Sunday, July 17, 2005

Stirring the Pot Again

Blogging can be a little bit like dating. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you are in deep trouble.

So it is that My Modest Shabbat blog of yesterday has led me into contemplating the Ten Commandments today. There is no way that my wildest dreams caused me to believe that I would ever blog about what the divine finger wrote on the stone tablets on Mount Sinai, but here I am — probably in deep trouble in blogland — yet again!

Actually, I'm not going to say a lot about the Big Ten, but here they are as found in Exodus 20 of the NJKV. Some of the commandments, such as Honor your father and mother, are elucidated more fully in Exodus, and some, such as You shall not murder, are not. I have pared each commandment with the possible exception of the second down to its essence, but I have not altered the text.

I will continue my pathetically paltry thoughts once you have refreshed your memory.

You shall have no other gods before Me

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 take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

Honor your father and your mother

You shall not murder

You shall not commit adultery

You shall not steal

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

You shall not covet

What I wonder is, how or why we have chosen to take certain commandments very literally but not others. Hmmm, but now that I say that, I'm not sure that we do take many seriously, except I suppose for not murdering and perhaps not stealing. On the other hand, our society (not everybody in all circumstances, mind you) pretty well tolerates lying, coveting, dishonoring parents, not remembering the Sabbath, and certainly taking the Lord's name in vain. Come to think of it, we're also pretty darn tolerant and forgiving of adultery; we go as far as to almost honor it — in much popular entertainment at least.

When I juxtapose Christendom's sometimes cavalier attitude toward keeping many of the above commandments, against its frequently frenzied passion over the gay issue, I scratch my head in bafflement. Recently, for example, headlines were made when the parents of a gay seventeen year-old boy sent him away to be deprogrammed. For goodness sakes: how and why do we get so worked up over this supposed sin but so often permit ourselves to casually disregard so many of the real Ten Commandments? The gay issue didn't even make the list, yet much of the Church tends to put it close to the very top of their list. Why?

To me, there is a huge credibility gap here. How do the good folk, for I don't doubt that most are just that, rationalize their disregard for some of the divine law while getting completely lathered up over an issue that He chose not to include in the Big Ten?

You see? That's where I end up. From a simple blog about having a restful day yesterday, I have to go and stir the pot and get all controversial. Sometimes I can't seem to help myself. I am really not being anti-Christian, folks, nor am I accusing even most Christians of that which I write today. But you know the views that are out there just as well as I. And it bothers me. Quite a bit actually.



Gina said...

I am jumping right into the pot to say I agree with you, AC.

In fact I think the gay population is exactly the kind of disenfranchised population that He would be reaching out to. You know, the whole "He who is without sin shall cast the first stone" thing.

People also forget the Beatitudes, which were spoken directly by Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount. The Catholic Church holds these as a very close second to the Ten Commandments in importance as a behavioral dictum.

Going to church or claiming that you are a Christian means nothing if you don't act like one in your daily life.

Goodness, this has turned into a real diatribe. I think I'll stop now.

Christi said...

That reminds me that I'm really trying to quit my "Oh my God!" habit.

I totally agree with everything you wrote. I'd add, but why bother. You summed it up so perfectly.

blue2go said...

I like the Beatitudes much better, they're more positive. I think the Ten Commandments are basically rules for a civilized society, never mind whether the individual people are "religious" or not.

Heather said...

Oh man, I am SO with you on this AC. Not only do they spend alot of energy on convincing people homosexuality is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, but they spend a heck of a lot of MONEY doing it to. I really don't understand putting so much focus on that ONE issue, and at the same time forgetting to respond to the needs of the hungry, the poor, the destitute, the lonely, etc.

But of course, I've gotta look at the "log" in my own eye too ;-)

Lynn said...

History shows that religious beliefs are riddled with absurdities and inconsistencies. I don't denigrate religion because of that. All kinds of human beliefs are riddled with absurdities and inconstistencies. Organized religions, however, demand obedience from the flock, obedience to the set of beliefs held by the prevailing power structure in the church.

Take the dogma of the Trinity. The early Christian churches held diverse beliefs about the nature of Jesus. It wasn't until the Roman Emporer Constantine enforced the dogma of the Trinity. After that all other beliefs about the nature of Jesus became heretical and punishable by excommunication.

I watched a TV Evangelist this weekend explain to his flock that people suffering from depression did not not have their minds right with god and scripture, for if they did, they wouldn't be depressed. Forget about all the medical research proving depression is a neurological disease and treatable.

Karla said...

You know what has always baffled me? One of the commandments states that you shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of God. Why then, do catholic churches have so many statues?

Sue said...

Oh, I so agree! Thank you for putting this into words so very well. It's also worth mentioning that the Ten Commandments were for God's people, not for the otherwise pagan society of the time. We as the Church should indeed take them on, but we don't have any right to expect those without Christ to hold to them, except when society as a whole has taken them on (such as murder, stealing etc). As for Christians condemning homosexuality (usually in non-Christians) - well, it seems to me it's easy to cast the first stone when it's a sin they don't personally feel at all tempted by. But it's really no worse than hererosexual adultery, possibly even LESS bad since, as you say, it was never included in the Big Ten.

Greg said...

What's to be puzzled about?

First, consider that the Christian churches are patriarchal.

Second, consider that most men feel threatened by homosexuality. Much more so than women, for sure.

There is your answer. It has nothing to do with God (whoever you may consider that to be, "Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin").

In fact, it seems to me that much of what happens in religions, has more to do with man than God.

When humans (especially men) come to terms with their confusion over sexuality, this particular problem will go away.

Anyone have any guesses as to how long that will take?

Iona said...

I also agree with what you said. I have to say that I feel that homosexuality is not a sin or anything else that the Church claims it is. They should just forget about that and move on to the more serious issues!
But then again, I live in the Netherlands, you all know how we feel about gay people! :)

About the Ten:
Personally I have to say that I take some of the The Ten Commandments pretty lightly. And I don't mean that I justify killing or anything, but how about the exceptions to these 'rules'?
For instance, 'You shall not steal". Okay, so stealing is forbidden. But what about a poor (perhaps homeless) guy? Is it so bad if he if he steals an apple off a pushcart just so that he gets something to eat?

"You shall not commit adultery": Yeah, right. Little old fashioned statement for this modern society I think. It just won't hold up.

"You shall have no other gods before Me". Okay, if this is a sacred rule, then why did He allow for so many religions to develop over the years? Why didn't he just 'invent' one religion and one only? That would certainly solve a lot of problems and end alot of wars around here!

-epm said...

One of the commandments states that you shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of God. Why then, do catholic churches have so many statues?

The commandment isn't referring to sculptures or statues per se, but the fabrication and worship of images as gods. Apparently, as the Exodus story tells us, there was a time when people -- or at least the Isrealites -- would fashion a statue and worship it as a god (e.g. the golden calf).

Taken literally (and I believe out of context) one could say the commandment prohibits wearing a cross necklace, or displaying a cross in church. For isn't that an image -- an icon -- of God?