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.