Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Ten Commandments and Justice

David Plotz over on Slate has been doing a series for the past couple of months called Blogging the Bible. He started on Genesis and is doing a running commentary as he reads the Bible all the way through. His latest stop was the Ten Commandments, in which he had this to say:

"Please forgive me for the following sentence, which is, I realize, a point made by approximately 3.28 billion people before me: If you had to summarize morality into a few sentences, the Ten Commandments is about as good as you can do. The last six commandments - honor parents, don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't bear false witness, don't covet - pretty much cover it."

"Speaking of those six commandments, here's something I would like explained, probably by readers who are more religious than I am. You could easily argue that all we need for daily life are those last six commandments. The first four, which concern man's relationship to God, aren't obviously necessary for a good world."

The most important point of all this is that those six can apply to the general populace. They are values we can all agree on. Some of these in a concrete sense in that there are actual laws against them (steal and murder) and others because they will always remain contrary to our moral being (false witness and adultery). Roy Moore isn't concerned about instilling general good values into people, but rather values that are marked with a Christian stamp, as if taboos against stealing and killing were the sole invention of Judea 2,000 years ago. Sorry, Roy. All the screaming at the top of your lungs aint gonna make it so.

A sidenote: Apparently Georgia Representative Lynn Westmoreland, who continues to support the placing of the Ten Commandments in the House of Representative and the Senate, was unable to name more than three (!) commandments when prompted to do so in an interview. Criminy! I can name more than that! Incidentally, the three he can name off the top of his head are from the choice six mentioned above.

Plotz went on to make these observations:

"What I am struck by is God visiting the guilt of the parents on the children. It's obvious why God would threaten it: There is no better way to discourage straying from the fold than instilling the fear that such straying will destroy your own children. Even so, this seems pretty unfair. I had always thought that we all get our own clean slate in Judaism, a life that we can make or ruin on our own. It's alarming to think that we may not, that God is holding our parents' sins against us."
Plotz has a short memory, apparently. It was only a month age that he read the ultimate example of "descendants being punished for what their forefathers did": Adam and Eve. Because these two ate of the fruit, all of their descendants (that would be the entire human race, folks) will be excluded from the Garden of Eden and fated to experience death instead of immortality. I'll steal a bit from one of my favorite movie quotes in terms of my thoughts on this one:

"There's many a man worse than me and some better, but I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters Colonel ... is justice. Which is why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve. Not as my father deserved."
And let's not forget, ladies, that this little infraction also placed upon women the pains of childbirth, which begs the question: Do evangelical women who give birth ever ask to be knocked out or be given pain killers? If so, then isn't this more or less circumventing God's punishment? If I was the creator, then I would imagine this would piss me off a lot more than other things Christians get antsy about.

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