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A View from the Altar / Thinking aloud about really ugly war
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Thinking aloud about really ugly war

Under divine mandate, Joshua waged wars of absolute annihilation.  This has, of course, been urged against the Judeo-Christian outlook as an example of its barbarity.  It does raise the question of what kind of situation could justify such an extreme manner of war.  And just to make things more difficult for the apologist, we must remember that these were wars waged with swords, clubs, knives, stones, and arson.  To be defeated by Joshua was not an easy exit.

The wars currently being waged in central Africa perhaps give a bit of insight into what Israel was up against in Canaan.  Some of Africa’s warring factions are really just very large armed gangs roving the countryside pillaging for sport and raping women as one of the spoils of war.  In war torn areas, some Congolese women have been repeatedly raped by the temporary victors as wave after wave of gangsters has moved through their areas.  The “soldiers” doing the raping and pillaging are often men who were kidnapped and forced into this kind of life when they were small boys of six or eight.  Many were trained as children to kill and were systematically rendered brutal, psychopathic, and utterly savage.

Child Soldier

Child Soldier

One can imagine the difficulty of trying to rehabilitate a thirty-year old gangster who is now in charge of his own private army, who has committed countless rapes, murdered countless people, killed off countless rivals, maimed and mutilated another countless crowd, practiced torture till he grew bored with it, forced children to kill their parents, trades in stolen diamonds mined by stolen men — you get the idea.  The leader and his culture have moved well beyond peaceful remedy.

It is true that the Gospel can reach individuals who are living like this.  But divine authority moves on more than one track.  We pray that God has His players strategically placed to reach whoever can be reached.  At the same time, governmental authority bears a divine obligation to put a stop to such doings.  Gangster armies such as I have described are not imaginary.  They are real and operating in areas of Africa today where there is no law.  News reports and missionary reports recount atrocities that defy exaggeration.

Let’s suppose a neighboring nation determined to settle these lawless regions, build cities and towns, establish farms, agriculture, a priesthood and the trappings of a regular government and religion.  To send settlers into such area would be to populate it with new victims, fresh plunder, and unraped women.  To settle it at all, therefore, would require that the whole region be completely wiped out — everything would have to go before a peaceful and civilized society could be established on such a lawless land.

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