The 10 Commandments: Shouldn’t We Try Living up to Them Before We Demand They Be Posted?

A half dozen times a year I see headlines regarding some conservative group’s attempt to place a Ten Commandments monument at their local courthouse. It reminds me of those “I Support the Badge” decals that speeders put on their back windshields. It doesn’t mean they’ll be traveling through life any safer or kinder. They just think they have an “in” with that Big Patrol Officer In The Sky.

There are many religions in the United States and to allow the proponents of one to place a memorial at a public facility without allowing all the others to do so would obviously be discriminatory. But I’d be inclined to entertain such a request if the adherents of said faith even jokingly attempted to abide by their own moral decrees.

Ambrose Bierce once defined a Christian as “One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.” At the dawn of the 21st century, it would be hard to refute Bierce’s assessment and even harder to deny American Christendom’s abandonment of the Ten Commandments.

Commandment one indicates that we shall have no other gods before God and we arguably don’t. Unless you count money, celebrity, beauty, professional sports figures or the new Twilight franchise. On a daily basis, they all receive more reverence than the Holy Spirit.

Commandment two tells us not to make or observe false idols. The fact that we make gods (or demigods) of radio, screen and sports stars and prostrate ourselves in front of the TV each week to venerate the grace of America Idol or America’s Top Model makes this commandment falsely idyllic.

Commandment three instructs us not to take the Lord’s name in vain, i.e., misuse it, profane it or otherwise sully it via human mischief, malarkey or deceit. So when corporations begin peddling piety and godliness to sell products or politicians begin invoking God’s name or intent to win elections, they sin unequivocally. There’s hardly a politician alive or dead who didn’t wrap him or herself in old time religion to get elected, but the previous White House occupant transmogrified it into a campaign platform, claiming God told him to run (There’s a special pitchfork for him to sit on in the afterlife, but we won’t fare much better–we adored his sacrilege so much we elected him twice.).

Commandment four says to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, but when God was making the world He didn’t have restaurants to go to or malls to shop in. Plus, football, basketball, baseball, golf and NASCAR hadn’t been invented yet. If God was creating the world today, He wouldn’t have paused on the seventh day to rest. He’d have stopped to watch man-children make millions playing games and manage His fantasy team rosters.

Commandment five instructs us to honor our mother and father. That’s what Social Security and nursing homes are for, right?

Commandment six forbids us from doing that which we do very effectively and perpetually. Kill. Abortion may be murder, but so is war, capital punishment, denial of adequate healthcare, credit card or mortgage indentured wage-slavery, pollution, etc., etc. We are killers. We kill in the name of justice, profit and protecting our insulated, superficial way of life. Amen.

Commandment seven regards adultery. Ouch. Christ said a man who ogles any woman besides his wife commits adultery. The Bible says divorce for any reason other than infidelity is adultery. Sex before wedlock is adultery. Porn is adultery. Politics is adultery. Desperate Housewives is adultery. Golf is adultery. What would Hollywood and the American advertising industry sell us our culture with sans adultery?

Commandment eight addresses thievery. But Bill Gates’ ship came in when he basically stole the QDOS computer operating system idea from Gary Kildall and leased it to IBM. Now he’s the richest human being in the world, a philanthropist and all-around great guy. The moral of American Capitalism is the ends justify the means.

Commandment nine indicates that we should not bear false witness against our neighbors. But this is the job description for the political pundits who tell us what to believe. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh bear false witness for a living. Sarah Palin was recently honored with “Lie of the Year” for her “death panels” guile, and, for her transgression, she’s garnered significant political traction and received millions for aspersion-mongering.

The final commandment condemns covetousness, so we, of course, ignore it. Good God-fearing Americans measure their worth and righteousness in terms of possession. Materialism defines the human condition and the big wheel of prosperity stops spinning if people quit buying things they don’t need. If we extricated covetousness from our socio-political process, wouldn’t our entire culture collapse?

Obviously, before we mob the nearest courthouse to post our principles, it would be a good idea to try living up to them. If that’s not possible, maybe we could just put them on a rear window decal.

Never know when that Big Patrol Officer in the Sky is going have us on His radar.

E.R. Bills is a writer from Aledo, Texas and the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious (History Press, 2013). He can be reached at: erbillsthinks@gmail.com. Read other articles by E.R..

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  1. kalidas said on January 9th, 2010 at 9:39am #

    Bierce’s good buddy, Mencken, also (no doubt) had a thing or three to say..

    People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need police.

    Deep within the heart of every evangelist lies the wreck of a car salesman.

    Whenever a reporter is assigned to cover a Methodist conference, he comes home an atheist.

