My triumphant return to the Motley Moose (I know many of you were concerned I had been KIA in a recent raid by Sarah Palin; these rumors were false, but we lost some good meese out there…)!
You can catch the full, original article (with one spiffy photo) here .
One of the central tenets of Christian and Jewish faith is the Ten Commandments, handed down from God to Moses atop Mt. Sinai (in present-day Egypt).
In truth, the Ten Commandments are a codification of the tenets of every faith (not just for Jews and Christians) and the highest levels of conscience (for agnostics or atheists). In other words, the Ten Commandments remains a very religious symbol, but the message and cause is one that all people (regardless of faith choice) are hard-wired for at heart.
How are you doing, personally? That’s a question that must be answered from within.
But how are we doing, as a people? Let’s simplify the language from Exodus and Deuteronomy and consider (in the opposite order the Commandments appear, for effect):
You shall not covet/take your neighbor’s wife…or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
I think the important notions here are the definition of “neighbor” and the definition of what “belongs to your neighbor.” In America, aren’t all citizens our neighbors? And further, aren’t our lives tied closely with those in cities and towns and mud huts all over the world? The message from this passage is that we are all neighbors.
The act of wanting, of desiring, has led us seriously astray–this is nowhere more apparent than in the great race for wealth. Remember the very true statement: “He who loves money never has money enough.” We have made ourselves slaves to this desire.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
We can’t seem to shake the “Welfare Queen” myth, or the idea that one must attain a certain social or financial status before they are worthy of our attention.
On television our leaders call others “enemies” for their ideas or actions; Republicans and Democrats put on a vituperative face in the name of achieving political power.
On the floor of Congress, Representatives boisterously accuse the President, “You lie!” Yet who is really bearing false witness?
You shall not steal.
Ten percent of the people own seventy percent of the wealth. Vast inequality of income keeps Americans from fully exercising that “pursuit of happiness,” but the inexorable extension of this notion is that more than 2 billion men, women and children around the world live on less than $2 per day. This is a type of poverty that is unthinkable in the US. Yet the very wealthy–the modern-day “tax collectors” of biblical times–continue to soar in riches despite the harrowing reality of most of the world.
You shall not commit adultery.
Do I even need to elaborate on this one?
You shall not murder/kill.
War. Genocide. Capital Punishment. Terrorism. Preemption. Crime. Torture. Assassination. “Manifest Destiny.”
The text is very simple in both Exodus and Deuteronomy. “You shall not murder.” There are no corollaries attached. It is a simple rule. A natural law.
Honor your father and mother.
It’s tough to know how to honor your father and mother when father and mother oftentimes don’t properly honor progeny. Nearly half of all marriages in America end in divorce; millions of kids grow up in single parent households or foster care. The cohesive family unit–which reflects a cohesive society and the moral fortitude of a people–has been eroding for quite some time.
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
Once again, “He who loves money never has money enough.” Why take time to consider the big picture and connect with family when you could be making more treasure (or employing others to do so on your behalf)? (That, my friends, is sarcasm.)
Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
No, I’m not talking about swearing here. I’m talking about being untrue to the core principles of any faith or level of conscience, and then seeking to justify your betrayal. This includes holy wars (so a war to combat “Islamic fundamentalism” falls in here), intolerance of others for their way of life or beliefs (and justifying it because you are of a particular religion or belief group), or carrying yourself as a person of faith and subsequently breaking any of these Commandments without remorse.
You shall not make for yourself an idol.
You shall have no other gods before me.
These last two go pretty well together, and highlight our most egregious offense: We worship wealth.
We have created a false god and perpetuated it with political policies that hand people money to curry favor (no matter how rich they already are), economic policies that dupe so many into giving their lives in the pursuit of dollar upon dollar (“He who loves money never has money enough”), and a culture where bigger is better, we spend what we don’t have to buy what we can’t afford, and irresponsibility is glamorous (see McDonald’s, Mastercard & Lindsay Lohan).
Wealth can be a tool, but it is not the source of freedom. So many confuse an extra dollar with extra happiness, yet at whose expense does that happiness come? Our brothers and sisters who can barely afford ten grains of rice? The truth is, when we pass on from this life, it matters not whether you are buried in six feet of soil or a stack of $100 bills.
Our truest commodity comes in our ability to advance the cause of humanity; to walk the road of peace for all time; to serve–not enslave–one another.
These are “the better angels of our nature.“It is easy for most folks to think, of the Ten Commandments, “Well, if I don’t do these things, then that is good enough.”
A nation consists of individuals; it cannot exist without each one. The collective actions of that state reflect on every citizen; we must decide whether we allow our collective actions to be held to a different (and much lower) standard than the ones we choose for our churches, our families and ourselves.
Will we continue to believe that our governments and nations are exempt from these universal truths? This isn’t a call for the Bible or Qur’an to replace the Constitution; but rather, for the common-sense dignity, decency and behavior that all peoples throughout the world find in common. It’s time to practice what we preach.