Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Those subversive Ten Commandments

Carl G. Estabrook defends the Ten Commandments in a recent Counterpunch, the best political Left newsletter around (both offline and online). Estabrook’s remarkable article, “The Subversive Commandments,” was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s focus on the Commandments’ posting on the grounds of the Texas Capitol and in two Kentucky courthouses.

Writes Estabrook:

“Conservatives defend the postings in Kentucky and Texas on the grounds that the Ten Commandments ‘formed the foundation of American legal tradition.’ Liberals on the other hand insist that the posting is an ‘establishment of religion,’ contrary to the first amendment to the Constitution. In fact, both are wrong; the Ten Commandments in their historical setting are a revolutionary manifesto, dedicated to the overthrow of traditional authority and religion.

“... the Israelites as a people began in a revolution of slaves against the Egyptian empire, a massive rejection of the society of the time. That society was one of authority and religion, presided over by a king whose position was guaranteed by the gods. The Hebrews (the word seems originally to have meant ‘outlaws’) rejected both the kings and the gods.

“The Exodus events of perhaps the thirteenth century BCE were not so much a migration (as is pictured in the bible story) but a ‘going out’ (exodus) from a society and its assumptions. The Ten Commandments are a proclamation of that revolution, a ‘Declaration of Independence of Liberated Israel.’ ...

“The Ten Commandments in their proper historical context commend atheism in regard to the religion of the gods and anarchism in respect to the laws of the kings. Arising from a revolutionary people, they support the overthrow of authoritarian structures in the name of human community. That sounds pretty good to me.”

Sounds good to me, too. Read Estabrook’s complete article right here.


At 9:44 AM, Blogger Greg Carstairs said...

The issue surrounding the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on public property is amusing to me.

I may diverge from your original theme in the next few paragraphs, but so what! It’s a Blog, not a “Letter to the Editor.”

I agree that “the Ten Commandments in their historical setting are a revolutionary manifesto. . .”, and even though Conservatives believe that “the Ten Commandments formed the foundation of American legal tradition,” I think that way back when, the basis of our jurisprudence should have been a plaque that had “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

To be a bit religious, the Ten Commandments were officially “thrown out” when Jesus was crucified. What he replaced them with was the Golden Rule (GR). The problem with the GR is that most humans have an innate desire to be told what to do or to at least have a list of rules to follow. We get nervous about having to determine what our behavior should be “on our own.”

More than likely, the early Christian leaders found out that the flock had to have rules for things not to get out of control. I’ll bet that an unhealthy dose of religious anarchy (which Paul mentions numerous times in his letters) was emerging as the Apostles died out, so the church leadership ressurected the Big 10. It was, after all, a laundry list of “don’ts” that helped the sheeple know how to behave.

So do I care if the Ten Commandments are removed from our public buildings? No. Would I like to see them replaced by a more powerful and evolutionary, non-relgious phrase like “We will treat ALL people (regardless of sex, race, age, disability, wealth, etc, etc) the way that we would like to be treated by them.”

Post that plaque in every establishment of commerce, every public building, every home, every school. Teach children from a very early age just what that means and how to live it. Nothing has to be said about Jesus or Mohammed or Krishna. Just teach the universal message. Imagine how things would change!!

What good has ever come of the Ten Commandments being posted??


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