    Evangelical Christianity, as everyone knows, is founded upon hate, as the Christianity of Christ was founded upon love.

    And last but certainly not least..

    Say what you like about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

  2. bozh said on January 9th, 2010 at 10:20am #

    Aren’t we known for not learning from commandments? Yes, one obeys a command-demand by the boss;however, undergoes some shock.
    U see, our often benevolent nature or god had not endowned us with enjoying commands or demands by people.
    By a wife, dog or cat, yes! Any time, any place!!??

    If jesus had been perspicacious and honest enough, he wld never have resorted to sush deletereous commands, demands, ‘promises’, condemnations, anger, etc.
    And since he had or s’mone said them for him, so much wrongdoing followed by his followers.
    OK, i can see why people [men, solely, tho] wld put dwn such lies and antihuman edicts as the knowledge was indeed scant in those days. But today, i don’t have much of an excuses for followers of the three major cults.

    Often one comes across a command or demand that one shld not “discuss religion”. Not espying the fact that people abhor with a vengeance to boot any command.
    But even so, we first need to have a religion. I am not going to stop to criticize the worst among us: imams, muftis, mullahs, aghas, bishops, ‘reverends’, rabbis, priests.
    DV needs to abandon its censorship. Let the free speech flow! Or let individuals censor other individuals. I do it. I just don’t read some peoples’ posts. tnx

  3. Rehmat said on January 11th, 2010 at 6:14am #

    All Jewish and Christian denominations believe the Ten Commandments to be the word of God – and claim that they follow it. Let us compare this with their actions:

    1. “……Thou shalt have no other gods before me”. However, Jews took their rabbis to be their lord beside God. These rabbis wrote Torah and Talmud to reflect their personal and elites wishes. Christians, beside taking Jesus and his mother as partners to their God – allowed leaders of churches to modify and change their Bible (NIVs).

    2. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images. Thou shalt no bow down thyself to them…..” However, one see statues and images of Jesus and his mother in each church and Christians homes. Most of them display Cross around their necks.

    3. “Thou shalt not take the name of Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” However, Jews and christians confess their sins to rabbis and priests – as intermediatories between them and God.

    4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but on seventh day is Sabbath (rest) of the Lord your God.” Jewish weekly Sabbath is on Saturday, while Christians adopted Sunday as their weekly Sabbath. However, most Jews and Christians carry-on their businesses on both days.

    5. “Honour your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

    6. “You shalt not murder.” However, in the 20th century alone – Judeo-Christians murdered more than 200 million people in WW I & 2, Russian Communist revolution, Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars and Jews are still killing Muslims and Christians in occupied Palestine.

    7. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” In the West, a consenting sex between same-sex or opposite is not considered adultery any more. In fact Jewish law only consider adultery ‘only when a man, whether married or single, sleep with a married woman’. In short, adultery is any illicit sexual intercourse involving a married woman.

    8. “Thou shalt not steel”. The western Judeo-Christians have stolen some part of every country during the past two centuries. Earlier they stole the entire continents of Ausralia and Americana. The Jews stole the entire Palestine from its native Muslims and Christians. The recent US$700 billion bail-out could be the greatest robbery of the world history by the US billionaires and millionaires (mostly Jews).

    9. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” However, the western Christian legal system is entirely based on false witnesses – political, criminal or social.

    10. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house; thou shalt not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that’s is your neighbours.” According to some surveys – more than 50% of married couple get involved into extra marital sex…..and the European Jew settlers after stealing 78% of Palestinian land – are known for stealing food and water from the natives.

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2008/10/19/the-ten-commandments/

  4. kalidas said on January 11th, 2010 at 1:34pm #

    Is #6 a revision?
    I thought it was “thou shalt not kill.”

    Hmmmm.

  5. Danny Ray said on January 11th, 2010 at 3:53pm #

    Kalidas, Thou shall not kill is a generally excepted protestant translation found in the king James bible, however the correct Hebrew translation is “Thou Shall Not Do Murder.

    Also it is number 6 in the Hebrew version but number 5 in the Catholic list, back to 6 under King James but the oldest Greek translation we have puts it at number 8

  6. kalidas said on January 12th, 2010 at 8:47am #

    Right.
    I get it now.
    So do all the non-humans, I suppose.

  7. ajnasreddin said on January 13th, 2010 at 1:58pm #

    I think it would be great to post the 10 Commandments in courthouses – and while we’re at it, put up the US Constitution. We ought to put them up in shopping malls too – it might do some good to educate people. US politics has moved in bad directions because people are ignorant. Separation of “Church and State” has become separation of government with morality.