VENGEANCE IS MINE!

THE WEAPONIZATION OF GOD FROM MOSES TO THE MAGA MESSIAH

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By David Comfort

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The Montréal Review, November 2023

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God's Warrior (2o19) by David Comfort

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After World War II, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel, and others debated the problem of evil in the context of Holocaust Theology. When visiting Auschwitz where Wiesel had been imprisoned by the Nazis, Pope Benedict XVI said: “In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence – a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: ‘Why, Lord, did You remain silent? How could You tolerate all this?’” Had the pontiff forgotten not only the wrathful Lord’s many Old Testament genocide orders to His prophets, but the merciless writings of the Church’s most influential rebel monk?

In 1543 Martin Luther wrote in his 60,000-word diatribe, On the Jews and their Lies, that, due to their refusal to convert, the Semites were no longer God’s chosen, but “the killers of Christ,” “the devil’s people,” and “envenomed worms.”  Thus, the German father of the Reformation and later hero to the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, concluded: “We are at fault in not slaying them.” Citing Deuteronomy 13, wherein Moses commanded the killing of idolaters as an offering to God, the Protestant firebrand called for “sharp mercy” (scharfe Barmherzigkeit): burning the homes, synagogues, and prayer books of Jews, forcing them to labor camps or expelling them from the motherland entirely.

Arguing that “Blood alone moves the wheels of history,” Luther otherwise condemned violence as “the devil’s work.” Even so, instead of calling Jesus a “love one another, turn the other cheek” Prince of Peace Jew, the sharp theologian preferred to identify his savior as an “Aryan fighter” against the Pharisees. In fact, Jesus’ words could sometimes be as fiery as his Father’s, and the reformer remembered them well: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34, Luke 12:51). Declaring that “He who is not for me is against me,” (Matthew 12:30), the Messiah continued: “As for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them -- bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.” (Luke 19:27). Later, his words led to action: just before his arrest, his favorite disciple and rock of the Church, Peter, cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave with his sword.

When Luther wrote his polemic, times were no less bloody: the Reformation Wars were raging, the murderous Inquisition was in full swing, and the Christian conquistadors were decimating the New World natives and claiming their lands in the name of Christ.

Two millennia earlier, obeying God’s command, the Jews’ original savior, Moses, did the same to win the Promised Land from the pagan Canaanite tribes (Amalekites, Amorites, Arkites, Jebusites, et al.), forefathers of the Palestinians and descendants of Canaan who had inherited his father, Ham’s, curse by Noah. “Put every living soul to the sword,” the Almighty ordered His prophet, “old men and women, the sick and the dying, the blind and the lame, pregnant mothers, nursing mothers, infants, toddlers, and babies.” (Deuteronomy 20:16). Formerly a storm deity, Yahweh had given Moses the Ten Commandments on two tablets, the first mandating monotheist worship and unconditional fidelity. The second enumerated human law: Commandment 6 outlawed murder; 7, adultery and rape; 8, stealing and collecting spoils. In demanding the destruction of the Canaanites, God provided a waiver to His second tablet injunctions. In conquering the Promised Land, not only could Moses’ general, Joshua, and his soldiers break the Law without shame or guilt, but with righteous fervor and pride. Never once did Moses question God’s will, as had his predecessor, Abraham, before the fire and brimstone on Sodom, his nephew’s hometown. “Wilt Thou really sweep away the bad and good together?... Shall not the judge of the earth do what is just?” the first prophet begged (Genesis 18: 23). But Moses dared pose no such question: Since the Almighty was the absolute and unerring Creator, He had the inalienable right to uncreate – to give and to take away.

The Israelites carried the Ark of the Covenant containing the Commandments into every battle and, by means of its powers, annihilated the Amalekite armies and their multiple lesser gods. Afterwards, the Lord ordered Moses, “'Write about this battle… so that people will remember what happened here. And be sure to tell Joshua that I will completely destroy the Amalekites from the earth.’” Then Moses built an altar and named it, ‘The LORD is My Flag’.” (Exodus 17:14). Meanwhile God – declaring “Vengeance is mine!” (Deuteronomy 32:35) -- starved, plagued, and incinerated Israelite Golden Calf worshippers and others for First Commandment violations during the forty-year purgatory in the Sinai wilderness.

The Lord entrusted the final genocide to Saul, commanding him to spare no man, woman, infant or suckling. But Israel’s first ruler spared King Agag and his livestock. For this disobedience, the Lord drove the insubordinate to madness, defeat, and suicide. The prophet Jeremiah later revealed the moral of the story: "A curse on anyone who is lax in doing the Lord’s work… [and] keeps their sword from bloodshed.” (Jeremiah 48:10).

