Holy War Isn’t
When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you and your descendants as an inheritance to possess, you will possess it and settle in it… – Deuteronomy 26:1 (adapted from NRSV)
Last month, 230 people were killed by Israeli airstrikes. 65 of the dead are children. Meanwhile, Hamas rocket fire killed 12 people, including 2 children. In light of those atrocities, verses like the above – in which God ordains seizing inhabited land and doing harm to the inhabitants – make me nauseous.
These passages not only shaped the ancient past, they inspired the more recent European conquest and colonization of Africa, Asia and the Americas. So called “western expansion” was advertised as the conquest of the new Canaan wherein colonialism, slavery and genocide were God-ordained.
I believe biblical texts of theo-ethnic supremacy (a.k.a. “texts of terror”) should be exposed and removed from the holy book. Short of that, they need a blinking, neon warning label with an acknowledgement of the unholy harm committed in their name.
In any case, the mountainous mindsets of land entitlement and conquest are harder to uproot. After many years of interrogating white supremacy, male supremacy, North American supremacy, Christian supremacy in me, they persist.
The journey into the Promised Land of true beloved community is long and hard and so worthwhile. It will take generations of courageous acknowledgement, seeking forgiveness and reparations to bring peace to the Holy Land, to American land, and to the world God relentlessly loves.
Jesus, Prince of Peace, conquer our pretensions to supremacy until all that’s left of us is love.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.