Are Murder, Rape, and Genocide Morally Christian?

The Jesus Eraser

I got caught up in a comment thread a few days ago in which an agnostic and a fundamentalist Christian argued about the nature of good and evil. At one point the agnostic posed this question:

“We also know that a minority opinion does not make a morally Christian act, objectively moral.
It is morally Christian to kill your son because God asked you too. It is morally Christian to offer your daughters to rapists to protect angels. It is morally Christian to kill thousands of people because God decided they were not worth him. Do you condone these acts or are you glad to live in our « fallen secular world »?”

The Christian answered with this response:

“YES I would condone all of those acts if commanded by God. Absolutely. Because God is the lawgiver. He is the moral standard of truth. Your opinion on right and wrong is irrelevant as is mine. When you fully grasp that God created the universe we inhabit and holds it together moment by moment in delicate balance, you will realize that his thoughts are SOOOO much higher than ours (as scripture says). But humans have a tendency to think they can know better than a God who created them. Yet we cannot even make our own hearts beat.”

The thread went back and forth for awhile, but both this particular question AND the response bothered me. I felt it was important for me to try and clear up a few things, if I could.

So I wrote the following response. It was probably tl;dr as it’s gotten no feedback whatsoever, and the thread itself stopped in its tracks. That is the nature of the internet, of course. But because I put so much time into thinking this out, and I wanted to be able to share these thoughts with others should they come up again, I’m going to reproduce my comment here.

The full thread and the original (quite good!) post can be found here: “Do Christians Indoctrinate Their Children?”


 

([agnostic commenter], I know this will bring some bloggers’ hellfire down upon me, but I just have to let you know–not all people who try to follow Jesus agree with what [Christian commenter] is saying. In fact, with regard to the murder/rape/genocide, I am hopeful that the majority of us very firmly do NOT. We would, however, disagree that “It is morally Christian to kill your son… offer your daughters to rapists… [and] kill thousands of people.” None of those things are morally Christian.

Christianity–the understanding and following of CHRIST, Jesus–did not exist in Abraham’s time. Abraham’s interaction with God as recorded in Genesis should therefore not be construed with the relationship God has with people through Jesus now–that Old Testament interaction had a different purpose. I should also note that 1. God never actually had Abraham kill Isaac, 2. God only asks Abraham to **offer** Isaac up, never gives an actual command to kill, 3. God in fact loudly and absolutely condemns child sacrifice elsewhere in the Old Testament. See Genesis 22, here for the account of Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac, and see Psalm 106:34-39, Ezekiel 16:20-22, and Ezekiel 23:36-39 for God condemning child sacrifice (you can search them on BibleGateway as well; I don’t want to clog up this comment with links).

If you read Psalm 106 and those Ezekiel chapters, this actually provides a good segue to your third point about genocide. Obviously, in those passages, wiping out other nations is referenced–very, very firmly within the context of due justice. Those nations were thoroughly murderous, sacrificing their children as a way of life, and they passed on that practice to ancient Israel. If we can agree that child sacrifice is unacceptable, even to the Christian God, then I think we can agree that a culture that formally enforces it as part of a religion is extremely dangerous and toxic–and that that everyone who committed murder in that society, which must be the vast majority of people, deserve death themselves.

