As we slowly inch closer to the end of the Torah, the stake are rising. Expectations are slowly melding into realities and the convergence of Jewish history is amounting to the entrance into Israel. The final phase of the slave to autonomous being transition is well underway.
Whilst the promised land is bequeathed to the people there remain many inhabitants of different cultures and different religions. Religions, which according to the text, have so seriously misconceived of God or worshipped him inappropriately that it is paramount that Bnei Yisrael destroy their religious infrastructure. They are commanded to desecrate and burn the house of worship that follow false Gods.
One may immediately jump to the conclusion that God is intolerant and perhaps even in this case morally liable for his actions. Prior to assuming anything let us explore a few ideas.
It is the domain of young people to reject establishment in preference for their own views and methods. This has resulted in the perpetual cycle of repeated mistakes and repeated revolutions. To reject systems without analysis of its virtues is characteristic of young people like ourselves. Rejection is the language of exclusion, reform is the language of progress. We should be trying to reform systems based on their current virtues in order to include already established norms rather than pressing reset.
Perhaps Bnei Yisrael should have tried to reform the inhabitants so as to live in peace and harmony in a society that would have been a hybrid of values. Maybe in this way we may not have received the same desecration and shame inflicted by the Romans and the Babylonians.
On the other hand, there are occasions in which reform is the language of weakness and rejection the language of the ethical. This approach is a result of what we may call a "lost cause". A case in which the actions of people are so egregious that to reform would be to fail. Rejection of established norms is the only means by which change can be achieved. One may think that these approach is extreme. Let's contextualise it with a recent example:
Suppose I am a big supporter of marriage equality. I believe that all those who are not are bigots and homophobic. I must then assert myself as right and them as wrong. I am not interested in giving them a platform, I simply want reform.
Perhaps the people of Cnaan were too far gone. Ultimately this is what God decided.
In pitching these two ideas under separate headings I have furthered the problematic dichotomy between reform and rejection. This has only be done so as to appreciate the value of each approach. We are always finding some way in which to understand how these relate to each other and to our lives.
Let us not fall into the trap of being swayed one way or the other.