Allegedly, one of the great barriers to some people embracing the Christian God is the picture of him portrayed in the Old Testament, and in particular, the instruction given to the people of Israel to destroy all men, women and children in the land they were going to possess. This is known as the herem or the Ban, the forced destruction of the Canaanite people (Exodus 23:32-33, 34:12-16, Deuteronomy 7:1-5, and 20:15-18).
God’s requirement for herem, and the people’s willingness to carry it out are presented as justification for the rejection of the bible and the people who claim to order their lives by it.
There is no easy answer, though in Deuteronomy 9:5 a reason given is the wickedness of the people of Canaan, and that this wickedness is likely to infect the Israelites (Deut 20:18). Leviticus 18 is another statement of justification. If, as in v21, like the Canaanites the new inhabitants were to offer their children in sacrifice to Molech, then the land, in a violent, convulsive heaves, would vomit them from their new possession (v28).
What I want to ask, on the day after Black Thursday in Ireland, is why Christians are so coy about herem, and why those who object to it are so appalled?
We don’t call our contemporary god Molech, we call him Market. But is there much moral difference to what the Fianna Fail government has done in the last few years? Market is angry, and because Market must be appeased we have been prepared to do anything to make his face to shine upon us.
Market is callous. RTE news speculated on the possible events if the agents of Market must take over a failed economy. They will occupy hotels in the centre of Dublin then cut the numbers of nurses and teachers without remorse. Four businesses a day have failed in the first 9 months of 2010.
Those who worship Market fall under his spell and can imagine no form of life without Market. So much so that the only way to appease Market is to use the gifts of Market, even though he has proved himself to be a capricious monster. We go back to him again and again hoping he will change. And he never does.
So we sacrifice the futures of our children and grandchildren because not one of the brightest and best in the country can possibly imagine a future without Market at the centre.
I happen to believe that Genesis 1 is a statement of an alternative cosmology, re-imagining the way the world is under the stewardship of a good God. It stands as a counterbalance to the violent, intrusive, abusive cosmologies of Canaan. My worry is that we Christians are so enmeshed in the worship of Market that we lack the capacity to re-imagine faith for a post-Celtic Tiger Ireland that doesn’t involve the pursuit of another cub with the capacity to rebuild our economy. As if we could get it right the next time.
We need a new Genesis 1.