A pro-Choice pragmatic, God stressed the importance of eliminating future infidel soldiers. After aborting all Egyptian firstborn, He extended His reach: “Samaria babes will fall by the sword and be dashed to the ground, women with child shall be ripped up.” (Hosea 13:16). "All [Babylonian] infants will be dashed to the ground, their houses rifled, their wives ravished.” (Isaiah 13:16).1 If the Israelites failed to follow these commands, He warned that “Instead of meat, you shall eat your sons and daughters” and that “tender-hearted women will boil their own children.” (Lamentations 4: 10).

Israel’s second king, David, was careful to avoid his predecessor, Saul’s, mercy mistake. After the early conquests of the Lord’s “beloved,” the Israelite women sang: “Saul has killed thousands, but David tens of thousands!” (1 Samuel 18:7). However, after the young ruler committed adultery with Bathsheba, his military blessings ended abruptly. “How long, O Lord, wilt thou forget me? How long shall my enemy lord it over me?” he wept. “Rise up, Lord, and save me… breakfast the teeth of the wicked.” (Psalms 3:7). Instead, David was served just desserts: he lost his newborn, then his favorite but rebellious son, Absalom, famine overtook his kingdom, and he became a Philistine POW.

Following the reign of David’s son, Solomon, the kingdom divided and devolved, forcing more severe divine punitive measures: God now ordered another holocaust. “Consume the faithless without pity,” He told Ezekiel. (Ezekiel 5: 10-11). By this time all agreed with the long-suffering Job and the wise Solomon: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Job 28: 28; Proverbs 9:10). But God consoled terrified survivors: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33: 11). Nevertheless, He allowed the Babylonians to raze Solomon’s temple, then exiled and imprisoned His Chosen, an Egypt déjà vu.

During the Babylonian Captivity, Judean scribes completed much of the Old Testament. Meanwhile, hoping for a realization of Isaiah’s prediction, they earnestly prayed for a messiah from the House of David who would overthrow the oppressors and resurrect a God-fearing Kingdom of Israel.

Five hundred years later, during the Roman occupation, Jesus materialized.

Though Christians later concluded that God’s son preached about the dawn of a spiritual Kingdom of Heaven for all, some Jewish disciples and followers hoped, based on his predictions2, he meant a liberated earthly Kingdom of Israel excluding gentiles and requiring armed revolt. Indeed, some current Biblical scholars argue Jesus was a political zealot crucified not by the Pharisees, as Luther and so many other Christians claimed, but by the Romans, thus explaining his last words from the cross, the very ones spoken by his predecessor, David, after capture by the Philistines: “Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalms 22:1 > Matthew 27:46).

Despite Jesus’ violent words in the Jewish Synoptic gospels, his pacifist and merciful message predominated, especially in the later evangelical Book of John. Thus, the Old and New Testaments were night and day: Abraham’s, Moses’ and David’s fearsome, wrathful God of floods, fires, and annihilations left humanity to His son, the Messiah of forgiveness and life.

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To date, a conservative body count for religious wars is 200 million.3 Even so, since the dawn of civilization, men, especially the religious, have agreed with God: violence and killing are evil. Sinful. So, the great question clerics and ethicists have tried to answer for millennia: Where does evil and sin come from?

In Judeo-Christian mythology, from Cain. But what motivated history’s first murder?

God accepted the shepherd Abel’s sacrifice of meat but rejected farmer Cain’s grain. As a result, the first son surely wondered how he would survive since God refused to bless his crops. Could all deadly sin, then, have arisen from the most basic human instinct: self-preservation? Before sentencing him to a life of vagrancy and want, God said: “If you do well, you are accepted; if not, sin is a demon crouching at the door.” (Genesis 4:7). But the explanation only deepened the mystery: since the all-seeing Creator already knew that a shamed and humiliated Cain would kill Abel out of indignant anger and hate, why did He allow it? True, the first homicide is myth, but man’s self-preservation violence began mano e mano, and soon metastasized to the collective -- to waring families, tribes, countries, creeds.

The earliest pagans worshipped fertility gods more than any other kind. As population and competition for land grew, war gods outnumbered their sustenance and life counterparts. Victory or defeat in battle were viewed as more dependent upon supernatural power, than manpower. With the dawn of Abrahamic monotheism, God became the omnipotent national deity of both life and death, blessing and curse.

Later, Christian theologians introduced Theodicy, an attempt to explain how evil could flourish in a world created and overseen by a perfect God. Gnostics and Manichaeans sidestepped the troubling question by arguing that an evil demiurge was responsible for creation. The Church condemned the idea as heretical because it both compromised God’s absolute status, and begged the question: Who created this demiurge?

The first to venture a substantial divine defense was Spinoza. The Dutch lens grinder argued that God was a “disinterested architect.” Later, a fellow pantheist Jew, Albert Einstein, agreed: “I believe in Spinoza’s God Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

A pragmatist might ask: Why would God create something He had no interest in?”