However. It is important to note that God never “decided they were not worth him.” Having hand-made every single human with infinitely loving purpose and care, God loves every single one of us–even the ones he instructs authorities to kill for the sake of everyone else’s protection and stop a horrifyingly destructive practice. He mourns every person lost when a people group is wiped out, absolutely regardless of the reason. And in fact, Psalm 51:14-17 and Hosea 6:6 say outright that God does not desire sacrifice, but rather mercy. He will not back down from crushing a threat when innocents are being wantonly slaughtered; neither does he ever WANT to have to do such a thing. And, in fact, that is why he sent Jesus: so that even murders would have a way to turn away from their wrongdoing and be forgiven, rather than be killed in return. This is ALSO why Christians are NEVER justified in recreating that OT scenario and crusading or committing genocide themselves. God has NO USE for that now. Jesus wasn’t around in the OT, however, so it makes sense that God’s solution to systemic mass murder was damage control: eliminating the murderers themselves. That’s the ONLY reason Israel had the instruction to kill off other nations–because they were such hideously bad mojo–and it does NOT MEAN God didn’t love and care for and mourn those lives lost, too. This is the atomic bomb ethical dilemma that all of us can appreciate, now having that in our fairly recent history: destroy several thousand lives in an instant to end a war, or sacrifice untold quantities more–including and especially the very people you are sworn to protect as your first priority–by letting the war drag on instead. Which would you choose?

We argue that none of us can play God, that the best answer to this dilemma is passive non-decision; but if anyone does in fact have the right to play God, it’s God himself. Here is the point where I concede a bit of common ground with [Christian commenter]: if God has a solution, regardless of how terrible the fallout, you can believe that it is a just solution, and you can believe it is in fact the best solution. If you cannot see the justice in God’s work, and you cannot equally see the love, then you are not following a God that is truly worth worshipping, are you? May I also add, that if you are having a hard time seeing love and justice in the Christian God, you might well be mistaken about who he truly is, what he says, and what he does.

Finally (and I know I’m going out of order, but bear with me), offering Lot’s daughters to rapists to protect angels was not God’s idea, or even the angels’ idea; it was Lot’s, and he in no way receives commendation for it. It’s simply recorded that that’s what happened. See Genesis 19 here for the account: Any sane Christian today would look at that and say, “Well gee, I’m not trying that any time soon!!” God absolutely condemns rape. He absolutely condemns child abuse. He absolutely condemns going rogue on “doing the right thing” because you think you’re doing him a favor even while you’re harming other humans. I could pull you up passages for these principles, too, but again, I don’t want to clog the blog.

So, then, all this is to explain that “moral Christianity” is not at all what you think it is. There are evils that are obviously evil to the vast majority of humans, and when Christians get confused about that, that’s their fault, not God’s. It an absolute shame when we represent him so poorly, and I’m sorry for that. But I hope you will take the word of one of us who agrees with you that child sacrifice and rape and genocide are bad when I say that God wants none of these things from us–that practicing such is not “moral Christianity.”


 

If you made it to the end, gentle reader–what are you thoughts?

–GM

 

15 thoughts on “Are Murder, Rape, and Genocide Morally Christian?

  1. I would agree with you in much of that, in fact the points regarding Abraham, Lot, and the fact that wiping out nations was justice came to my mind as well prior to finishing the post. Just because the Bible records something doesn’t mean it is endorsing it – it records many sinful actions of men. And I would say Rahab is proof to the fact that God had no problem accepting those from other nations that accepted Him. Most, however, did not, and most were wicked as you pointed out.
    I would say my main “disagreement” with what you stated (and it could be misunderstanding and quite frankly, it is a relatively smaller point in the grand scheme of your post) is that you mentioned Jesus did not exist in the OT, and that Christianity was not the way of things in the OT. I believe that Jesus is God, and was in fact there as He stated in the NT (one of which is when He says before Abraham was, I am – referencing God’s “I Am that I Am” statement.) This goes into the Trinity and is a whole subject in an of itself. Also, while I think i understand the gist of your comment on Christianity not being in the OT, I would say I don’t completely agree. I believe the OT points forward to the promise of Christ’s work on the cross as much of the NT points back to the finished work of Christ on the cross.
    However overall I think you responded very well and knowledgeably. 😊 just my two (or fifty) cents lol

