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Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Pat Robertson Finds A Monster In The Cellar
Western civilization is an ancient and beautiful structure. We're lucky to live here, mostly. But below this house is a cellar. And in that cellar is a monster. You knew that already.
Anyway, if you're a certain type of social conservative you pretend the monster doesn't exist. So if someone sends you down the stairs to rummage around, it can be quite a shock.
A couple of weeks ago someone sent Pat Robertson to the cellar.
It was one of his viewers. She wanted him to explain why the Bible's bloody parts are different than the bloody parts in the Quran. This difference is important to some of us, because it justifies the things we want to do to Muslims. (Of course, many people would argue we don't want to do any of it. We have to, because they're brutal people. That's what the issue is. Whether Muslims are brutal by their nature; if it's fair to judge them by the worst in their group.)
So Pat found himself halfway down the stairs, his feeble white hand trembling on the banister. He was trying to spot the chain to the overhead bulb in the center of the room. Someone had spilled something on the cement floor. It had barely dried.
We keep so many things down here. It's cluttered. It's not safe. Pat needed to look up one of our old stories. According to a founding document of our culture, God ordered His own chosen people to commit mass murder.
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants...
This is 1 Samuel 15:3, and it's part of a campaign of terror and bloodshed the Israelites waged as they took control of the Holy Land. Pat himself referred to it as "the wars of extermination." God and his prophets repeatedly commanded that the Israelites kill their enemies. It was their duty. Even the infanticide.
God is the supreme Lord of life, and can require his own when he pleaseth; infants likewise are born in sin, and therefore liable to God's wrath.
This was how John Wesley justified it, adding...
Their death also was rather a mercy than a curse, as being the occasion of preventing their sin and punishment.
Today many of us say that's not what the Judeo-Christian tradition is about. Progressive believers argue that the text itself is deeply flawed. I think that's the only decent way to think about the Bible. There's just too much murder in that book. Large portions of it are immoral. Not old-fashioned or weird, but wicked and wrong. You have to absolutely reject some of it, or the parts about love and compassion are meaningless. They are actually obscene.
Not everyone thinks this way though. There are many, many people of faith out there still who agree with John Wesley that butchering children was justified. Writing for The Briefing, John Allister compared it to the ethics of assassinating Adolf Hitler - taking life for the greater good. The cellar is where we keep all the stuff some of us try to ignore about our past, and our values. But others - let's be honest - actually like coming down here. They vote. They have power. They support our leaders when they wage war, and they always have reasons. They too define who we are.
Who are we, actually?
Pat found his footing, walked into the stale air, and he decided not to turn on the light. He heard breathing in the corner. He smiled at what was sitting there. What had always been sitting there.
It smiled back at him.
I wrote an entire novel about these things. It's THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES, and you can find it here. Tomorrow and Thursday it will be free at Amazon.