A scholar might ask: Did Spinoza, Einstein and other transcendentalists dismiss God’s activism in the Old Testament – the flood, fire, plagues, Commandments, etc. – as pure fiction? 

Spinoza’s contemporary, Leibniz, like many other Christian thinkers, found such a detached deity unequal to man’s needs. He argued that evil was not created by God but by man’s “faulty free will.” With divine sleight-of-hand, the theist made his premise his conclusion: Because “God is an absolutely perfect being,” it is impossible for Him to act imperfectly. But if He were in fact perfect, how could He have created the “faulty will” that led Adam and Eve to fall for the serpent’s temptation and eat the forbidden fruit of knowledge, resulting in their death sentence, expulsion from Eden, and subsequent mortal violence? Moreover, how can an “alpha and omega” deity create a being with a will separate, much less antagonistic, to His own? By blaming the deceiver – the d-evil – Church dogmatists only complicated the question: Again, who create him? If Satan was sui generis, then God is not an absolute Creator – thus, He is not God.

Countering such dispiriting conclusion, theodicists from Augustine through Leibniz fell back on their default position: God works in mysterious ways so any human attempt to understand Him is vain, if not heretical. Indeed, Christian thinkers have unanimously agreed on one thing: God’s “Unknowability” – despite His detailed biography in the Bible, despite His revelations to the prophets, despite all the lofty characteristics applied to Him. Carl Jung, the Lutheran pastor’s son and great spiritual pilgrim, argued that God couldn’t be infinite and yet have specific characteristics, too. “If God is everything, how can He possess a distinguishable character?” he wrote. “But if God does have a character, He can only be the ego of a subjective, limited world.”4

Martin Luther, however, was particularly vehement about divine Unknowability. Still, the first Protestant, unlike the Vatican dogmatists, was a strict determinist: he insisted that God’s will was inescapably absolute. But his denial of human free will made theodicy even more problematic since the belief reduced man to a preprogrammed divine automaton, not an independent moral agent. If so, though he never confessed it, the Jews were not to blame for their refusal to accept Christ as a Messiah, since God presumably “hardened their hearts” much as He had Pharaoh’s before the Exodus. Nevertheless, Luther condemned Judas though the apostate was a puppet possessed by Satan; he denounced the corruption of the Church though predestined; and he railed against the pope for excommunicating him though this too was inevitable in a predetermined creation.  

In fact, God had answered Pope Benedict’s Auschwitz Why, O Lord? question long before the Theodicy debate started.  “I form light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7). Is it any wonder that divine apologists rarely reminded the faithful of this confession since it might open a moral Pandora’s box?

The philosopher who finally opened that box was the German atheist, Arthur Schopenhauer, whose The World as Will Hitler carried in his breast pocket during World War I.  Calling egotism and “evil will” the fundamental incentive in all human life, Schopenhauer wrote: “A man prefers the entire world’s destruction sooner than his own… and is capable of slaying another, merely to smear his boots with the victim’s fat.” The philosopher’s successor, Frederick Nietzsche, the rebel son of a Lutheran pastor, agreed: “Is man God’s mistake, or is God man’s mistake?” he asked rhetorically. Arguing that God is dead and that His replacement, the Superman, must transcend Good and Evil and become a law unto himself, Nietzsche added: “Christianity is a romantic hypochondria for those unsteady on their feet.” After the Superman died in an asylum, his antisemitic sister gave his walking stick to Hitler.

Had the two German pessimists lived a century before, they might have become canon fodder like so many other dissenters and spiritual freelancers. They regarded the Judeo-Christian deity as an anthropomorphic FrankenGod projection created by men to justify, and even glorify, their own perverse will and bloodlust. Who might really be the “jealous, devouring fire” craving mortal praise and fidelity – god or man? Who might hold a grudge, punishing innocents for their great-grandfathers’ alleged sins? Who might demand the execution of any soldier who spared a single enemy life? Who might deputize ruthless “divine right” ancient and medieval kings to establish “justice” in their stolen lands? After a carnage, a genocide, a terrorism, who would chant “Praise the Lord!” and “In God we trust!”?

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The Jews waited five-hundred years for the arrival of predicted Messiah, only to reject him since he failed to liberate Israel from Rome. Jesus then waited the three years of his ministry for the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven which he repeatedly predicted was imminent. His disciples and St. Paul, the new Judeo-Christians, then waited impatiently for the Second Coming, as did their successors, but also in vain.

At last, after two millennia, a man has arrived in today’s Christian nation and declared himself “the Chosen One.” His millions of followers -- many “reborn” as Luther first claimed to be – agree. “He’s the King of Israel,” announced a disciple on his radio show. “Jews love him like he is the second coming of God.” Indeed, much as the Israelites had hoped Jesus would MIGA, America’s Chosen One pledged to “drain the swamp” and MAGA.

