Thursday, July 14, 2005


Living on Tulsa Time

Got an email-forward from a friend the other day defending the Ten Commandments, and posting them, I presume, in government-sponsored locations. It cited Ben Franklin, Tom Jefferson, James Madison and other FF’s on the key role the Commandments played in the founding of our country. Besides, the email concluded, since about 85 per cent of the American people believe in God, those Godless few should just shut up about the whole thing. The email then challenged us to forward the email if we agreed with it, and to delete it if we belonged to that godless minority.

I deleted it, with all due respect to the friend who sent it to me.

However the public feels about belief in God, I find the Ten Commandments to be particularly parochial, regardless of their place in the founding of our country. Many of them may be timeless—even statements of natural and psychological laws of good conduct, wise society, but they begin with a particularly partisan bent.

1. I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt not have other gods besides me.
I doubt that the Founding Fathers ever anticipated the making of a movie like “Mississippi Masala,” or thought that Detroit would contain large Muslim communities, but here we all are. If the First Amendment is to mean anything, we may gladly read the words of the Commandments, but Bible Belt judges had best remember that the First Amendment, not the First Commandment, is formally the law of the land.

2. Thou shalt not make for thyself any graven image, nor shall you bow down to it, or serve it.
Hmmm… definitely beyond the scope of civil courts. Of course, this is the least obeyed commandment, right up there with coveting your neighbor’s wife and ass. What greater graven image exists than the SUV? Okay, I know I’ve strayed into metaphor, but again, we are talking ecclesiastical business here, not the foundations of our civilization.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.

Not only are these two losing battles in our potty-mouthed, malls-open-on Sunday country, they are open to interpretation. Whose Lord-my-God, and which Sabbath Day? A former flame introduced me to the mysteries of Shabbat. My JW neighbors observe still another day.

Perhaps these petty particulars matter little. I did keep Paul’s statement on love from First Corinthians on my classroom wall, not to intimidate or proselytize, but simply to remind myself what I was there for, a mission statement of sorts. However, this growing evangelistic might scares me. It parallels the “certainty” of the current president, who believes that his ill-conceived policies are the will of God. The posting of the commandments seem to take place in venues where their purpose is to declare their dominance over governmental practices. God-arguments seem to be a pretext for the promotion of a narrow interpretation of what holiness is. It’s biased, it’s exclusionary, and it seems to gather its strength from hatred rather than love. It takes the private act of spirituality and plasters it in the glare of public policy.

Recently a group of extremists commandeered the board of directors of the Tulsa Zoo and arm-wrestled them into the decree that the story of the creation from Genesis should be posted alongside the evolutionary exhibit near the cages of the great apes. This dictum unraveled as the zoo attempted then to post several other creation stories along with it to show its religious non-bias. Finally the directors recognized the barrel over which they had been thrown and backed off from the entire project. It was simply too unwieldy, too out of place, to carry out.

In our political and societal zoos, we should be doing the same thing.

Regarding the "the godless few", shoot! That sounds like a band I'd pay good money to hear.

You've got a great blog. I'm enjoying your posts, though I was heartbroken to read about chemotherapy is like. I recognized the truth of your portrait: I used to work at a cancer center, just as a secretary, but we booked the patients, got the catalogue you mentioned and oh, God almighty...

I'll keep posting if you do.

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?