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Tablet Wars

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroApril 06, 2012
Grow

Posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings may soon become legal in Tennessee, and I for one am all for it. After all this is a central Jewish document, and if Tennessee wants to honor my people and our faith, well, bless their little hearts.

What I don’t understand is why Christians would want the Ten Commandments posted. The text never mentions Christ and actually commands things that Christians have long since abandoned.

The Commandments open with a verse that makes it clear God is speaking to Jews, since we are the ones God brought out of Egypt.  The commandment against making and bowing down before graven images makes the image of Jesus problematic. Proclaiming the seventh day (Saturday) as the Sabbath makes Sunday sabbath worship inappropriate, and if we really banned all work in the Sabbath what would people do after church: restaurants would be closed, shopping would be impossible, and sporting events would be banned. We’d actually have to sit around and talk to one another! God forbid. And even honoring one’s parents is tough when so many of us are convinced that Medicare and Social Security are satanic. Of course there are the commandments against murder, adultery, theft, bearing false witness, and coveting, but I doubt anyone is in favor of only posting the last five Commandments.

I’m not saying that Christians didn’t and don’t have a right to ignore or change the Ten Commandments and worship as they choose—they do. I’m only asking why they would want to have such a clearly Jewish document posted on government buildings?

If I were a Christian and I believed that the United States was a Christian Nation, I would want to post the Beatitudes rather than the Ten Commandments on our government buildings. You know: blessed are the poor, the grieving, the powerless, the hungry, the kind, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the unjustly persecuted. In fact even as a Jew who doesn’t believe the United States is a Christian Nation I would rather see the Beatitudes than the Ten Commandments on our government buildings. Talk about an agenda for national policy! Jesus rocks. And the fact that he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey rather than an elephant only makes me feel closer to him.

But maybe that’s the problem: Jesus is too liberal. It’s one thing to be commanded not to swear falsely in court, it’s another to imagine that we are to care for “the least of these” as Jesus called the 99 percent of his day. I wonder if passion for the Commandments isn’t a way of avoiding Jesus’ compassion for the poor?

Just asking. Please weigh in.


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is The World Wisdom Bible.

He has this to say about religion: "To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence."

To comment on this installment of One For the Road or submit a question, email the editors. Questions may be edited for length and clarity; all are published anonymously.


This entry is tagged with:
ChristianityJudaismSpiritualityReligionFaithTen CommandmentsBible

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