The Ten Commandments and the Law

There is a lot of conflating the Ten Commandments with our current system of law. 10-God-Man   Old Testament God was really strict.  In the King James Version Commandments One through Four get pretty wordy.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor they maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor they stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

©2002 Marion Pennell

©2002 Marion Pennell

In Western civilization individual freedoms of religion, association, and speech preclude laws enforcing how we “treat” God.

People worship celebrities, people with wealth, preachers, politicians, fame, money and status. Consumerism and Capitalism promote this type of worship.

Graven images are similar.  How this is interpreted in fundamentalist sects can be worrying, but except for the current crisis with ISIS, painting, sculpture and architecture is embraced by mainstream religion.  Think about the ubiquitousness of the Catholic crucifix.  All the gold of the Vatican.  How can one prove or prosecute over a behaviour focusing on a representation (of anything)? If so, a lot of major sports teams would have empty stadiums.

mural 2005 Marion Pennell

mural 2005 Marion Pennell

We can’t arrest people for saying Oh My God! or Jesus Christ!  And we can’t arrest opportunistic people who claim to be speaking on behalf of God, although that is the real sin.

We have to eat, feed the animals – there will always be work done on the day of rest by someone.  Labour rules curtailing abuse of employees are a good thing, but common sense in a public sphere would dictate days of rest as a matter of practicality, not divine decree.

©2001 Marion Pennell

©2001 Marion Pennell

The only legal systems that enforce faith, belief, and adherence to a state religion – like Saudi Arabia – are unapologetic in their application thereof.

In North America there are so many sects of Christianity it would be impossible to reach consensus on how any such laws could be applied, should theocracy take hold.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet they neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.

©2001 Marion Pennell

©2001 Marion Pennell

Any society has laws or traditions concerning inheritance and certain familial responsibilities.  Elder abuse weakens society. Otherwise, some people have horrible parents, and we can’t legislate caring.

Civil law must cover the dissolution of marriage and the continued care of any children.  Adultery is messy and ugly, but we don’t want the state prosecuting this sin.  A lot of celebrities, people with wealth, preachers, politicians as well as a lot of ordinary people would be soon clogging the courts.  Adultery is only punished by the state in countries we consider to have barbaric justice systems, and then the woman is usually inordinately the “guilty” party singled out for punishment.

©2001 Marion Pennell

©2001 Marion Pennell

Coveting is counterproductive, but I don’t see how anyone can prove a thought crime.

Slander and defamation can be handled in civil court.  There is usually a commercial aspect to the harm caused by the false witness.  False accusations will be a thorn in the side of any version of a legal system.  Perjury, likewise, needs to be addressed, but not in the name of God.

©2001 Marion Pennell

©2001 Marion Pennell

Which really leaves the big two: Six and Eight.

As soon as a group of humans came together there had to be rules about property and safety, otherwise no society could exist.  Whenever a tyrant enforces unjust or unequal laws regarding theft of property or loss of life, rebellion will follow.  People want and need this basic justice, and it doesn’t matter if you invoke Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or God.

©2001 Marion Pennell

©2001 Marion Pennell

This week in Canada a Conservative MP, James Lunney of Vancouver Island (bet you thought it would be Alberta),  has chosen to sit as an independent largely because he thinks Christianity is under attack in Canada, and the Conservatives don’t want to defend the faith in law.  Nobody is preventing him from practicing his faith.  And as we celebrate the federally sanctioned holiday of Easter, I find it a headscratcher to see how the dominant faith is threatened.

Almost every week a politician in the USA sputters about the same matters.  Laws, under the guise of religious conviction, have long been used to enforce women and minorities into their “ordained” roles as second class citizens.

In an egalitarian society few would lie, steal, cheat, kill or even covet. We can aspire to legislate equality under the law and a respectful citizenry will largely self-police.  We don’t need a vengeful God to threaten us, it’s the common sense that some of us think is God-given that will drive us.

If we really want our society to reflect Christianity, some of these verses may be helpful. Jesus addressed social justice, the legal system and its place in moral issues, retribution, and the separation of church and state.  Above all he stressed that moral judgment is ONLY God’s to make.  Efforts to legislate morality will always falter.

Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

Mark 12:17 And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Luke 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.

John 8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.


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