CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

What’s Wrong With the Ten Commandments?

Feb 28, 2007

Political conservatism and religious conservatism tend to go together. Not always. Not completely. But there does tend to be a connection. It can be said that secularists tend to align themselves more with the left side of politics, while those who are religious, especially those who take biblical faith seriously, tend to gravitate more to the right. Sure, there are plenty of exceptions. But still a case can be made that this breakdown is more or less accurate.

There are many reasons given by people for why they reject God and religion in general, and Christianity in particular. But one of the main reasons, often not acknowledged, is a moral reason. The moral demands can be just too daunting or restrictive for many. Let me explain. Christianity, for example, is certainly about the overwhelming love, mercy and forgiveness of God, as offered in Christ. That is the good news of the Christian religion. But this good news only makes sense when we also understand the bad news of Christianity.

The bad news is, we are all sinners, who have gone our own selfish ways, snubbing our noses at God and declaring our autonomy. We have told God to get lost and proclaimed that we, not he, are the boss. Until we recognise and come to terms with the enormity of our sin and God’s great displeasure with it, we will never appreciate, nor see the need of, the sacrificial act of Christ at Calvary.

Of course sin means many things, but one brief way of dealing with it is to look at the Ten Commandments. They provide a pretty inclusive look at what a holy God demands, and what we consistently fail to live up to.

And lest the reader think he or she has not broken all of the commandments, remember that Jesus upped the ante. For example, he said that even if you have not committed adultery, if you have looked at a person lustfully you have already blown that commandment. Intentions as well as actions make up our sinful condition.

In an age of moral relativism, lustful thoughts do not seem like a big deal. But to an infinitely perfect and holy God, they are. As are other sins. So none of us measure up. We are all sinners in need of God’s saving grace.

And Jesus made it clear that the reason many will not come to him, believe in him, and turn their lives over to him, is because they prefer darkness to light. As the light of the world, Jesus exposes the darkness in men’s lives. Men choose the darkness, said Jesus in John 3, because their actions are sinful. Coming to the light exposes the sinful actions that we try to cover up, and pretend are not really all that bad.

So how does all this tie in with politics? Jewish film critic and commentator Michael Medved has just penned an interesting piece on political leftists and their dislike of the Ten Commandments (townhall.com February 28, 2007). As I said, those on the political left often tend to be more secular or religiously liberal than those on the political right. So they tend to have problems with the 10 C’s big time.

Says Medved, “The left’s fiery obsession with removing Ten Commandments monuments from public property throughout the United States may seem odd and irrational but actually reflects the deepest values of contemporary liberalism. In the last five years alone, the tireless fanatics at the American Civil Liberties Union have invested tens of millions of dollars and countless hours of legal time in lawsuits to yank the Commandments from long-standing displays in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Montana, Georgia, Iowa, Washington State, Nebraska, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida. In one of the most recent battles, they delayed their litigation in Dixie County, Florida, because they couldn’t find a single local resident to lend a name as plaintiff in a drive to dislocate the tablets from the local court house.”

“Even for militant separationists like the ACLU, this ferocious hostility to innocuous and generally uncontroversial monuments looks excessive, even self-destructive. The overwhelming majority of Americans instinctively accept the Commandments as a timeless, cherished summary of universal moral precepts. A closer look at the specifics of the Decalogue, however, suggests that it makes good sense for leftists to hate The Big Ten: each one of the commandments contradicts a different pillar of trendy liberal thinking.”

He then goes through each Commandment, one by one, and makes a pretty convincing case as to why the left has such a hard time with the moral absolutes of the Big Ten. Consider the First Commandment: I am the Lord Your God, Who has taken you out of the Land of Egypt, from the house of slave…

“This one makes liberals obviously and instantly uncomfortable. According to political correctness, it’s rude and insensitive to proclaim God’s existence in public – and especially not in public schools! Faith is supposed to remain a private matter, an individual habit or quiet commitment, leaving plenty of room for doubt and uncertainty. Secularists therefore resent the notion of an open, out-of-the-closet Deity who shows off in such a noisy, flashy way, staging the Exodus from Egypt with all its plagues and sea-splitting, then announcing himself in a voice from the mountaintop heard by hundreds of thousands of people. For those who worry about too much religion in the ‘public square,’ it doesn’t get much more public or communal or unequivocal than this opening proclamation.”

