Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The Ten Commandments

Lately there has been quite a brouhaha over a statue, or monument, or something weighing several tons, inscribed with the 10 Commandments, firmly planted on the grounds of the Alabama Supreme Court. The furor has degenerated, properly or improperly, to an argument between Christians and non-Christians over the role of religion in public life.

Cal Thomas wrote a column that appeared in our local newspaper today in which he generally berates Christians for taking an active part in this drama. He claims that the only real reason many Christians/conservatives are wrapped up in this debate is that it is useful as a political fund-raising ploy and that it serves as nothing more than a distraction for Christians from their real task (which he does not clearly define).

To be honest I am of two minds over this drama playing out in the Deep South. I do not believe there is any way to say that this monument, placed on government property, is an attempt by the state to "make any law regarding the establishment of religion." If it serves any purpose, it is a reminder of the root of our entire concept of law -- the 10 Commandments, and more broadly, God's law written on our hearts. Thomas denies that the 10 commandments, other than the two dealing with the prohibition of murder and theft, have anything to do with secular law. He says "The rest are about relationships between God and man and between human beings." What is law if it does not involve prescriptions concerning the relationship between human beings? I would remind Thomas' readers that this country, until recently, had laws against adultery, sodomy, and even doing business on the Sabbath (long-time Texas residents will remember the famous "blue-laws").

Beyond specifics, however, the 10 Commandments prescribe a general norm of moral conduct for human beings -- love of God with heart, mind and strength, and love of neighbor as oneself. Today, in even so-called civilized discourse, both of these ideas have been lost. God has become an outlaw, and our neighbor is more often looked upon as an obstacle to our own freedom, rather that a human person created in the image of God. In many cases, we have even lost respect for, not only ourselves, but anything that might be considered worthy of respect or reverence. We do what we can to debunk whatever is sacred, or even respectable. A female religious, for example, can write of the Virgin Mary that she was really an early feminist and some fantasy figure invented by the early Church to replace the goddess Isis!

On the other hand, I can see the point that would cause someone to say this fight was much ado about nothing. The change that needs to be made needs to be made within the court house, not on the lawn in front of the court house. In the interest of pushing a secular materialist agenda, the courts have taken upon themselves far more authority than they really have. They have injected themselves into every aspect of our lives, even our spiritual lives, and they are not interested in promoting anything but their own agenda. This is the pattern that must be changed.

I think the ferocity of Christian support for the Alabama justice showed that Christians are aware of what has been going on, that they are not a small and ever dwindling minority, and that they are willing to take a stand against the trend to outlaw religion from public life. This idea would have been abhorrent to the founding fathers of this country. Christians have taken this stand, perhaps, out of a feeling of powerlessness, but it is one point that needs to be made whenever and wherever it can.

While the trial period continues this post also appears at The 7 Habitus on Typepad.

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