Christians who endorse the biblical genocides (e.g. Joshua 6-11) are fond of pointing out that these were exceptional circumstances which were necessary for Israel to maintain her purity in preparation for her role to be a light to the nations. However, they aver, the time for genocide is now over. Today we are called to be heralds to God’s peaceable kingdom as represented in the suffering messiah.
To be sure, this view suffers from a rather bracing cognitive dissonance. (A light to the nations that protects its status by slaughtering civilian populations?) But I don’t want to criticize it for that problem here. (I’ve done that in many other contexts.) Instead, I’m going to point out that the Christian who believes God commanded genocide in the past should be open to the possiblity that he may command genocide in the future.
Why? Consider this passage from Revelation 19:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
Of course this is a highly symbolic exerpt from a piece of apocalyptic literature. But it can reasonably be interpreted as describing a future battle in which God and his armies — armies which may include human persons and human weaponry — will engage in an unmitigated slaughter of the defeated foe.
And this means that Christians who believe God commanded genocide for special circumstances in the past should be open to God commanding genocide for special circumstances in the future.
Now what does one do with this information? Really there are two options.
The first option is to accept this consequence and begin to prepare oneself mentally and physically for participation in a possible future genocide. Imagine, by analogy, that you might be called any day to climb the Matterhorn. If that were a real possibility you would begin to prepare yourself physically and mentally for that eventuality. Likewise, if a person believes God may command them to participate in a future genocide they should prepare themselves for that possibility. That means, among other things, working to overcome their emotional aversion to the slaughter of civilians in wartime so that when the time comes they are prepared to do battle and eliminate the infidel without mercy.
The second option is to reject the idea that God might command a future genocide by rejecting the claim that God ever did, or ever would, command a genocide.