Holy cow. That was bad. Please send my regards to your eardrums. Not to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but this is how one of God's biggest moral failures, the genocide of the Canaanites, is presented to a child, as a playful, seemingly innocuous tune in which the child falls to the ground as the walls come tumbling down. At least, that's how Natasha Crain (author of Keeping Your Kids on God's Side) remembers it. That's how I remember it, too. In retrospect, I call it child indoctrination, and it is precisely the reason that good people will defend the unthinkable. Just to be clear, I'm not pointing a finger at Natasha. How could I? I was just as guilty. In Chapter 3, Natasha asks, "Why would God command the genocide of the Canaanites?" I hope she can answer that question a little better than I did when my husband asked me the same thing about two years ago. I, of course, responded that God must have had a morally justifiable reason, given the depravity of the Canaanites. He then asked how I would have felt to watch my two girls be mercilessly slaughtered. I had nothing. Did I mention that religion often makes good people do and say horrible things? Talk about moral corruption.
As Natasha points out, "The idea that God ordered an entire nation of men, women, and children to be wiped out in this manner is no small moral issue from the skeptic's perspective." Nor should it be a small moral issue from the Christian perspective either. She goes on to say that because "atheists are placing a significant emphasis on bringing Old Testament concerns to everyone's attention," the genocide of the Canaanites is a discussion that parents must have with their kids. Hmm...given that the Bible consists of only the Old and New Testaments, where else would the atheist place their emphasis? If I wanted to put special emphasis on Zeus, I would bring Greek Mythology to everyone's attention, right? So, let's see what God orders.
1 Samuel 15:3 (ESV) 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
Deuteronomy 20:17 (ESV) 16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction,[a] the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded,
As Natasha notes, that the Canaanites were extremely depraved. Thus, she lists their many abominations, the worst of which appears to be child sacrifice, something we can all agree is morally reprehensible. (Side Note: Given that in Genesis 22:2 God asked Abraham to “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you,” we can be pretty certain that human sacrifice was not a foreign concept to God. Don't worry, though. This was just a test.) And God's perfectly good and just act of judgment? Ironically, it's to kill more innocent babies (as seen in the first verse). Indefensible. Of course, in Natasha's opinion, "the source of the command makes all the difference" when genocide is committed, and only God is in the unique position of ultimate authority and fairness to command genocide. Let me get this straight. God is disgusted by the wickedness of the Canaanites, and the appalling example we're given of an appropriate response is ethnic cleansing? This is the best that the God of the universe could come up with? Under modern conditions, God would be a war criminal. Consequently, this leads me to the conclusion that there is no act in which God could perpetrate that Christians would not defend. I should know. I've been there. The inherent and unsolvable problem with the Bible is that it constantly puts you at odds with your own sense of right and wrong.
Here's the good new. This event likely never happened! As Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman notes, the lack of historical and archaeological evidence for this event should make one highly suspicious of its likelihood. Furthermore, as noted in The American Journal of Human Genetics, "present day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which therefore implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the Bronze Age," thus making the Canaanite genocide improbable. That is great news for Christians, just one more act of God that they don't have to defend. But wait. If the Canaanite genocide didn't happen and there was no Garden of Eden, what does this mean for the veracity of the Bible?