When I was a kid, we had 4 channels on the TV: 3, 6, 12, 21 and on occasion we could pick up channel 7. I was a teenager when we got channel 23, and we thought that was so cool. The only cartoons we got to watch were on Saturday morning, and you had better watch all you wanted before 11:00 am because that was when the news came on and cartoons were over for another week.
Looney Tunes was my favorite. I loved watching Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, the Road Runner and the Coyote. In fact, I still love watching them and even have the DVD box set. There was always a shotgun going off somewhere or an anvil being dropped on somebody. The coyote was always buying something from the ACME company that would help him trap the roadrunner. Unfortunately they always backfired, but that too was funny. Sylvester was forever trying to eat Tweety, and I would sit for hours (or however long it was on) just glued to the set and laughing. Ah, good times.
But then I got older, and I heard someone say once that Looney Tunes was one of the most violent shows on television, and I remember thinking, "What an idiot. It's just a cartoon." This person said that watching that kind of violence in a children's show would lead to me becoming a violent person. Admittedly, I rather enjoyed watching it, but I have never one time thought it would be funny to drop an anvil on somebody's head.
Then this morning I was reading the devotional from Deuteronomy and I thought, "Dang, Looney Tunes doesn't hold a candle to this stuff." Deuteronomy 2 recounts the Israelite's wanderings in the desert just before beginning to take the Promised Land. Nearly everywhere they went, God "gave" them this land or that city, but there was a catch, they had to take it by force. I haven't found one place yet where the inhabitants of the city ran out to meet the Israelites, and said, "Hey y'all, come on in. Nah, that's ok, we'll find some place else to live."
They were getting ready to enter into Heshbon, where Sihon reigned as king. To play nice, the Israelites asked Sihon if they could cross through, paying him for whatever food and water they used, but God "made his spirit stubborn" and he refused. Then God delivered him over to the Israelites.
What this story has that Looney Tunes didn't have is this: "At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them - men, women, and children. We left no survivors." Now, if you're confused about what that means, it means that everyone in every town was killed by the sword, and their bodies probably piled up and burnt outside the city walls...even the children.
I am all for reading scripture to our kids. In fact, I teach my kids at church every week about some story, or some aspect of scripture. I have to be honest, though, some of this stuff needs an "R" rating, "No one under 17 admitted without adult..." I know it's part of our history, and I realize that today's world is much different, in many ways, than their's was. My question is, how do we justify the violence to someone when we're trying to tell them about our God of grace?
Do we just chalk it off as God having a bad day and folks wound up getting hurt, well actually, killed? Were the people already living in the Promised Land really all that bad? Could they not have found some way to live alongside each other? Was God just trying to make a point? If not, then why the huge loss of life?
I don't pretend to have the answers, but I do enjoy struggling with the questions. One thing I have learned is that when it comes to scripture, there is no such thing as an easy answer.
May God be in your struggling this week.