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Fundamentally Aware

 

Bringing America’s Own Religious Extremism to the Forefront

July 20, 2003

Volume 1, Number 9

 

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“I have just read this brilliant book from start to finish, almost without a break, and I am stunned and horrified by what I have learned,” says RICHARD DAWKINS author of Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From the publisher

 

 

Welcome to issue 9 of Fundamentally Aware. If you’re not yet a subscriber to my complimentary e-newsletter, be sure to sign up. You’ll find details in the lower left column.

 

Just a reminder that many events have been added to my book tour at http://www.newbostonbooks.com/Tours%20and%20Events.htm, which is updated regularly.

 

There could be no better time to review the issue of the Ten Commandments as the basis for American law than now with Chief Justice Roy Moore continuing his uphill fight to keep his monstrous monument in Alabama ’s Judicial building.

 

As always, please feel free to share your comments with me.

 

Kimberly Blaker

 

KimberlyBlaker@chartermi.net

 

 

Contents

 

 

  1. Are the Ten Commandments Adequate or even Appropriate for Today’s Society?

 

  2. Politically Incorrect

 

  3. The Ten Commandments: a New Basis for Lawlessness

 

  4. Conservative Christian Views on Education

 

Are the Ten Commandments Adequate or even Appropriate for Today’s Society?

 

The following is excerpted from Chapter 5: The Social Implications of Armageddon by Kimberly Blaker  in The Fundamentals of Extremism.

 

Because fundamentalists take the Bible literally, they firmly believe these commandments are both necessary and sufficient to regulate society. For a pre-industrial tribal society, fundamentalists may be right. But there are many risks to imposing outdated rules on modern America . First of all, the first five commandments have little relevance to creating a moral society. The first four deal with establishing a new, monotheistic religion, that is, a doctrine that accepts there is only one God. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and “Thou shalt not make any graven image” establish there is no room for other deities.

 

Rule three makes sacred any words that refer to the Judeo-Christian God in the command, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” The fourth sets up the Sabbath. And the fifth commandment requires adherents “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”[i] This commandment may have some value. But without a companion piece for parents to treat their children in a manner deserving of a child’s respect, it is inefficient and even dangerous.

 

Commandment six, “Thou shalt not kill,”[ii] is one upon which everyone can agree. A secular American law, however, has remained intact without the need for the religious order of it. This “common-sense” mandate originated at a time when people actually did need to be told killing was wrong. By the twenty-first century, contemporary society recognizes that killing other humans is generally wrong. It is also developing definitions of when it is necessary to break this rule such as in war or self-defense. Broad theological prohibitions only hamper the development of suitable exceptions, while offering anti-abortionists justification for their cause. . . .

 

According to the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”[iii] Marriage is one of the three cultural universals;[iv] that is, every known culture defines marriage in one way or another, though definitions of marriage vary widely over time and location. The Old Testament defines marriage and adultery for a new religion, and our current law regarding marriage mirrors this definition in many basic respects, including the definition of adultery.

 

The exception is that the Old Testament laws pertaining to adultery did not pertain to men, but rather women, except for men who had affairs with married women. . . . When considering what social rules should govern marriage, recognizing changes in life span and lifestyles is necessary. While people marry much later and divorce more often than a century ago, the average amount of time-spent married has changed very little. . . .

 

“Thou shalt not steal”[v] is the succinct eighth commandment. This is firmly on “common sense” ground. From petty theft to grand larceny, stealing is the subject of a huge proportion of criminal law. Today, the Golden Rule can easily cover theft. Therefore, this commandment, while not actually counterproductive, serves no explicit purpose in defining morality and law. Our society universally recognizes the desirability and practicality of ownership.

 

Commandment nine is, essentially, an injunction against lying: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”[vi] However, as sweeping and broad as most of the commandments are, the restriction “against thy neighbor” sets this one apart. There are a number of interpretations of the “neighbor” clause. Critics of Biblical ethics interpret it most literally to mean it is perfectly all right to lie about any number of things, including total strangers. But it is only a violation to be disloyal and untrue about those of your community or tribe. . . .

 

The final component of the commands is perhaps the most telling when considering the era of this rule set: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.”[vii] Like bearing false witness, restricting covetousness could be a useful injunction in our current society, if it did not as a piece include the definition of what is owned. Our laws against owning people are seventy years younger than the U.S. Constitution. They were the breaking point in our only Civil War. There may be value in denouncing covetousness in today’s competitive social arena. Yet, the reference to a wife or servants as the property of another person is completely inappropriate for our contemporary moral code. It can serve as a justification to those who would undermine the civil liberties of vulnerable groups. . . .

 

Read more on this issue and on the moral and social development of fundamentalists in Kimberly Blaker’s chapter “The Social Implications of Armageddon” in The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America.

 

Politically Incorrect

 

“Today's court ruling is a victory for those who believe, as I do, that the Ten Commandments are time-tested and appropriate guidelines for living a full and moral life. The Ten Commandments provide a historical foundation for our laws and principles as a free and strong nation, under God, and should be displayed at the Texas Capitol.”

--Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauding a federal ruling allowing the display of the Ten Commandments at the state capitol.

