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Sunday, April 29, 2007
Gendocide and the Promise Land
I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the irony of the Promise Land story: in it we find a tale about liberation from slavery into a land of freedom, governed by laws designed to nurture community and respect for the alien and the poor, yet the very haven promised by God is acquired via a divinely sanctioned genocide based on religious intolerance. In the Emerging Conversation with its stress on narrative, I have not seen this dilemma thoroughly explored. How can we find ourselves in the story of the Israelites, to whom this tale is so pivotal while cherishing human rights and working to rid the world of genocide in the name of the Prince of Peace?

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posted by Jemila Kwon at 9:39 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


12 Comments:


  • At 4/30/2007 01:00:00 AM, Anonymous Leah

    I have struggled mightily with this myself, and would LOVE to read anyone's views on the matter.

    I even did an inductive Bible Study on the issue (Precept's "Joshua"). It was interesting, but didn't satisfactorily answer the question for me.

    The only interpretation that "works" for me is that of "progressive revelation", or even of "evolution" - that as humankind has evolved (changed, been capable of understanding more about life and God), God reveals himself to us in new ways. The new ways don't contradict the old ways, they just are a deeper, more complex understanding. This explains the differences between the Old Covenant (Laws of Moses) and New Covenant (Words of Jesus). Hebrews is good at explaining Old vs. New Covenant in a way that I think is congruent with "progressive revelation".

    I am still so uneducated in this area. - I would love it if this conversation kept going for a while!

     
  • At 4/30/2007 09:10:00 AM, Blogger Linda

    This, too, has been not a little troubling for me, Jemila and Leah. "What the hell were you thinking, God?" was my chief response a few years back, and I wasn't sure if I wanted anything to do with a God who sanctioned genocide. Now it still bothers me, but I've come to see it more like Leah. I find this the only way I can, with any integrity, continue to believe that God is good.

    William Webb (Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis) refers to a "redemptive trajectory" in his book and talks about the people of God not being ready for the end product he had in mind. So God pushes them a little further toward the end he desires but not so far that they cease to understand the result. I don't pretend to know whether this was God's aim in this situation (i.e. - was death better than the cruel conquering practices of the nations around?), and Webb does not focus on these difficult passages but more on the biblical treatment of women. However, his hermeneutic does help me to see that God is working within a completely depraved culture with what his people know.

    I wish I understood the culture of their day, how other nations around them conquered territory/nations, and how the Israelites would have viewed this command from God. (If anyone understands these, please comment!) I think that somehow the real meaning of this slaughter may be lost on us because of our current Western view. But while I wish I understood more of these things, I find myself thinking that I could never be sympathetic with them. This action still appears to stand in opposition with the Jesus we see in the gospels. And Jesus is whom attracted me to belief in the first place.

     
  • At 4/30/2007 07:36:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    It's a tough one, for sure. I guess as the above posts reflect, perhaps it's a manifestation of the "way things were done" at that time, in that place - which is in no way from our sensibilities condoning it, but I suppose more, but not entirely, in the category of "Jesus had to be a man because a woman would have been considered a witch" [which, incidentally, I don't entirely buy either] kind of thinking. I mean, the Roman civilization is held up often in light of its accomplishments and innovations, but often the sheer brutality and inhumanity with which non-Romans were treated is overlooked.

    I also think of Sodom and Gomorrah, and you really have to wonder if every single human being who lived there was evil through and through, or did some innocent people die in that conflagration?

     
  • At 5/01/2007 07:42:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I can hack the progressive revelation explanation for women's rights, or even in allowing people to use military strength as a lesser of two evils type of thing, but I have trouble swallowing divinely-SANCTIONED genocide.

    Is there any way to interpret the genocide as human beings interpretation of God's will rather than God's command without throwing out the whole story?

     
  • At 5/01/2007 09:48:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Absolutely, Jemila. I think that's a brilliant insight - who wouldn't want to ascribe some revisionist version of an event like that to Jehovah, if not in the least in an attempt to absolve their guilt?

     
  • At 5/01/2007 09:51:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    There's not much in print dealing with that. And understanding it has been a huge issue for me too.

    McLaren delves into that issue a bit in the "Bible" chapter in A Generous Orthodoxy, but that's all that comes to mind at the moment.

     
  • At 5/02/2007 07:46:00 AM, Blogger Linda

    Ascribing to God the things that we desperately want to be true works on so many levels :-) and has been used by sincere believers and wackos alike throughout time - everything from "I'm marrying so-and-so because God desires it" to "I heard God telling me to save my children from evil by killing them." I could probably embrace this as an explanation for the passage in question and have thought occasionally that this might be the best explanation. As I said earlier, a God who says, "Kill everyone" just doesn't fit with Jesus.

    I suppose if one views the early books of the Bible as the history they were intended to be, it makes more sense that this account would be a human's take on the event. What's more, because this was more than likely oral tradition before it was written, it seems likely that it could have morphed so that years later, the writer possibly might have seen a new "meaning" in the genocide. Thanks for reminding me of this angle.

     
  • At 5/03/2007 07:17:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Julie, I find it so disturbing that little has been written on this subject, particularly by emerging writers, with the emphasis so strongly on narrative theology. What are we afraid of? What other reasons do you think are behind the lack of scholarship and reflection in this area?

     
  • At 5/03/2007 09:50:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Well to start with I think we are just beginning to get books that look at the bible from an emerging perspective published (as oppossed to the "let me tell you about this new way of being a christian" book, which are/were needed). Colossians Remixed is one of the few out there.

    Also, the theological perspective needs wider discussion/acceptance before that could happen. Most emerging believers are just into the stylistic aspects of the movement and are scared of the theology. Its not as popular and is a shock to the their system.

    But just because it isn't being published yet doesn't mean that it isn't being discussed. even if the discussion takes me places I have never been and seriously challenges my views of God and the bible, it is one I want to be a part of.

     
  • At 5/04/2007 07:59:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    So how would our theology and our world be different if God actually said, "Go and live in peace with your neighbors in this new land and show them what it is like to live as the people of God in their midst?"

    Clearly this is speculation, but it seems a worthwhile exercise to me...

     
  • At 5/04/2007 10:37:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    there was an interesting post over at Theolog today that touched on this issue.

     
  • At 5/07/2007 09:06:00 AM, Anonymous maggie

    Let us not forget that these stories were written, redacted, and compiled a good, long time after the events which they are telling about occurred. That is to say, they were composed from the vantage point of having the land, dividing the land, then losing the land, followed by exile. And they were written with one purpose: to describe the powerful ways they experienced God working throughout their history.
    Actually, the archeological evidence does not support the idea that the Canaanites were suddenly, totally destroyed. An alternative interpretation, based on archeological evidence, suggests that the real decisive event was a rural, peasant uprising against oppressive landowners. The Israelites were a segment of the Canaanite population already at the time this occurred.
    I know this is radically different from what we have all been taught, and it is threatening to our understanding of the authority of scripture, but it is time we realize that the ways we have undersood scripture have been influenced by the culture and that there are other interpretations possible, if we look through a different lens.

     

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