after forty years of manna, a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night, and the Jordan drying up at the height of the flood season, to face all those men in a fight to the death. Then, on top of that, they had to kill all those innocent women and children. Frankly, the thought sickens me; God called such squeamishness at the time rebellion.

I don't think obeying the call to invade would have been so difficult for the Islraelites if they had had Predator drones, rockets, bunker-buster bombs, mortars, and the like. I can see them clearing the land, including the areas they never did conquer, and saying, "Jeez, we've still got some whizbangs left over. Are you sure you don't want us to do some more?" Madeleine Albright was being merely human when she lamented that the Clinton administration had nothing to use the world's most powerful military on.*

Power corrupts, military power no less than any other. As the price of anything goes down, the demand rises. Our rulers have no doubt gotten us into wars, and soldiers have been willing to fight, because the politicians and higher officers wage these wars from safely behind the lines; gone are the days when kings, or even generals, led their armies in battle.

I think we need to be very sure we're not putting words in God's mouth when we use the invasion of Canaan to justify our present wars.

We must also reconsider our dim view of the conquest of Canaan. While the conquest was infinitely easier on the Israelites than it was on the Canaanites, I can't imagine the veterans of that war enjoyed remminiscing later about killing infants or made trophies of the corpses of the men. It was a horrible time, and "when the land had rest," I'm sure the warriors did all they could to see that they would never have to pick up their weapons again.

*What she might have meant was that the money being spent on the military was being wasted and should be diverted to education or other "entitlements," there being no enemies strong enough to justify the size of the military at the time, but the subsequent "humanitarian" invasions of Somalia and Bosnia make that less likely.

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