By Rudy Barnes, Jr., November 18, 2023
Over 3,000 years ago Joshua’s Hebrew army annihilated the people of Jericho pursuant to the ban of Deuteronomy 20:16-18. The massacre depicted in Joshua 6 illustrated the power of hate and violence in the Holy Land, and was a precedent for genocide in the name of God. Today Israel remains the epicenter of religious hate and violence in the Abrahamic religions.
Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who appeared in Israel 1500 years after Joshua. While Jesus and Joshua are Semitic variations of the same name, Jesus was a man of reconciliation and peace, while Joshua was a man of war; but the Church ignored the teachings of Jesus with Crusades from 1096 to 1204, and with Inquisitions from the 12th century to the 19th century.
The latest explosion of religious hate and violence came on October 7, 2023, when Hamas terrorists emerged from their tunnels under Gaza and caught Israelis by surprise, killing over 1100 Jews. Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to exterminate Hamas as “payback” for its terrorist attack, and President Biden pledged America’s unconditional support for Israel.
The Israeli-Hamas holy war rages on, with the carnage of thousands of women and children. Where is God in this holy war? In the cosmic conflict between the forces of good and evil, God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity, while Satan’s purpose is to divide and conquer; but Satan has done a convincing imitation of God in the church and politics.
The teachings of Jesus are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions--and even our enemies. as we love ourselves. In the Beatitudes Jesus taught that peacemakers were blessed as children of God, but history doesn’t reflect that peacemakers are blessed--at least not in this world.
History indicates that religion has been more a source than a solution for hate and violence in the world, and that it’s more likely to arise in the Holy Land than elsewhere. While the doctrines of Just War and the Law of War have theological origins, they don’t have much practical value in stopping a war; and when a war is over, the winner makes the rules.
Religion serves many useful purposes, but preventing and stopping wars is not one of them. That’s why the mission of America’s military must be prepared for war to preserve peace. That’s the motto of the Army War College. Churchill noted that war is a terrible thing, but that there are worse things than war. Hate and violence in the Holy Land is evidence of that.
The teachings of Jesus on love and reconciliation don’t need Christianity to validate them, but the church has subordinated the teachings of Jesus to exclusivist beliefs that Jesus never taught. The church must reinvent itself and give primacy to the universal and altruistic teachings of Jesus on God’s reconciling love over Satan’s divisive power of hate and violence.