Promised Lands, Chosen People

“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho,

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down!”- Negro Spiritual

Earlier this month, I took part in an exchange that truly shook me. It all started with an update on my FB page. I have individuals of various beliefs and political parties on my friends list. I’ve never been the type of person to want an amen corner, so I actually like a certain level of variety. Some of my friends are devout Christians who fall into the “pro-life” camp. In their own words, many of them rabidly oppose abortion because they feel that their faith compels them to do so. Their god values all human life as sacred and shapes each human in the womb.One day, I posted a message about this subject. I stated that did not see how one could claim Yahweh was pro-life.  As someone who does not take the Bible as the inerrant word of God and views the text with a critical eye, such a belief is hard for me to comprehend. To be frank, I find the idea that Yahweh values human life to be laughable and absurd. What’s really pathetic is the fact that I don’t even need to refer to any scholars or philosophers to support my claim. The Bible clearly indicts itself on this issue.

Yahweh does not value life. On the contrary, his actions in the Old Testament make it seem as if he has little regard for mankind at best and hates us at worst. This is a deity who condemned Adam and Eve, along with the rest of mankind, to suffer death all for eating a piece of fruit. This is a deity who drowned all of his creation-pregnant women, babies and children included. This is a deity who commanded his “chosen people” to carry out what we would now call genocide and ethnic cleansing. This is a deity who did not even spare his chosen if they failed to worship him as zealously as he expected them to. The bloody accounts of the conquest of Canaan and subsequent adventures of the children of Israel do not point to a “pro-life” god.  They point to a cruel, vindictive and petulant deity, no better than any of the other gods found in the pantheon of the Mediterranean lands.

Though it was not my intention, my status update rankled one of the Christians on my friends list. And with that post a spirited discussion began. I stated my case clearly and concisely. I quoted the Biblical passages regarding the conquest of the Holy Land. I spelled it out and used the word genocide. I thought that the person would moderate their tone. I hoped that maybe they would at least take the allegorical cop-out. I was mistaken. After chastising me and fellow unbelievers for questioning the “word of God” to begin with, this individual began an all-out defense of the annihilation of the peoples of Canaan. Yes, babies and children were cruelly slaughtered, they conceded. But they deserved it because their parents were not worshipping the True and Living god, Yahweh. I countered that these people were living in their own land at the time of this conquest. How could such an invasion and massacre be justified? “Well it wasn’t THEIR land, it was GOD’S LAND and HE can do whatever He wants!” The person then stated that in allowing these children to be murdered Yahweh was actually showing them mercy. You see, if these children had been allowed to survive, they might have grown up and sought vengeance against God’s Chosen People for invading their land and murdering their parents. A just God could not allow these children to take revenge, for then he’s be required to punish these children for harming His Chosen People.At this point I was shaken to my core. My head hurt. I could not continue. I could not believe that I was seeing an otherwise rational person defend genocide.

Now some might dismiss this as much ado about nothing. It was just an intellectual debate. I wish it were that simple. The problem, however, is that ideas and scriptures have real-life implications. As I mentioned in my last post on the doctrine pf submission, there is more at stake than words alone. When we look at the concept of promised lands and chosen people throughout history, we can see how millions of people have been harmed by them. The idea that some deity has chosen some people for favor and others for slavery and/or annihilation did not die when the walls of Jericho (allegedly) fell in Canaan. The words of the Old Testament were used to justify the enslavement and colonization of Africa and her people. Europeans also used these passages to justify their conquest of the ‘New World’ and subsequent decimation of its’ Indigenous peoples. And lest we forget,these same Scriptures are still used to this day to justify the dispossession of the Palestinian people.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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