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    1. Thank you for commenting! Also thank you for pointing that out and asking for clarification, it’s a great thing to note. 🙂 I actually do believe, as you do, that Jesus has been around since the beginning of time; but since I was addressing a non-believer, I thought it was best to simplify things a bit and avoid more confusion (since there was already so much of that going around!) and basically point out that Jesus literally hadn’t been born on earth yet. Nobody knew who he was or what that would look like, and accordingly, Christianity as a faith/culture also could not exist until Jesus arrived on earth and began his ministry. However, I do absolutely believe that the whole of the OT (and all of human history really!) points forward and backward through time to the work of Jesus, so in that sense, it really is all the work of one God and all points toward one faith. We didn’t have the name “Christianity” for it until after Christ himself came and taught us what it’s all about–up until that point, God was keeping us pretty well in the dark on the particulars. 🙂 That’s the point I wanted to make to this agnostic–God had a different way of relating to people and dealing with them in the OT, before the glory and goodness and sacrifice of Jesus was fully revealed, and that means OT law and anecdotes are not completely transferable to a correct understanding or practice of our faith today.

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      1. Thank you for clarifying! Now that I better understand your intention I would agree that that was probably a good way to approach a non-believer. Best to avoid further confusion! You really are a great writer and there is a depth to your writing that isn’t found everywhere. Hugs!💗

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  2. perspectiveswithpotential

    It seems you covered it quite well in answering your skeptic. The Old Testament is establishing the Nation Israel as the people GOD would show HIS love through to the rest of the world. Israel wasn’t very cooperative. That isn’t GOD’s fault. GOD had to work a lot of things together for their good and to accomplish HIS plan inspite of the nation that went out of their way to love the world and worship other gods. Creation testified of the GODhead which Noah and Abraham recognized and believed; their faith pleased GOD and HE chose them to begin Israel. Out of Israel comes Jesus to accomplish all that is necessary for our salvation as we become obedient to the faith. One premise often overlooked, which helps understand much of the hard texts throughout Scripture is, GOD loves mankind. Everything HE has done from creating an earth that compliments life to sending HIS men or women to testify of HIM, to the church and to the book HE compiled for us, all testifies of HIS love toward us. If we look at those hard sayings through HIS loving heart, it is easier to place them into context of the stories HE gave us, giving understanding of why and what for things happened as they did. What HE did with, for and through Israel, is not protocol for all men everywhere. The examples of Israels walk with and without GOD should be warnings to us. The Scriptures, written by O.T. believers who were faithful, give us plenty of hope. When the crusades happened, as the Catholics followed in the footsteps of the Muslims, they didn’t even consider doing what Jesus would have advocated. If they would have looked at Scripture as their authority instead of tradition, the pope, or some other writings, that event in history would never have happened. It was contrary to Christian virtue; definitely selfish gain, greedy, power hungry; but, not “Christ-like” at all.
    Lot was commended for his faith. He sat in the gate of Sodom…a place of elders who give advice and talk about what to do about conditions of the community. Obviously, Lot was not much influence in Sodom nor to his own family. His family was more influenced by the evil deeds of Sodom than they were by their dad, who had faith, but apparently didn’t say much about it. All of his family were backslidden and influenced by the world; just as Israel had become many times in their history.

