The Canaanite slaughter.
Whether or not you’re a Christian fundamentalist or a strident atheist (or far from either), if it hasn’t brought a chill down your spine; you haven’t really thought about it deeply enough. Christian apologists like to ask who are you to judge God or give arguments on the greater good beyond a perceived abhorrent command by God (by taking their lives they were sparred from hell, for example).
But how does this jive with the idea of a loving God and the overall Christian narrative? Peter Enns offers a mic drop moment:
“To move forward, we have to look at the Canaanite issue from a different, and perhaps very new, angle. And here it is: God never told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites. The Israelites believed that God told them to kill the Canaanites.”
Courageous and seemingly heretical (for many Christian eyes), these words offer an important vantage point. If many a religious tradition wants to nationalize an “us vs. them”, there is no better way than to divinitize the division between the them vs. us and the saved vs. the dammed – God is on our side, God commanded it. While genocide of this nature routinely horrifies us in the history books, it’s accepted in outright by many if penned in their Scriptures. But for the many that read their particular religious revelation/text literally, what say them for an opposing revelation/text where their faith, family, and nation is the damned to be slaughtered? Whether one calls this the Crusades, the Holocaust, or the Canaanite slaughter, the underlying divinely inspired nationalism of us/them is the same.
In framing it this way, Enns invites us to call it what it is.