Soon after the seasonal debates about decking the public halls with images of the baby Jesus and wise men and the mangy menagerie have faded into the pangs of the new year, the grating society of the religious right will be dickering the demarcation of the decalogue (aka The 10 Commandments) as it pertains to our judicial and educational systems by arguing that these rules be posted publicly.
A close examination of this uber-top ten list (listed below in abbreviated form) reveals that only three actually pertain to judicial law (at least US judicial law).
1. You shall not worship any other god but God.
Outside of many of the Muslim countries, you won’t find this one in the ‘books’.
2. You shall not make a graven image.
Ironically ignored by many churches, this one didn’t make the US constitution either.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
Literally broken by millions each day and symbolically shattered by politicans from both sides of the aisle, fining people for breaking this rule would balance the US budget.
4. You shall not break the Sabbath.
Except for observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists, this one went ‘by the books’ a while back. Remember ‘blue’ laws? Most of you probably don’t have a clue what I’m talking about.
5. You shall not dishonor your parents.
Every teenager in the US would be serving time if this was against the law. As a parent, I really think this one is jolly good.
6. You shall not murder.
Ok, here we go. The narrow interpretation of this one concerns premeditated murder that doesn’t pertain to war or the slaying of about a bazillion Philistines. This one makes the lawbooks.
7. You shall not commit adultery
This one is great advice for married couples. Once again, if this one was still on the books, many of our Presidents, and legislative representatives would be no longer in office. The legal dicta on this one is: don’t lie under oath about having an affair..you’ll really GET IT for that offense (see Commandment 9).
8. You shall not steal.
Definitely makes the books. I don’t think God distinguished between petty larceny and war profiteering, but the former, if caught, tend to serve jail time, the latter just get more and bigger contracts.
9. You shall not commit perjury.
Another judicial linchpin. Administration after administration seems to forget the caveat that goes with this rule: it’s rarely the crime that gets ya, it’s the coverup.
10. You shall not covet.
No one would be minding the jails if this one was on the books. Many countries and famlies have moved past the ‘wife as property’ gist of this command, but there are plenty of things left to covet.
Bear in mind that I’m not dissing the decalogue. I am dissing the idea that all of these rules are the basis of our constitutional system. Logical extrapolation of these rules speak to addiction, stress, the marriage contract and other largely personal behaviors.
An even better extrapolation would be turning the ‘do not list’ into a ‘do list’ such as ‘the golden rule’. Many of the people who yak and harp on putting God back into schools and the law would do well to actually listen, and even post the following ‘rules’ on the courthouse lawn:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Moving from merely NOT STEALING to actually following these rules truly would be a giant step for mankind.