Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Herem

Some of the most controversial parts of the Hebrew Bible involve Israel’s brutal conquest of the Promised Land. Many a supposed Bible scholar have cited verses commanding Israel to obliterate their enemies and others excoriating Israel for showing mercy as evidence of an inconsistent, if not biased, God. What they really are is an implicit rebuke of multiculturalism.

The object of Israel’s bloody conquest was to rid the Promised Land of decadent, immoral cultures with which they could not coexist. The Canaanites et al. practiced incest, bestiality, homosexuality, cultic prostitution, and human sacrifice. God considered these practices abhorrent: “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates” (Deut. 12.31).

God did not even spare Jews who adopted Canaanite practices: “Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people” (Lev. 20.22). But God did spare those Canaanites who were righteous, such as the prostitute Rahab (Joshua 6.23), and those who changed their lascivious ways, as did the Ninevites (Jonah 3.5).

The differences between Israel and the Canaanites et al. were not minor ethical or theological disputes. They had fundamentally different ideas about the foundational principles of a nation.

One of Israel’s foundational principles is man made in the image of God. God is so angered by a man’s murder that He calls for the murderer’s blood to be shed (Gen. 9:6). Imagine then Israel’s horror at the human sacrifices being carried out in the Promised Land.

Another foundational principle is God’s immutable, asexual oneness. Israel was a relatively chaste people, with many laws regulating sexual relations. The Canaanites et al. by contrast had multiple anthropomorphized nature gods, petty and sex-crazed. Their brazen promiscuity was destructive to the family and thus to social stability.

Why do I bring this up?

Ancient Israel valued the primacy of their culture. Without compromising their foundational principles, they endured the test of time. Modern America, on the other hand, has not. In the name of tolerance, we allowed foundational principles opposite to our own to flourish. America compromised like so many nations before it and it is failing the test of time.

For most people, the fracturing of America seemed benign up to a certain point. After that, one sees every compromise as a failure of moral leadership. For some it was the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling. For others it was the Troubled Asset Relief Program. For still some others, including me, it was the redefinition of marriage. The difference before and after is we no longer disagree with our opponents, we view them and their arguments as immoral. What they desire is incompatible with a just, moral society.

But who am I to judge?

For more on this theme, read Doug Hagmann’s piece over at Canada Free Press.

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