    If we look at what Jesus did as our example of Christianity, He didn’t kill or convert anyone, He didn’t take advantage of the talents and money of those who wanted to follow Him ‘with reservations’. The N.T. warnings in the Epistles regarding sin; the world, lusts, pride or listening to others who come in His name, are repetitious of what happened to Israel when they compromised their faith and took on the ways of the world on the pretense of influencing it. They neither consulted GOD about the decisions they made regarding everyday living and what they should or should not do regarding the people they interacted with, nor did they even care what GOD wanted. We have watched plenty of professing believers fall prey to bad teachers who are selling their books and CDs, leading them to smoke, drink, get a divorce, finangle taxes to benefit yourself more…One professing believer even claimed GOD told her to get a divorce. (no abuse; just didn’t want to be housewife and mother anymore). The younger Christians who were influenced to drink, are now alcoholics and none of their peers that got them into it are coming to help them get delivered from that. Abstaining from the appearance of evil takes away all the fun. It also keeps us from cancer, DUIs, liver disease, STD’s, tax auditing and criminal charges and possibly jail. Those who follow in these compromises, using Scripture to justify their carnal behavior, don’t fellowship in churches anymore. You can’t talk about the Lord to them anymore. The love of the world choked out the word. Scriptures emphasized the diligence to keep our first love. As soon as we sign on to something else as our identity or our cause in the world, our love diminishes. Pretty soon the main topic of discussion is tongues, or Calvinism or politics or sex. The love of the Lord waxes cold. The denominations that wage war against each other and who focus on their own characteristics which hold their fellowship together and distinquishes them from other denominations, are in their own crusade; coming in His name but not doing as He would do. That agnostic person seems to know enough about Christianity, right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error, to be responsible for being obedient to the faith. In Scripture, those who knew the truth and who walked away, were in worse shape than those who kept the faith, however imperfectly. He/she is treading on dangerous ground. Knowing Jesus Christ is true and that He is the only medicator between GOD and man, requires them to make a decision before they die. They could die at any moment; accident, health, doctor mess up, drug overdose, etc. No guarantee they will live a ripe old age to decide then. Appreciate your insightful response and the comment as well. Keep yourself from idols.

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    1. Thank you very much for commenting! You have a ton of different thoughts here, but I especially liked “If we look at those hard sayings through HIS loving heart, it is easier to place them into context of the stories HE gave us, giving understanding of why and what for things happened as they did. What HE did with, for and through Israel, is not protocol for all men everywhere.” and “The denominations that wage war against each other and who focus on their own characteristics which hold their fellowship together and distinquishes them from other denominations, are in their own crusade; coming in His name but not doing as He would do.” So true, and quite how I feel!

      I’m not sure I follow on every other point you made; Lot, in particular, may have been a man of faith, but his actions in offering his daughters up for rape (!) and then after their escape from Sodom sleeping with them in a drunken stupor (!!) demonstrates that he himself was hardly practicing a walk with the Lord… no wonder his family fell apart! The culture in that city ruined all of them… and despite this, God has mercy and saves (most of) their lives, as demonstrated by Abraham’s feverish prayers on their behalf. If a human could love them so, how much more must God love them, even in all their continued sin? Crazy! What hope that gives us for the love he has for us!!

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      1. perspectiveswithpotential

        you’re right there. Lot definitely blew it. since we know his soul was vexed by those evil deeds, it could be (giving him the benefit of the doubt) that he fell into sin rather than practicing sin. He didn’t seem to be defiant as much as stupid. I’ve been told , all men are liars, which is my wife’s favorite verse to me. Says, men are clueless! I am not sure what she’s talking about but, she’s the smart one. like to think Lot was clueless, too. thank you for talking. insightful feedback. God bless you

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      2. Haha! Yes, it’s hard to know just what his weaknesses or failings were rooted in without being there ourselves. I’m sure your wife appreciates your goodnatured sense of humor. 😉 Thanks again!

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  3. When I’ve attempted to explain some of the above examples to my daughters when they were children I always prefaced my explanation with this admonition: there are many things within the Bible that I do not understand. Some of these things I have a partial understanding of and some I do not understand at all. I don’t have to understand everything. I do understand that God is good, that God is love and that He is merciful. I understand that He alone is truly righteous. And on He is truly just.
    That said, my limited understanding of God wiping out entire civilizations is similar to your explanation with this caveat: God went to great lengths to protect the Israelite nation in order to protect as pure a linage as possible for His Son, Jesus Christ, the physical, flesh and blood part of Him to be born into. This is the whole reason for the Israelite nation to exist, to be set aside and protect as it was promised to Abraham by God–“Through your seed all nations will be blessed.”
    I do not believe that Christianity existed prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. I do believe that Christ did exist and does exists within the Spirit of God as the Alpha and the Omega.

