Saturday, February 28, 2015

Does it bother anyone that the techniques ISIS is using come straight out of Joshua and the Israelites playbook?

I confess to having quite a bit of cognitive dissonance regarding the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant. On the one hand I am appalled at the primitive violence and cruelty. On the other hand I feel a strong sense of recognition. I've read this story before. In the Old Testament. The story of ISIS is in fact quite similar to the Israelite invasion and conquest of Canaan. I'm serious so before you dismiss me as a Judeo Christian hating crank please consider the following:

Both conquests occur in the middle east and were effected by very patriarchal, tribal peoples who speak similar semetic languages and have many commonalities of dress, culture and tabu.

Both Israel and ISIS launched their genocidal invasions after sojourns in the dominant foreign culture of the era.  A culture that was far more powerful and cosmopolitan and they believed did not respect them.  After trying to fit in, they concluded that the foreigner's ways were not compatible with their faith which is why the Habiru of Egypt became Israelites and fled and why the many western educated leaders of ISIS came back home.

The Israelite invasion was directed and sponsored by YHWH.
ISIS claims that their invasion is sponsored by Allah who is otherwise called YHWH.

Israel was a theocracy led by politico military leaders who were also spiritual ones.
ISIS is a theocracy led by a Caliph who is both its spiritual and temporal leader.

The Israelites invaded Canaan to eliminate false religion and behavior abominated by God. 
ISIS claims it is doing likewise.

The Israelites were exhorted by God to slay every unbeliever, heretic and opponent. 
ISIS slays unbelievers heretics and those who oppose it in much the same way.

The Israelites imposed a complex and rigorous Levitical legal system designed by God.
Sharia is just such a system.

Both ISIS and Israel imposed very similar dietary, ablution, and sartorial restrictions on their subjects. Both repressed women in similar ways.

Both invasions actively sought to desecrate and destroy what they considered to be idolatrous monuments to false Gods.

At the end of the conquest of Canaan Israel had completely displaced the previous cultures and faiths with a new common culture and faith. This is also the typical expansion process of Islam: conquer, slaughter, make non Muslims subordinate and wait until they die out.

So what? you say. It's a bit different behaving like an ancient tribal culture 3000 years ago versus doing it today. And we can't really judge yesterday's actions by today's standards because we weren't there.  But God was there. He sits outside of space and time (he'd have to since he made them) and is not particular to any era or geography so when he chooses a method for settling his people on a piece of real estate I must presume that was exactly what he wanted to do.

And that is precisely what ISIS is doing. Which is unsurprising when you remember that Mohammed lifted much of the Koran from the Old Testament.  Which is why Jihad looks so much like the Israelite invasion of Canaan. But coincidence and 3000 years don't really get us off the hook because the Church routinely presents Moses and Joshua in heroic terms.  If it turns out that "doing God's will God's way" is indistinguishable from the practices of the latest crazed sack of Jihadi Joes then it really calls into question just who this God that we spend so much time worshiping really is - is he "love" or not?  Because say what you will, there was NO mercy in the conquest of Canaan.  Scholars now estimate up to a million people lost their lives (this at a time when world population couldn't have been more than 150 to 200 million) due to the Israelite invasion and whole cultures were obliterated.  Much like the Yazidis or Assyrian Christians in Iraq and Syria today.

This reminds me of another related question that I have:  Given that God sits outside of time and space and has access to literally all the various modes and eras of governance and jurisprudence why does Our Lord's approach to salvation and judgement mirror that of primitive pastoral tribesmen from 1000BC Palestine?  For example, instead of sponsoring genocide which is now being imitated slavishly by ISIS couldn't God have simply persuaded the Canaanites to move on or perhaps swap places with the Israelites in Egypt? Why the need for a million murders? Or why didn't he phase the move in over fifty or a hundred years - no more than a blink of the eye in his timescale?  Why the rush and all the blood?  Perhaps God needed to do it that way so that the ultra violent people of that era would sit up and take notice.  Perhaps.  

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