The white elephant in the room
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a storm of criticism for his Amalek reference in a speech he recently delivered.
For those unfamiliar with the Bible, the Amalekites were one of the ethnic groups that lived in Canaan prior to the arrival of the Jews and the European-style discovery of the land of Canaan. The Amalekites seemed to have ticked off the deity of the Bible to such an extent that a full course of genocide was ordered against them.
Perhaps one of the most chilling biblical references that mentions Amalek is found in 1 Samuel 15:3, which reads: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
According to the Old Testament, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chain of Jewish heroes, beginning with Joshua, were ordered to engage in some heavy-duty butchery that included little babies, women, and even animals.
The brutality of the bombing currently unfolding in Gaza is a clear indication that the political leadership in Israel is following the ancient biblical script and is treating the Palestinians pretty much the same way that the biblical Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua and others, treated the Canaanites. The entire world is witnessing a replay of the ethnic cleansing and genocide so faithfully recorded by the writers of the Old Testament.
The white elephant in the room that few want to acknowledge, and even fewer want to discuss, is the morality of the ethnic cleansing and genocide that Prime Minister Netanyahu alluded to in his Amalek remark. Atheists and secularists have long pointed out that the deity of the Old Testament is, in the words of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, “a bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capricious, malevolent bully”.
Millions the world over who will shed rivers of tears over the First Citizens, black, Jewish, and Rwandan holocausts will read the story of the conquest of Canaan in the Bible and move smartly on as though there is nothing to see there. After all, it was God who issued the genocide directive to Joshua and the others in the chain of Jewish heroes. Genocide and ethnic cleansing mysteriously cease to be such once the God of the Old Testament commands it and is with those carrying out the directive.
In a curious twist of fate, it is recorded that the Nazis adopted the phrase ‘gott mit uns’, which means God is with us. Christopher Columbus and the chain of European heroes also operated against the backdrop of belief that the same God who was with the chain of biblical heroes was also with them. Apparently, the God of the biblical and European chains of heroes cannot help himself when it comes to ethnic cleansing and genocide. Once Yahweh is with a nation, every baby and suckling in other nations needs to watch his or her back.
Those with a moral conscience are right to condemn the atrocities that led to the destruction of millions of lives in the New World; during slavery and its aftermath; under the Nazis; in Rwanda, Darfur, Armenia, Myanmar, China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and all the other hot spots where the politics of organised insanity prevailed. Our moral conscience, if it is to be consistent, cannot permit us to give a pass to ethnic cleansing and genocide under any circumstances.
In the movie God on Trial, a group of Jews in Auschwitz concentration camp convene a trial to determine whether God had broken his covenant with the Jewish people. In one of the exchanges the white elephant in the room is addressed head-on and with devastating precision and clarity. After showing how petty and bloodthirsty the deity of the Old Testament was, the presenter concludes by saying that the God of the Bible is strong but lacking in moral integrity and goodness. Man apparently has to teach the gods the justice that is within the heart of humanity.
Until the image of deity is pruned of these capricious and bloodthirsty traits that are foundational for much of the mayhem and madness witnessed in the Abrahamic faiths and in many other global faith communities, the religiously motivated bloodletting that we are witnessing in Gaza and other places will continue. The divine image, especially in the Abrahamic faith traditions, needs a make-over that will produce something more akin to Martin Luther King Jr as opposed to Netanyahu or US President Joe Biden.
Without this divine evolution the world will just slide from one religiously motivated atrocity to the other until one of our psychopathic world leaders does the unthinkable and plunges the world into a deadly nuclear winter.
Lenrod Nzulu Baraka
Founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center