An issue of the old-earth creationist mini-magazine Connections features the spectacle of Kenneth Samples (2008) trying to justify the complete extermination of the Canaanites by God’s command. Although his points are derivative, if you have never before beheld the efforts of a cheerleader for genocide, it is quite a sight to be seen.
Here’s my summary of the case Samples makes for why our confidence in God’s perfect goodness should not be shaken by His genocidal commands:
- The Bible assures us that God is good.
- It was the only way the infinite, all-powerful maker of the heavens and the earth, of all that is seen and unseen, could protect his chosen people.
- The Canaanites were all bad. Every last one of them.
- That’s the way war was conducted back then. Remember, relativism is horrible except when Christians appeal to it.
- God created us, so he can do whatever the hell he wants to any of us.
- It wasn’t murder: it was capital punishment. Every single Canaanite deserved to die.
- It’s not like God ordered genocide often.
Putting aside, for the moment, the moral bankruptcy of each of these excuses, one cannot help but to be reminded of Freud’s tale of
the defensive argument of a man who was accused by his neighbor of having returned a kettle to him in a damaged condition. In the first place, he said, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second, it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and thirdly, he had never borrowed the kettle from his neighbor at all. (Freud 1913:101)
But the moment is over, so let’s return to the moral bankruptcy. As cavalier as Samples is about the wholesale slaughter of men and women, including the elderly, he appears to feel a slight twinge of doubt when he considers whether there was a justification for massacring all of the Canaanite children. But even that slightest of silver linings is soon blotted out: you see, all of the children were polluted, and if they had been allowed to live, they somehow would have “infected God’s people with terrible iniquity.” (Oh, no, not terrible iniquity!) Naturally, there is no way a being capable of creating entire universes would be able to stop this, short of ordering his people to slit the trembling throats of terrified children. One would not want God’s people to become infected with terrible iniquity, would one? Why, if they became infected with enough terrible iniquity, they might eventually do something bad, like murder children. Besides, who knows, perhaps God gave all of the children free passes into heaven—an extension of the well-known truth that it is entirely permissible to kick a child in the face, as long as you give him enough ice cream afterwards to make him happy.
If thinking like this is the price of being a Christian, who would want to be one?
S Freud. 1913 . The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. A.A. Brill. New York: Macmillan.
KR Samples. 2008. God and genocide. Connections 10(3). [web link]