When Theologians Defend Genocide and Infanticide
Greta Christina is right to be aghast at theologian William Lane Craig’s moral defense of divinely commanded infanticide, but wrong to see his defense as a reason why religion is so messed up. It’s messed up, of course, but not because a theologian tries to get God off the hook for ordering the slaughter of newborns.
As I’ve argued here and elsewhere, the religious narrative that interprets God as actually having ordered genocide and infanticide doesn’t simply clash with Christianity’s meta-narrative of salvation history; if incorporated into it, the Christian story is fundamentally rewritten. Salvation becomes not merely dependent on God’s suffering of violence freely and sinfully chosen by human beings, but on humankind’s obedience to the role of annihilator, a role that purifies the way for Mary’s “Yes” and the Incarnation, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This revision grants the infliction of genocidal violence a sanctifying and salvific role—a necessary divinely-intended part to play in salvation history. Purifying violence committed by human beings becomes a prerequisite for God’s redemptive suffering, and as a result, a new gospel that marries violence and salvation is written.
Religious defenses of mass murder result not from religion itself, but from religious thinking divorced from sound moral reasoning. I’m a religious believer, but when someone insists that a horrendous evil was or is morally permissible because God apparently gave it a thumbs up, I lower my thumb to this conception of God.