How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren

Katherine Stewart writes: The Bible has thousands of passages that may serve as the basis for instruction and inspiration. Not all of them are appropriate in all circumstances.

The story of Saul and the Amalekites is a case in point. It’s not a pretty story, and it is often used by people who don’t intend to do pretty things. In the book of 1 Samuel (15:3), God said to Saul:

“Now go, attack the Amalekites, and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

Saul dutifully exterminated the women, the children, the babies and all of the men – but then he spared the king. He also saved some of the tastier looking calves and lambs. God was furious with him for his failure to finish the job.

The story of the Amalekites has been used to justify genocide throughout the ages. According to Pennsylvania State University Professor Philip Jenkins, a contributing editor for the American Conservative, the Puritans used this passage when they wanted to get rid of the Native American tribes. Catholics used it against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics. “In Rwanda in 1994, Hutu preachers invoked King Saul’s memory to justify the total slaughter of their Tutsi neighbors,” writes Jenkins in his 2011 book, Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses (HarperCollins).

This fall, more than 100,000 American public school children, ranging in age from four to 12, are scheduled to receive instruction in the lessons of Saul and the Amalekites in the comfort of their own public school classrooms. [Continue reading…]

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1 thought on “How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren

  1. Tom Hall

    The strain of genocidal theology discussed in this article has wide-ranging implications. Christian fundamentalism represents a significant base of support for warmaking by the US government. More specifically, the current intensification of racist rhetoric in Israel, with calls for the eradication of foreigners, “infiltrators”, and even the native Palestinian population, is further inflamed by extreme positions taken in certain American quarters.

    To plant in the minds of children anywhere a doctrine that entire peoples are unfit to live insofar as they fail to adopt a particular religion is first and foremost an act of violence against those children. More generally, to cite and by implication endorse contemporary versions of such barbaric measures in “the Promised Land”, is hardly conducive to a just settlement of the current conflict.

    As for Justice Thomas’ declaration that organized missionary work carried out in the public school system violates no constitutional principle since the indoctrination is devoid of religious character, his bizarre view should come as no surprise to those who have followed his career or indeed, the terrible decline of the Court on which he sits.

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