Newsflash: The army of attackers rushed on the defenders of the Middle Eastern villages without thought to their own safety. They knew God was on their side and the result was inevitable. Those protecting their homes were cut down, and when there was no one left to oppose them, the attackers rounded up the women and children and killed them without mercy.
Does this sound like a report of an ISIS attack in Iraq or Syria? It’s a description of the army of Moses invading the Promised Land found in the Bible, in the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Now if you are a firm believer in what is written in the Bible, or the Torah if you prefer that designation, you would say that it’s clear God WAS on the side of Moses, because He did in fact deliver the non-believers into his hands. God wanted that battle to be won by Moses, and insisted that those women and children be put to death. Further, when people of faith wrestle with the question of God ordering genocide in the Bible, they often end up with the old “God works in mysterious ways” answer: God knows the future and we can’t hope to understand Him, but have to trust that He knows what’s best. Here’s a link to that kind of argument.
Whew! So Moses had to kill all those innocent people because if any of them lived, they might corrupt the children of Israel, luring them away from the Lord. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, where “evil” would not be understood as cutting the throats of children, but allowing a competing religion to exist that might cause the Hebrews to drift away from the True Path.
I hope the reader possesses enough discernment to realize that this is precisely the argument that ISIS is using to enslave or exterminate its opponents. The most depressing piece of reporting of the century showed up on the front page of the New York Times Friday, in a description of the institutionalized rape of the Yazidis and other non-Muslims by the ISIS fighters because God insists it is their duty. They have it down, chapter and verse, why it is pleasing to God to bind 12 year-old girls and rape them repeatedly. God also told them to create a slave market for captured women. In case we’ve forgotten, this is 2015.
Apparently it does not occur to the apologists for Moses or for ISIS that what we’re reading in the scriptures is not what God wanted, but what whoever wrote these things down wanted. They are justifying their acts ex post facto by claiming a direct communiqué from God. Because, really, how does anyone know that God dictated these scriptures? Because our parents believed it, and their parents before them. Because that’s what our teachers told us. But the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures are often contradictory, so they can’t all be true. How do we choose the right thing?
Through being human. Through reading your heart. Through reason. If there is no pang of horror at the rape of a girl, you have lost your humanity and gone over to the dark side. If there is no hint of compassion for the victims of wars, both ancient and modern, then you have not learned to read your heart. And if you cannot tell the difference between what traditions have imposed and what is truly right and wrong, you have not learned to use your reason.
The sense is growing that we are in one of those periods when history is shifting under our feet. The number of people in the world is growing too fast, our communications abilities are rapidly shrinking the world at the same time, but we’re not educating our fellow men and women in how to live together in peace at a pace to keep up with these forces. So many humans, not enough humanity. Educators, get busy.