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    1. Thank you for weighing in! I really like how you said, “I do not believe that Christianity existed prior to the birth of Jesus Christ. I do believe that Christ did exist and does exists within the Spirit of God as the Alpha and the Omega.” That’s exactly what I mean, too. 🙂 In the context of my original comment, I felt it best to stay out of the weeds on that one since I was talking to a non-believer who already had some confused impressions of Scripture.

      Your thoughts on the lineage of Jesus are very interesting! I actually don’t think the purity of Christ’s lineage from Abraham was an objective God had; Ruth and Rahab were both foreigners, after all, and they are very purposefully included in Jesus’s ancestral line. I also don’t know that God had to bless Abraham’s lineage with a full nation in order for Jesus to be descended from him; I do think God grew a whole nation out of Abraham, however, because he did want to have a special relationship with one people on the face of the earth at that time. (This is actually partly why I say Christianity didn’t exist in the OT: Christ hadn’t come to bring God’s favor to all nations, so relationship with God was limited to a very exclusive, law-ridden culture.)

      I think God wanted to have a very fleshed out depiction of what his favor (or the lack thereof) toward an entire people group looked like so that the whole world could gather a sense of what an impossible standard it is to please God in every way–so that the need for Jesus to meet that need instead would be very, very clear by the time he came. Of course, not everyone understood that as well as you would hope by the time he showed up… but that’s another story.

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      1. Likewise, I find your understanding interesting, though nuanced from my own as I think Christ was the reason for the rules and regulations that were a ritual and purpose of purification. Ruth and Rahab went through the purification both figuratively and literally, as they became harbingers of the promise of Christ that we–sinners and gentiles–would be the adopted sons and daughters of God.
        None-the-less, these nuances are merely interesting and not dividing, i.e., I acknowledge the merit of your argument and the possibility that you may be right.
        God’s continuing blessings to you and your family.

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  4. Erica

    I have been thinking a lot about being a Christian surrounded by non-believers and what that should look like. I appreciate your explanation of the fact that rape, child sacrifice, and wiping entire cultures from the face of the earth are not Christian values but what about other less black-and-white things that have become Christian values? I’ve noticed more judgment, more greed, more argumentativeness, and more anger. The family who accepts state assistance is condemned for laziness rather than remembering that “…whoever helps the least of these helps me”. The woman who for whatever reason doesn’t want to carry a child to term is condemned as a murderer rather than the people shelling out condemnation helping her raise her child or adopting the child. Refugees are condemned for being possible terrorists rather than being offered safety, shelter, and food. And then all the arguing on-line. Where did the Fruits of the Spirit go? It is hard being a Christian when I feel ashamed of how despicably other Christians are acting to those who need the most love.

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    1. Erica, it is so good to hear from you! Thank you for stopping by and especially for sharing your thoughts. I really hear you on this point, too. So many behaviors and attitudes within the faith I identify with make me so angry and discouraged. I feel a strong calling to challenge my fellow believers when I feel they have lost sight of Jesus, and it’s really because I feel the faith itself is worth it… we Christians often need to see it again with new eyes for how wonderful it really is. That’s the only thing that will give us a good enough reason to let go of the antagonism, meanness, judgmentalism, etc. I cringe sometimes at calling myself a Christian because that is now associated with so very many bad things, things Jesus would never support… so I’ve just started calling myself a Jesus follower. I feel that allows me to stand by the heart of goodness and love he’s shown me while also disassociating from the negative political and cultural baggage that the other term has taken on. And then sometimes I do just call myself a Christian, because I think a lot of Jesus-followers have gotten ensnared in that baggage even while they’re trying to follow Jesus, and I want them to know I’m on their side, that I want them to find the best of Jesus and am rooting for their growth and goodness in the land of the living, even when I think he’s off in a different direction than the one they’re headed. All that to say… I struggle with the tension, too. 🙂 Thank you for sharing, again!

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