Sunday, April 22, 2012

Patriotism and the Ten Commandments

    First, let's just address the obvious: people are going to read this and call it religion bashing.  It's not.  I don't believe in the Christian bible, but I have no problem if you want to believe it.  That said, one of the Right Wing's tactics for the last 30+ years has been to try to mend together being a good patriotic American with being a good Christian.  It's actually an older idea than that, hearkening back to out 1950's Red Scare and our efforts to make a public statement about our collective faith by peppering references to God in our currency as well as the Pledge of Allegiance.

    It should be noted before we get started that the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution make no reference to Jesus, the Bible, or Christianity.  Something to keep in the back of your mind.
      My goal here is not to attack patriotic Christians, but rather to examine the Ten Commandments (the foundation of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and to see how they jibe with our Constitution and our capitalistic economy.  You may come to different conclusions, and that's okay.  This was never meant to be anything more than one person's opinion:

      (* For those of you keeping score at home, we'll be using the Ten Commandments as listed in Exodus 20:2-17, NKJV remix)

      1“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me."  This one's pretty easy.  Our Constitution establishes no state or national religion, and actually goes out of its way to distance itself from being affiliated with any one religious perspective.  The idea here is that the first commandment is not only rendered moot by the Constitution, but anyone trying to enforce it in these United States might very well find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

      2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments."  Again, the First Amendment's got your back on this one.  There is nothing that suggests that being a good patriotic American means you have to acknowledge or embrace any one god.

      3“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain."  Again, freedom of speech, First Amendment, you know the drill by now.  You can totally choose to respect this commandment if you like and you'd still be a good American (albeit a little dull), but breaking it has nothing to do with your patriotism.  In fact, it's an absolutely protected right.  Still think we're a Christian nation?
        4“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."  For years, not working on Sundays was the law of the land, generally referred to as blue laws.  These days, good luck finding a business that closes on Sundays.  They're there, but only as the exception rather than the rule.  In the tug-of-war between our religion and our need to provide for our families, religion took a back seat.  That said, I do see the value in taking the occasional day off.  Even the most ardent atheist needs a break once in a while.  I don't want the hospitals and fire departments to be close, ever.  It's fine if the doctors and nurses, the supermarket checkout girls, the cops and the firefighters take time off, as long as there's someone around to cover their shifts.  I don't want to face the prospect of watching my house burn down on the Sabbath because the law forbids anyone from helping me put the fire out.

        5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you."  I've seen way too many examples of bad parenting to believe that this should be enforced across the board.  The bad mothers and fathers, the neglectful, the abusers, the molesters, the ones who don't make time for their kids, they shouldn't be honored.  Parenting - at least good parenting - is a tough job, and the ones who do it well should get a little respect and recognition.  But if you do it right, your kids will grow up to honor you by living happy and productive lives.

        6. "You shall not murder."  No argument here.  But while we're at it, let's use this as a pretext to abolish capital punishment, war, and the sale of assault weapons.  No?  So much for "America is a Christian nation" then, I suppose.

        7. “You shall not commit adultery."  Fact check: evangelical Christians, the ones always yammering about how America is a "Christian nation" have the highest divorce rates.  Enough said, right?  RIGHT?!

        8. “You shall not steal."  Again, no argument here.  But try telling that to the bankers, Wall Street, and the IRS.

        9. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."  I have no problem with this one.  Lying under oath (perjury, if you will) is a crime, and it ought to be.  But can you imagine a world where the American media was forbidden to lie?  

        10. “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."  Okay, here I'm going to channel my inner Gordon Gecko: greed may not be good in itself, but the desire to keep up with the Jones' is the cornerstone of our capitalistic free market.  Do you really NEED all that crap you buy?  No, but we do anyway.  We buy to reinforce our social standing with shinier cars, bigger homes, big TV's, computers, cell phones, and expensive clothing.  Can you imagine how quickly our economy would tank if we took coveting out of the equation?

        Bottom line, boys and girls, is this: we are a secular nation.  The next time someone tries to cram the "Christian nation" argument down your throat, remind them that only three of the ten commandments are actually law here in America: not murdering, not stealing, and not lying under oath.  Everything else is fair game, and some of the commandments, if truly enforced, would end America as we know it.

        I'm just saying.