 

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Fundamentally Aware

Published by

Kimberly Blaker

 

Editor/coauthor

The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America

 

 

E-mail:

KimberlyBlaker@

chartermi.net

 

 

 

 

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The Ten Commandments: a New Basis for Lawlessness

The desire of some Americans, including politicians and government officials to post the Ten Commandments in public places is nothing new; though for many, it’s merely a misguided attempt to make our nation a kinder, safer place.  This is evident by the fact that the Christian right often gains unexpected support in its attempts to place the Decalogue in public schools, following tragic shootings, and in courthouses, particularly since 9-11. 

 

But for Alabama ’s Chief Justice Roy Moore, his erection of the Ten Commandments goes beyond a concern that citizens adhere to our laws. For him, this Constitutional violation is a God-given duty to appoint his Christian god as Supreme Ruler of the land. Roy Moore is a dilemma Alabamians have dealt with for some time, particularly since he took it upon himself to situate the 5,280-pound monument in the lobby of Alabama ’s state judicial building, two years ago.  But because of the high-position he holds, the extremity of his actions, and the possibility such a challenge could be repeated elsewhere, necessitates the need for all to pay heed.

Because the first four of the Ten Commandments (among others) have nothing to do with unlawful behavior, and instead prescribe religious behavior, such as “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,” most realize that our government and public buildings are no place for this Judeo-Christian edict.  This is not the case, however, for the Chief Justice, who’s fully aware of the implications of the Decalogue.

To put it into perspective, at a Christian rally in 2002, Moore proclaimed, after stating that Christians must take back their land: “Since September 11, we have been at war. I submit to you there is another war raging - a war between good and evil, between right and wrong. For 40 years we have wandered like the children of Israel . In homes and schools across our land, it’s time for Christians to take a stand. This is not a nation established on the principles of Buddha or Hinduism. Our faith is not Islam. What we follow is not the Koran but the Bible. This is a Christian nation.” 

As would be hoped, the ruling by U.S District Judge Myron Thompson, that the monument is a Constitutional violation of the Establishment Clause, was upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals on July 1st. But Moore and his Commandments haven’t budged.

 

His next options are to ask the full 11th Circuit Court to hear the case or to go straight to the top—ask to have it reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

What troubles many is the question: to what extreme will the Chief Justice go to preserve his monument?  When asked what he’ll do should the U.S. Supreme Court order its removal, rather than stating he would abide by the law, Moore confessed, "Once I've acknowledged God, then to take it out and say you can't acknowledge him any more, that's a very serious consideration. I'll have to make a decision when that time comes.”

 

Supporters of the National Clergy Council and the Christian Defense Coalition, it has been reported, already have a plan of action: to kneel around the monument and act as a barricade. This is similar to actions that ensued in June, when four public high schools in Ohio that had placed displays of the Commandments in their buildings were ordered by a U.S. Magistrate Judge to take them down, even following two U.S. Appeals Court rejections to hear the case.  The displays were finally removed in June, but not without an episode from protestors resulting in 30 being taken into custody.

 

Because the U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected hearing several other appeals, one as recent as April 2003, where the display of Ten Commandments monuments in judicial buildings had been forbidden, Moore ’s odds of a reverse decision are slim. Still, it does offer him more time to stall.

 

The unwillingness by those who support the erection of the Ten Commandments in public places to abide by the law should, in itself, reflect the necessity of keeping these religious monuments off public property, as even before they become legalized, those who support them have a tendency to deem themselves above U.S. law. 

 

 

Kimberly Blaker is editor and coauthor of The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America . Visit http://www.NewBostonBooks.com for details.  Read previously published columns of The Wall™ at http://www.thewall-onchurchandstate/com © 2003, Kimberly Blaker

 

 

The Christian Right and the Ten Commandments in Public Schools

 

Visit these links to read up on Christian efforts, and successes, in posting the Ten Commandments in public schools:

In 1999, the House of Representatives approves such a measure.

http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/feature/1999/10comm.html

 

Next is a House bill that would ultimately make it impossible to keep the Ten Commandments out of public places.

http://www.aclu.org/ReligiousLiberty/ReligiousLiberty.cfm?ID=7822&c=38

 

 

In 2001, North Carolina fell victim to an attempt at getting the Commandments into public schools.

http://www.aclj.org/news/nf_010727_nc_legislature.asp

 

The Ohio case in which 4 public high schools displayed the Commandments finally came to closure this June.

http://www.acluohio.org/press_releases/2003_press_releases/2003.4.4.htm

 

 

 




[i] “The Book of Exodus,” book 2 The Holy Bible, King James Version, University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative, 1996 [online] [cited 29 May 2002]; available at http://www.hti.umich.edu/k/kjv. chapter 20, verse 12.

[ii] “The Book of Exodus,” verse 13.

[iii] “The Book of Exodus,” ch. 20 v. 14.

[iv] Ian Robertson, Sociology, 3rd ed. (New York, New York: Worth Publishers, Inc. 1987), 225.

[v] “The Book of Exodus,” ch. 20 v. 15.

[vi] “The Book of Exodus,” ch. 20 v. 16.

[vii] “The Book of Exodus,” ch. 20 v. 17.


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