The son of Fred Christ and Mary, his name is Donald (meaning “ruler of the world”), John (after the disciple and apostle), Trump (changed from the Lutheran German Drumpf to avoid suspicions of Old-World antisemitism). Instead of urging his followers to love their enemies and turn the other cheek, Christ’s self-appointed successor commands “take them out on a stretcher.” Instead of feeding the multitudes, he curses food stamps and Welfare. Instead of preaching about the eye of the needle and the evil of mammon, he boasts to his Prosperity Gospel flock, “I’m really rich!” Instead of healing the sick, he recommends bleach and magic light. But he is indeed a miracle-worker: he has resurrected from legions of lawsuits and bankruptcies, won an election by minority vote, and survived two virtual crucifixions -- impeachments -- while smiting his enemies and holding a Bible upside-down at St. Johns. Earlier, before learning about their space lasers, he had told the Israeli American Council: “A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me; you have no choice.” Even so, the Sharp Mercy Protestant who avoids Communion lost the next election to a Catholic.

Denying the defeat, the MAGA messiah -- determined to smear his boots with the fat of his enemies – has vowed a Second Coming. Instead of his “Two Corinthians” he has turned to Deuteronomy 32: “Vengeance is Mine! I will repay those who hate Me -- I will make My arrows drunk with blood!” Translating, the Chosen One heartened his flock: “This is the last battle… I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution!”

He was speaking to his trial-by-combat Proud Boy Christian soldiers who had broken into the Capitol Temple and overturned tables. Meanwhile, outside, their brethren erected an In God We Trust gallows for the Judas Pence and chanted that the blood of Jesus would wash him and other infidels clean.

Cherry-picking Jesus’ command -- “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one,” (Luke 22:36) -- the Chosen One’s worshippers wore “GOD, GUNS, TRUMP” hats and carried arms. Believing the right to bear them was handed down by God himself, the devout wore AR-15 pins and concealed their weapons in black leather Bible holsters. Others carried “JESUS, GUNS, BABIES” placards, unaware of, or untroubled by, his Father’s robust Egyptian and Canaanite abortion program.

Had Jesus only carried a .45 “rod of iron” to Golgotha, justice would have triumphed long ago insist today’s plowshares-to-swords crusaders, seemingly unaware they would have no savior if not for his surrender and self-sacrifice. “Take up your crosses and follow me,” Christ had urged his own flock: so, many became martyrs themselves. Instead, today’s reborn showcase their neck crosses like the Pharisees who did “all their works to be seen: making broad their phylacteries… loving the uppermost rooms at feasts and the chief seats in the temples.” (Matthew 23: 5-6).

Now the MAGA Messiah tells his nation that only he can prevent World War III with his moneylender and ministry mouthpiece, Vladimir -- which also means “ruler of the world.” The eastern tyrant who is called the “lion of Christianity” and wears the cross of his devout mother, now tries to liberate his own lost Promised Land from the Jew ruler he calls a Nazi. As if commanded by Yahweh himself, the autocrat’s forces rifle houses, ravish wives, and consume without pity men, women, and children. 

Of all the Bible’s unfulfilled prophesies, will those of the last book, Revelation, be borne out after two thousand years of wars? Leading the armies of heaven, “the Pale Rider, Faithful and True -- his eyes like fire, his garment drenched in blood” -- vanquishes the two false prophet Beasts, and “throws them alive into the lake of fire!” ushering in the age of Eternal Peace in the new Jerusalem. (Revelations 19:11-21).

Or, if indeed God is dead, will the two self-idolators and their descendants continue to smear the fat of their enemies on their boots in Jesus’ name until creation is consumed by man-made nuclear fire and brimstone?

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David Comfort is the author The Insider’s Guide to Publishing (Writers Digest). His other nonfiction titles are from Simon & Schuster and Kensington. His literary essays appear in Pleiades, The Montreal Review, Stanford Arts Review, and Johns Hopkins' Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, and The Philosopher (UK). His short fiction appears in The Evergreen Review, Cortland Review, The Morning News, 3:AM among other journals. He is a Pushcart Fiction Prize nominee, and finalist for Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren, Narrative, and Glimmer Train Awards.

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1 Other infanticide mandates: Hosea 13:16, Joshua: 28-32, Psalms 137:8-9, I Samuel 15:1-3, Ezekiel 9:6, Isaiah 13:13-20.

2 Mark 9:1, 13: 24-3. Matthew 10: 23, 16:28, 24:34. Luke 9:27, 21:32, etc.

3 Spanish conquest of Inca Empire, 24.3 million; French Catholic/Protestant Wars, 2-4 M; Muslim Conquests of India, 80 M; Thirty Years War, 11 M; Eighty Years' War, 1 M; French Wars of Religion, 4 M; Crusades, 6 M.

4 Jung. C.G. (1965) Memories, Dreams, and Reflections.

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