We have seen in previous posts that the image we have of God is going to be decisive in shaping our religiosity and spirituality. Only if I believe in God Mercy will I live my faith from that perspective.
We also saw in the two previous articles, entitled “We are all children of God”, that depending on the treatment we give to other human beings we will be in the line of Jesus of Nazareth. Only if I look at them and treat them as brothers, I am granting them the same dignity that I conceive for myself, to be children of the same Father.
But if this is so, and if God is also God of Life, Love and Mercy, how can we explain so much violence in the name of God in various books of the Old Testament?
It is inevitable that as we walk through several of the so-called historical books of the Old Testament we ask ourselves: did the Hebrew people need to battle with each of the peoples they encountered on the way to the promised land? Could it be that the God of Life, Love and Mercy is only for one people and not for all people? How, then, to explain violence in the Bible and, especially, violence in the name of God?
Let’s start by explaining something prior but essential. The Hebrew people were not monotheistic, how? That is, it is true that they believed in only one God, but they did not believe that there was only one God. What they believed is that their God, the God of Israel, was better than the gods of other peoples.
But if my God is stronger than the other gods, my God is going to make me win all the battles. This, in principle, can have a positive reading: they believe that all good things come from God. But, immediately we can perceive a double distortion. On the one hand, from the God Life, Love and Mercy, only Life, Love and Mercy can come out, and therefore never hatred, revenge and violence. And, on the other hand, that truth is universal, that is, it is for all human beings.
Let’s say clearly: the People of Israel are a chosen people, but they were wrong about what they had been chosen for. They thought it was for dignity when in reality it was for service. Thus, they believed themselves more than the others and, therefore, they sinned in pride. It is something that God is going to repeat to you over and over again through the prophets.
Well, returning to that need that my God is stronger than the other gods.
This will lead to writing the history of the People of Israel many times from the epic genre. It is that a truth is maximized, in simple words, it is exaggerated. So that we understand each other, it is the biblical precedent of Indiana Jones.
Thus, we are faced with a violence that responds to a distorted idea of God and, on the other hand, to an epically exaggerated violence to praise God and, at the same time, feel like the people loved and chosen.
I would not want to end without making it clear that just because violence can be explained does not mean that it is justified. Sometimes explaining is confused with justifying. This is not my intention at all. Violence is never justified. Neither in the Old Testament, nor in the History of the Church: be it in the Crusades, be it in the Inquisition, be it in the colonization of America.
God is Love, He is Mercy, He always is, He is for everyone. When we show God justifying or even generating violence … we distort the image of God in such a way that that “our god” we are talking about and the true God are nothing alike.
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