Some brave (or foolhardy) Christians occasionally attempt to justify God’s acts of genocide as reported in the Old Testament (such as the annihilation of essentially all people in a global flood – an event that didn’t actually happen but which the Bible reports as a just action nonetheless).
One of the big problems with justifying biblical genocide is the fate of children, especially infants. Children below a certain age are not equipped with the mental capacities required to plan and carry out the sort of malicious crimes worthy of the death penalty (assuming such crimes exist to begin with, of course).
The biblical genocide justifier therefore has two options: Children deserve death because their parents are evil or children are killed out of mercy (to prevent them from being subjected to a difficult life without parents, for example).
I have yet to see a modern Christian take the first option, presumably because they understand that killing innocent people for the misdeeds of others is grossly immoral (although God himself did this to his own son, so there is certainly precedent).
Let’s look at the mercy argument, then. For this argument to work, children killed in biblical genocides must go to a good place: they cannot be sent to hell with their parents.
On the face of it this seems fair enough. But what it does is place a very low value on the earthly life. Life for children without parents is not worth living: Better send them straight to heaven.
However, if biblical genocide defenders really supported this view, they would have to explain why it shouldn’t be extended to other, present day cases of genocide, or even the death penalty and other situations that produce orphans.
For instance, wouldn’t it be merciful to kill the children of inmates who are on death row? Or if genocide occurs in, say, Rwanda, shouldn’t we step in and make sure all the orphans are killed? Somehow I don’t see many biblical genocide defenders standing behind these suggestions. Even they cannot help but admit that, when push comes to shove, the earthly life is extremely valuable.
Of course, they may respond that only God has the right to take lives. This poses a problem for Christians who support the death penalty, since this practice is based on the assumption that humans are permitted to end lives they deem unworthy.
And there is a more fundamental problem than this: the idea that God, simply because he created us, somehow has carte blanche when it comes to our death. This might work for inanimate objects, but it’s not clear it makes sense for beings who become self-aware and autonomous (besides, what sort of God would give you notice that he will put an end to your life whenever he pleases, without warning?).
But… I’ve already spent too much time giving serious consideration to the arguments of people who think it worthwhile to defend genocide. No serious rebuttal to such an effort is really required – it is repugnant on the face of it.