A dear family friend works as a public defender. At times she shares anecdotes about the people she has to represent. Many appear to be miscreants who wreak much havoc upon the social order. At times I jokingly state that there is a solution for these kinds of people. We should shoot them all and let God sort it out. After all, God has vast experience in destroying those who disagree him. In biblical times, not only did God punish the sinner but punished their progeny. The iniquities of the fathers were to be inflicted upon the children unto the third or fourth generation. The curses imposed upon Adam and Eve applied to their offspring in perpetuity. Nor was it rare for innocents to suffer the punishments meted out by an angry deity. Because of the intransigence of Pharaoh, God chose to destroy every first born child in Egypt. This was not his first use of mass destruction. After creation, the world had become very wicked. God’s solution to the problem was to create a great flood and eliminate the the whole human race with the exception of Noah’s family. God’s awesome power to exterminate was also turned against the Egyptian hoards pursuing the children of Israel. At a later date he visited the angel of death upon the invading Assyrians. For those who worshiped the Golden Calf God commanded, “slay every man his brother (who worshiped the idol), and every man his companion and every man his neighbor”. Directing his wrath against the Canaanites he instructed the Israelites to kill every man, woman, child and animal in the conquered villages. This harshness against those who disobey him is seen in the Levitical laws and continues to the very end of the Bible. In the book of Revelation the wicked are eternally damned to exquisite suffering in a Lake of Fire.

At times, the Old Testament God seems capricious and petty. He should have known that a woman could not resist the temptation of eating the forbidden fruit. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt because of her desire to see what was happening. A man who tried to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling was struck dead for touching the holy object. When a group of boys were mocking the prophet Elisha God sent two female bears to punish the unruly youngsters and devour them. I’m writing these musings with some trepidation. Hopefully they are not blasphemous. Last week we might have had a bad omen come to our house. A real live black bear visited our patio in the middle of the night.

As a child I sang the words “keep looking up, thy God is still the same today”. I was also taught that the Supreme Being is the same yesterday, today and forever. If the deity continues to persist in his destructive rage toward the errant I should be seriously concerned. The bottomless pit and the inferno await me. However my theologic friends assure me that the vengeful God of antiquity has morphed into a loving, kindly old man with a long white beard. Yet, I continue to have apprehension about a deity that demanded blood sacrifice. We are told that he so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to suffer a bloody, anguishing death. Such love fails to gain my confidence. With all of his omnipotent abilities could he not have created some sweet oblivious antidote to accomplish the same goal? I’ll allow the theologians to deal with that question. Or did the bloodshed and mayhem so frequently attributed to him never happen? Are these tales merely the myths and legends of a superstitious desert people? Many believers regard them as historical realities and absolute truths. Should we? If so, what does it tell us about the nature of a God who fails to adhere to his own commandment, “thou shalt not kill”?

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