One of the nastiest bits of the whole Bible in this morning's Pouring-Out of Beakers.
The doings of Joshua and the Children of Israel at Ai take the whole "stars are God's daisy chain" area of speculative theology, smash it up, burn the ruins and then jump up and down on them waving salt and singing "the stars are not God's daisy chain, you bunny-hugging losers".
The tactics are sound, of course. Copied, to a degree, by William the Bastard at Hastings. But it's the genocidal aftermath that stings.
The treatment of the other towns of Canaan was shocking, with slaughter of the men and married women and the sparing - or, to use another expression, enslavement and rape - of the girls. And it's all done in the name of the Lord.
I guess context is a lot. We're looking at a small race in the midst of a dangerous place, trying to survive. But it's still dreadfully nasty. The line from this to the lighting of tea lights in front of a photocopy of the Rubliev icon, in a cold building in middle England, is a long and wobbly one. Though if Jesus's achievement had been only that, through him, genocide had been replaced with fluffy thoughts and the scent of vanilla, even that, after 2,000 years, would be human progress.
Joshua's approach to intercultural relations has been popular this last 100 years. We're seeing it from Muslims in Iraq, Kenya, Nigeria. We've seen it from Christians in Bosnia, Germany and parts of Africa. From Buddhists in Thailand. And from atheists in Cambodia, Russia, China. It's the default, it seems, of men to destroy the Other when possible.
I don't know whether God ordered the destruction of Ai. It doesn't sound like the actions of a loving God, but then I can't rule it out, because volcanoes. I do know that I cling onto the One who said, love your enemy and forgives them. I can't honestly say I'd feel that way if they were nailing me to a cross. But I will believe in the One who did.
Feels very dark, doesn't it?
I think I'll light a tea light. Vanilla is soothing.