In part I, Gregg listed four statements:
- “The United States was founded on Christian values and all are troubles are because we have drifted away from those.”
- “Christian values are founded on the rock solid principles of the Ten Commandments and they should be on display in public buildings and courts to remind us.”
- “All Christians believe the same things – those taught by Jesus Christ.”
- “I am a Christian and that settles the argument.” (Whatever the argument is.)
ON TO THE SECOND STATEMENT:
“Christian values are founded on the rock solid principles of the Ten Commandments and those commandments should be on display in public buildings and courts to remind us.”
Unified Christian values founded upon the Ten Commandments are as much myth today as is the idea that there were only Ten Commandments in the first place. Any casual reader of the bible finds that the laws given number more than 600 (613) and sectarian bible scholars will give you a range of the exact number depending upon their sect.
Choosing ten statements to represent the whole of the Mosaic Law including compromises on which ten statements which translation and in which order the statements were presented is a topic most sects refuse to discuss or to allow much open and accurate study. Many still dip back into the 600 plus unlisted laws to cherry- pick supporting arguments for their church’s interpretations of the commandments. They use these for application today; more than 3 millennia since the total number of 613 were first recorded by their desert tribe authors.
One of my favorite considerations is the conflicting interpretations of “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” In times of war this is often interpreted or changed to say “Thou Shalt Not Murder” taking the sin away from killing an unknown enemy of the opposition (unholy) army or an internal alleged traitor. Then, of course, I must consider the vegan Christians who extend the commandment to the slaughter of food animals.
Also note that in the supporting laws for these ten digest-like commandments the penalty for many things was originally death by stoning, without the constraint of due process. Among those 613 Mosaic Laws which abrogate the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and commend stoning someone to death are: adultery (which Christ said a man commits in his mind by looking lustfully at a women), murder (nothing constraining Holy Wars), sassing your parents, blaspheming against the official god, mixing fabrics you wear, or working on the Sabbath. These were all cause to suspend the law against killing — and kill the offender.
Let us take a look at combining two of our original statements as far as the U.S.A. goes. I have read the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution as amended, and the Declaration of Independence. I find the Ten Commandments listed nowhere in them. Could the founding fathers been assuming that everyone believed the same thing, especially the Ten Commandments? Or did they have other notions about the difference between civil secular law and ecclesiastic commandments?
Maybe the closest we come to the Ten Commandments in the founding American documents (particularly using the magic number 10) are the first ten amendments to the U. S. Constitution. These are very different than the any inclusion of the Christian Ten Commandments. In fact they contain a simple, thoughtful expansion of the Constitution’s original prohibition on any religious test (including belief in the Ten Commandments) being required for holding office, expanded by the establishments clause, the first amendment, saying :
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Compare this with the first Christian Commandment “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Sure sounds like a religious test to me.
Could it be that the founders in their wisdom could also see that some churches believed in a Nicene God of three parts of one mystic indivisible individual, while others tended to give Christ a little more emphasis than in the triumvirate approach, and yet others depended upon a holy ghost or spirit rather than direct communication with God? Could they see the time government could waste over these arguments rather than how to govern a nation of individuals with a desire to thrive? Did they ascertain that any one religion’s rule over another by law would be antithetical to the hard won liberty they fought for? Could they see the rise of any one sect would allow a dictatorship of thought with its constriction of personal liberty?
One only need look at the religio-doctrinal arguments in Congress today over abortion, gay rights, education, death with dignity, and funding of churches for social services to discover where the fault of rigidity applies. You only need look back to women’s fight to gain the right to vote and to own property in the early 1900s. Look further back at slavery if you wish to find religion’s corrosive power against rational humane consideration. Somehow, it takes reason a long time to overcome belief.
Here’s an example from Noam Chomsky’s essay found in NationofChange.org on July 23, 2012 entitled “Destroying Commons:
“The founders of course did not intend the term “person” to apply to all persons. Native Americans were not persons. Their rights were virtually nil. Women were scarcely persons. Wives were understood to be “covered” under the civil identity of their husbands in much the same way as children were subject to their parents. Blackstone’s principles held that “the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything.” Women are thus the property of their fathers or husbands. These principles remain up to very recent years. Until a Supreme Court decision of 1975, women did not even have a legal right to serve on juries. They were not peers. Just two weeks ago, Republican opposition blocked the Fairness Paycheck Act guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work. And it goes far beyond.”
Too many religions and their texts do not recognize women as whole people. If this is Christian Doctrine, I want nothing to do with it. After all — in the Ten Commandments the “do not covet” section lists wives and donkeys as property all with the same value for coveting.
Turning to the idea of whether the Ten Commandments are up to date, or the archaic product distilling the thoughts of ancient desert tribes into 16th century language with laws that remain unchanging in the light of all modern knowledge and progress, we need only look, again, to our nation’s constitution.
One of the farsighted inclusions in the main body of the U. S. Constitution’s text is a way to change it through amendment. The Ten Commandments and its supporting bible provide no such thing. There have been 27 Amendments to the constitution since our nation’s founding. Remember the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st to restore the use of alcohol after prohibition was pushed through by religious zealots. So we can count on 26 forward looking amendments.
Some wag might point out that the original Second Amendment and the Fifth commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” are directly in conflict, particularly in these modern times and in light of the Aurora Colorado shootings. There were no guns around when the commandments were written.
Let me declare right here, I am a gun toting liberal who both supports the Second Amendment, and detests the paranoid propaganda promulgated by the National Rifle Association. I also believe that the idea of not killing people is a good one — as long as other people hold that same principled belief and act upon it. Those prompted to otherwise abrogate my right to live freely, whether they are an individual, a sect, political philosophy, or psychopath need to be thoughtfully defended against.
I firmly hold that the doctrines that offer rewards on earth or in heaven for killing “the other,” unless the other agrees with a specific sect or belief, or becomes subject to the belief or group, is antithetical American ideals. (I also include the base idea of sending the other to hell for not accepting Christ — as defined by any sect or belief as something to defend against, but not by force of arms.) But that is a conversation for another day.