Baby’s First Book of Genocide
So God told Joshua to go to Jericho, but there were some other people living there already, who God didn’t like so much, so He genocided them out of the way, which just shows how much He loves us, doesn’t it, children?
My boys have a fairly large collection of Bible stories in one form or another, all written for or targeted towards young children. These various books all tell the same handful of stories in their own way, and it’s astonishing to see just how many of those stories are fundamentally unpleasant – tales of murder, genocide, death and destruction. Here’s a sample of the most common stories:
Jonah – God sends a message to the city of Nineveh, ordering them to worship Him or face the consequences. His chosen messenger objects and flees, not because of a moral objection to violent coercion, but because he wants those nasty foreigners wiped out and fears that if he delivers the message, they’ll end up worshipping his God. So God has him swallowed by an enormous fish until Jonah comes round to His way of thinking.
David and Goliath – A delightful war story for tiny tots, this heartwarming tale tells of how an entire army was scared of taking on an enemy giant, but no one seemed to mind sending a young boy to face him. So David came to be a war hero by killing a man in single combat. And then the rest of the Philistine army was brutally slaughtered.
Daniel – Held captive in a foreign country, a young man is condemned to be eaten by lions. But God saved him in the end, so that’s not really so bad, is it?
Walls of Jericho – God chooses somewhere for the Jews to live, but unfortunately some people are living there already. So He arranges to make the walls of the city collapse so that the inhabitants can be slaughtered.
Noah’s Ark – An old children’s favourite. The jolly story of how God decided He’d screwed up first time round and put too much evil in the mix, so attempted to purify His perfect creation by drowning all but 8 people. Oh, and some animals. Look, animals! Nice, fluffy, cute animals…
Many parents, especially Christians, are very worried about young children being exposed to violence and disturbing themes in books and on TV, but for some reason those parents seem to positively encourage exposure to Bible stories that are far worse. Interestingly, though, while murder and genocide are fun for the whole family, Bible stories which involve sex don’t get a mention – clearly, that would be entirely inappropriate!
Whether you’re a literalist or not, why would you think these were suitable stories for young children? No one would consider genocide and murder to be bedtime reading in any other context, whether the stories are fact or fiction. As ever, it seems that horrific acts become innocuous and even charitable when God does them.
But I’m not prepared to give God a free pass. I’m no fan of Mary Whitehouse or her methods, but it’s fascinating to consider what she might have made of the Bible if she’d approached it in the same way as the many publications and broadcasts she complained about. So I’m going to start a new project to investigate that question, called the Blue Pencil Bible.