In reading Philip Jenkin’s recent book Laying Down the Sword (which I have mixed feelings about), I made a list of all the different times Christian leaders have justified genocide by naming their enemies “Amalekites”. I’m not talking about just killing in self-defense or even conquest of foreign armies – I’m talking about (in many cases) the full-scale inhalation of women and children as well. But don’t worry, it’s all cool because these dudes are not just your average folk made in the image of God, they are “Amalekites”. You remember those guys that Joshua was commanded to wipe out? Well they’re back and it’s our job to finish what Joshua’s followers were chastised for not completing.
Who called their enemies Amalekites?
- Charlemagne, versus the Saxons in 782
- Pope Urban II, first crusade in 1095, against Muslims
- John Knox, 1550s, Against British Catholics
- Heinrich Bullinger, Swiss reformed theologian who legitimized this use
- William Gouge, Thomas Barnes, Puritans, 1620-30s, against native Americans
- Oliver Cromwell, 1650, against Irish Catholics
- Cotton Mather, against American Indians, 1689
- Dutch verses the Zulu in South Africa, 1838
- Germans in 1904, against tribal people of Namibia. Killed all women and children.
- Leaders of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 described the Tutsi people as Amalekites
- Who’s next?
Ugg. This list is a nightmare – and from some folks who really should know better too. It makes me think that maybe, just maybe, those guys like John Howard Yoder are on to something when they suggest we Christians really need to just get out of this business.