Or take the Second Commandment: You shall not recognize the gods of others in My presence. You shall not make yourself a carved image nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the water beneath the earth. You shall not prostrate yourself to them nor worship them…

“Talk about intolerance and judgmentalism! This commandment denies the very essence of multiculturalism and diversity: by what right do we dismiss and disrespect the gods of others? Didn’t that wild-eyed, bearded guy who went up the mountain realize that it’s a demonstration of wrong-headed cultural imperialism to express such cruel, callous contempt for deities like the Aztec Quetzcotal or the Canaanite Moloch? Moreover, when it comes to worshipping idols, twentieth century leftists continued the noble traditions of the ancient cults of Baal or Astarte: in the old Soviet Union, every town boasted monumental statues of Lenin or Stalin (usually both) and to this day, the image of the divine Fidel graces every pathetic hovel in Cuba. Refusal to ‘prostrate yourself’ and to ‘worship them’ can lead to big trouble in such enlightened societies.”

And the Seventh: You shall not commit adultery…

“To which the post-modern left would quickly add: unless you really, really love her. It’s not just Clinton apologists who have a problem with this inconvenient taboo on extra-marital involvement: when people take their vows by pledging to remain committed ‘as long as our love shall last,’ the Seventh Commandment begins to look incurably outmoded.”

What about the Eighth?: You shall not steal…

“For lefties, this prohibition smacks of the right’s selfish emphasis on private property. Back in the glory days of the 1960’s, the beloved hippie hero Abbie Hoffman penned a liberationist manifesto called ‘Steal This Book.’ Radicals and revolutionaries have always devised comfortable euphemisms to describe the act of theft: ‘liberating’ or ‘boosting’ or ‘collectivizing’ or ‘nationalizing’ private property, or simply ‘taxing the rich.’ If you believe it’s virtuous for government to seize by force the majority of an individual’s earnings (remember the pre-Reagan, top income tax rate of 70%?), you ought to feel somewhat uncomfortable with an absolute ban on stealing.”

Concludes Medved, “Reviewing the Ten Commandments one by one exposes their irreconcilable conflict with the demented and dysfunctional philosophy of today’s left. In other words, in contrast to most aspects of Twenty First century liberalism, the implacable hostility to the Biblical Big Ten actually ends up making perfect sense.”

As I said, while there may be intellectual and other reasons offered as to why people reject Christianity, certainly for many the desire to cling to a sinful and selfish lifestyle is a major factor. Coming to Christ is a wonderful deal. We hand in our sin, filth and shame, and get his love, forgiveness and mercy in exchange. But we also have to give up our claim to be the boss, the centre of the universe, the be all and end all of life. That is a very humbling experience, and many are too proud to humble themselves before almighty God.

But if we take the first step, God bends over backwards to help. As it says in both the Old and New Testament, “God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble”.

www.townhall.com/columnists/column.aspx?UrlTitle=why_liberals_are_right_to_hate_the_ten_commandments&ns=MichaelMedved&dt=02/28/2007&page=1

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One Response to What’s Wrong With the Ten Commandments?

  • Jesus said: “He that is not with me is against me” (Matt 12:30). That leaves very little ground, nay, no ground for neutrality, for the middle ground. There is, indeed, no neutrality: either you’re for Christ or against him. Therefore, it is not a question of whether a non-Christian is against Christ but rather to what degree he is against Christ.

    Humanists consider man to be the measure of all things. Christians, in contrast, submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Clearly the religions of humanism and Christianity have forever been set on a collision course.

    Jesus declared on the occasion of his ascension that all authority in heaven and earth had been given him. Humanists, not acknowledging this, believe that all authority on earth rests with whoever holds political power. This is why they worship power, because to them there is no power beyond the material world. God, for humanists, is the state, because the state is the only manifestation of ultimate power that they can conceive of. Whoever holds this temporal power is therefore god, because there is no other power transcending the here-and-now.

    Advocating for big government is therefore an act of worship for humanists. Since there is no sovereign God controlling the universe, all is chaos but for the order instituted by man himself. And to institute this order he must have power. (Unlike God he cannot merely declare, “Let there be order.”) The utmost power available to man comes in the form of the state, to wit, through a monopoly on violence. Hence the perpetual quest by humanists for big government — for power, for order. This is why so many humanists find it difficult to stand the idea of the “free market”, because it screams to them “chaos!” Indeed when Adam Smith spoke of the “invisible hand” he was alluding to God’s sovereignty over the created order.

    Anti-Christians tend to be on the left because big government (as a substitute for God) is the nature of their religion. As Jesus chased the money-changers from the temple, so are humanists like the ACLU busy chasing the infidel Christians from their temple — the state!

    Francis Gamba, Melbourne

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