God, Violence, and Genocide

27 01 2007

They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. Joshua 6:21

I do not like it when God sends death and destruction upon humanity, but it does not cause a crisis of faith for me. I do believe that since God is our creator, He has the inherent right to destroy us. However, I do have a problem with those Scriptures where God calls for the destruction of entire groups of people at the hands of other people, usually Jews. This does create a crisis of faith for me because all manner of religous fanatics from Eric Rudolf to Osama Bin Laden use the Bible and the Q’uran to justify violence in the name of God. This lends credence to the argument from my atheist friends that religion is the greatest cause of evil in the world. This is the kind of argument that people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have been making. And let me state at the outset that Messers Harris & Dawkins are not the enemy, violent religious extremists who kill in the name of God are. They give all theists everywhere a bad name.

Let me state first that though I am a Bible-believing Christian, I do not accept those parts of the Bible that have God commanding people to kill for Him. Call me selective in my application of Scripture, but I do believe that if the Hebrew Bible was perfect and complete, that there would be no need for Jesus and the New Testament.

Second, in a pluralistic world, believers of whatever stripe are going to have to be comfortable with people disagreeing with what they believe. Moreover, many people are going to be very disrespectful and irreverent towads every permutation of religious faith, including your own. And the more you try to ram your faith down other people’s throats by using politics or violence, the more people are going to disrespect you and your faith.

I think that the way forward for Christian believers in navigating the problem of religious violence against non-believers is to follow Paul’s admonition: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”1Corinthians 5:12. Further, I also think that the way we influence those who think differently than we do is not through the ballot box, with bullets or diatribes, but rather, being the kind of community that speaks cogently to the larger culture, not by what we say but how we live.

What if we had churches that became demonstration projects for the truth of the Gospel? Imagine, multi-ethnic congregration that are racially reconciled and build homes for the homeless, and care for widows and orphans. I suspect that if we had a bunch of churches like this, that even Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins would be impressed.

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2 responses

18 05 2007
Norman MacIntyre

As you know, what we term “genocide” was ordered in the Bible (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Consider the reason (v. 18) and subsequent problems in the region since. As you said, you are selective in what you regard as scripture. I think it would be better to endeavor to understand more fully the Creator from such accounts rather than to reject them. Your second sentence is a good perspective.

People of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths have done terrible and horrific acts (abominations) in the names of their respective religions. I attribute this to misunderstanding and misapplying their respective creeds as well as just the evilness of man. Man is full of violence all of his days.

20 05 2007
marcdav

H Norman,

I actually had Deuteronomy 20:18 in the back of mind when I wrote the entry. Again, I have no problem when God takes us out, but I do have major problems when He commands people to kill people, especially when He commands the killing of women and children. I would rather that God do His own dirty work than to use us. However, I don’t think that God uses human agents to kill people.

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