Friday, August 28, 2009

The Ten Commandments

The hubbub over the Jackson County courthouse's prominent display of a list of Christian moral precepts popularly known as The Ten Commandments is over for now, but those moral precepts are more popular than ever.

According to the great Kaintuckeean Blog:

McKee was most recently in the news when the Ten Commandments were removed from the courthouse after a federal lawsuit was filed. As a result, the Ten Commandments are EVERYWHERE in Jackson County, including this monument on private property just off the courthouse square.

I really don't see why there has to be such a fuss about this, from either side of the debate. If the Jackson County courthouse - or any courthouse, for that matter - wants to get around the ruling, they could conceivably put up an educational exhibit of all the world's religions, safely couching the Ten Commandments amongst the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the Five Pillars of Islam, the Seven Pillars of Ismailism, The Eight Dynamics of Scientology, various Zen Koans, the Five Sikh Symbols, the Thirteen Mormon Articles of Faith, the Nuwaubian Tablets, the Zhen-Shan-Ren of Falun Gong, the Holy Measures of the ODF, the Jehovah's Witnesses Eschatological Chart, the Hare Krishna Mantra, the Transmissions of Aetherius, the Five Precepts of Aleph (aka Aum Shinrikyo), the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints and Feast Days, the Astara Prayers, the Eight Words of the Wiccan Rede, Kabbalah's 72 Names of God, the Seven Planes of Shamballa (Unarius), the Six Precepts of Ahmadi Faith, the Discordian Law of Fives, the Subgenius "Prescriptures" and even The Church of Satan's Nine Satanic Sins.

Not to mention the doctrines of Wayne Bent, Savitri Devi, The Branch Davidians, The Unitarians, Subud, Heaven's Gate, New Thought, Santeria, The Rosicrucians, The "I AM" Churches, Christian Science, Galactic Messenger Network, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Dianetics, TM, The Temple of the Presence, The Federation of Damanhur, Church of All Worlds, The Juche Idea, Eckankar, Sai, The Way to Happiness, Meher Baba, Odinism, Voodoo/Voudoun/Vodun, The Temple of Set, and The Urantia Foundation.

And also Shamanism, Ordo Templi Orientis, Predestinarians, The Sufi Order, Archeosophy, NXIVM, Barbara Marciniak, MorningStar Ministries, The Nation of Islam, Fiat Lux, Dahn Yoga, The Ancient Order of Druids, The Golden Dawn, WATV, The Grail Message, Hinduism, Apollo C. Quiboloy, The Book of Ruhnama, Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, Luciferianism, The Samaritans, House of Yahweh, Raël, Galac-Patra, the Hidden Words of Bahá'í, and of course, the channelled messages of Ashtar Sheran and the Ashtar Command Crew.

Can't we all just get along?

Since Christianity is pretty much an "open source" religion - that is to say, it's not copyrighted nor under exclusive control of any unified governing ecclesiastical body, thus freely modified - keeping the list of valid moral lessons intact while removing the overt references to the Judeo-Christian God would go far towards making the list more palatable to the ACLU. I wonder what would happen if the list were repackaged for courthouse use as, say, "A secular common-sense list of stuff to not do"? One's cake could be had while eating it too, since theoretically you'd be presenting a secularized version of the Ten Commandments, thus skirting illegality, even though you know and I know (and even people living under a rock in Tierra Del Fuego know) all about the list's religious basis anyhow.

The funny thing is, there are a whole lot more commandments in the Bible besides just these ten. The traditional codified list of what we call the Ten Commandments today was a very late arrangement, created by picking and choosing certain commandments given in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, including the Seven Laws of Noah which predated Moses by, at least, centuries (depending on whether or not you accept the Bible's statement that Noah lived 950 years).

Look it up: the phrase "Ten Commandments" is actually not used in the Bible to describe the litany of laws that we commonly ascribe that term to. It's used, rather, to describe a completely different set of "thou shalt nots" that can be found in Exodus 34:12-26. These Ten Commandments include instructions to destroy places of worship of other religious faiths, to sacrifice all first-born children and livestock to Yahweh, and an admonition not to boil a kid in its mother's milk. This set of Commandments actually supercedes prior ones from which we derived our modern idea of the Ten Commandments from, which Moses smashed to pieces. (In point of fact, the entire Old Testament is superceded for Christians by the New Testament, so the whole matter should be entirely moot anyway.)

As a Christian myself, the most unfortunate aspect of the whole mess for me is not the matter of Church vs. State, but that the controversy has caused a proliferation of plastic Ten Commandments yard signs, and you know how I feel about plastic signs. Sigh.


Unknown said...

I have not sufficient words to convey how beautiful I found this post! To me, The First Amendment has always been about a similar kind of religious tolerance and inclusionism (or none at all).

Amid the multiplicity of instructions given in the Exodus passage you referenced, is an explicit proscription of ANY graven images--separate from the prohibition of making/reverencing idols. Would that not include plastic signs?

Unknown said...

i just wanted you to know, i clicked on EVERY LINK to every one of those religious groups, and read ALL their web pages, and now my mind feels like melted cheese. thanks for the exeperience ;p

Anonymous said...

How many Jackson Countians do you think actually know that any of those other religous documents you listed actually exist? And, perhaps, an even better question, what percentage of Jackson Countians do you think would think that anyone that read any of those other documents was a vile Satanist that deserved to be shot on sight?

Unknown said...

Apollo C. Quiboloy is now my new heart throb hero.

Raine said...

I'm from Jackson County. I've heard of all of the religious documents listed. I also read them. Ayup.

I remember when this was going on. Now it seems like everyone has the Ten Commandments posted on the side of their barn or on a little stake in their yard. I think it's great, actually - I mean, we do have religious freedom. One person shouldn't be able to make us cover up our beliefs. ^^