Slightly Off the Beaten Path – One Man’s Opinion
The 10 Commandments – According to Gene
*Note: Just to put this piece into perspective – it is written from the viewpoint of an individual raised in a Methodist Christian tradition and who has, over the years, transitioned away from this structured line of thought.
THE 10 COMMANDMENTS – ACCORDING TO
One of the ways to take control of a potentially messy situation is to swing a big club – to enforce your beliefs through intimidation. It’s not the best way, but we all know that if you can scare the snot of somebody, there’s a decent chance they will tend to play your game according to your rules.
A long, long time ago someone in a position of authority decided it might help maintain order in their society if they laid out a few basic rules. And yeah, according to the story, Moses normally gets the credit for this. Is he really responsible for the 10 Commandments? It’s unlikely, but crediting a fairly well-known name is more logical than saying the rules came from Hank the Used Camel Salesman. To really get some muscle into these rules, it also makes sense that they would be promoted as coming directly from God. When the “big guy” talks – you’d better listen!
Over the years, I’ve come to believe that the old image of God as a super-powerful, dictatorial, vengeful entity was pretty screwed up. It’s understandable how this image came about though when all you have to draw on for an opinion are the stories of the other ancient – and frequently cranky - gods. Unfortunately, this outdated God picture still forms the basis for the 10 Commandments that a lot of folks feel obligated to follow. Don’t get me wrong here. I sincerely feel that every person has a right to whatever beliefs are working for them and in no way would I ever put down anyone for doing what they think is right. (Qualifier… as long as they are not threatening or in some way negatively impacting the welfare of another person.) I personally just don’t feel comfortable in giving these ten ancient rules the status that I once did.
Having said that, here are some of my thoughts relating to each of the 10 Commandments:
1. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.
First, King James talked weird… so we’ll stop using his language and use ours. Now to the meat of this. Even though there are a bunch of theories and assumptions about what God is or isn’t, none of us humans are in a position to positively identify God. So let’s turn this around and make it a bit more personal. How about… “Don’t get so wrapped up in yourself and your quest for power, money or stature that you forget about caring for, loving, teaching and inspiring others. Focus on giving instead getting.”
2. You shall not worship graven images.
I used to think that “graven” referred to something evil - maybe because it rhymed with “raven”. I dunno. Then I found out it was just a plain old word that simply meant carved or sculpted. This particular commandment suddenly became a lot less scary and basically says, “Don’t worship things that you’ve carved or sculpted.” Heck, that makes sense. My interpretation of this then becomes: Don’t try to assign a mystical power to something you made yourself. It’s just a “thing” for cryin’ out loud. To be fair here though, many of us do use objects or sculptures as tools to help us feel closer to, or communicate with, an entity or power which they represent. My opinion is that if it works for you, go for it.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
How about… “It’s not the best idea to say that you’re doing things for God or because of God when you’re just following your own impulses or desires.” God gets blamed for a bunch of stuff that is entirely our own doing. (And no, this statement has nothing to do with swearing. Damn, people…)
4. Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.
Gene’s version: There’s a real good chance that you are a part of something much bigger than yourself and that there’s a “big picture” that none of us can really understand. Try to think about that possibility occasionally.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
They gave you life and it doesn’t make any difference if they were great parents or pretty lousy. You’re here. Make the best of it. And yes, if your situation warrants it, do what you can to make their lives as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible.
6. You shall not kill.
Let’s modify that to “don’t commit murder”. Don’t try to play God and take another person’s life to further your own selfish causes. They have as much right to be here as you do.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
It’s really not cool to screw around on your significant other. We all have animal instincts that we’d like to follow but you can about bet that indiscriminant humping will wind up deteriorating one or more relationships and probably lead to a pile of trouble.
8. You shall not steal.
That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Don’t take what’s not yours. If you want something, you need to earn it.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
I know the basic intent of this commandment is to discourage perjury in a court of law. I’d like to expand it just a bit to: Don’t be spreading crap about anyone. You’re here to help people and make their lives easier. Try to remember that…
10. You shall not covet.
It’s OK to admire the possessions of another person. It’s not OK to want those specific things so bad you’re willing to do just about anything – as in manipulative, tacky or illegal - to get them for yourself. Also, it’s really not in our best interests to feel that we need to “keep up with the Joneses”. That amounts to letting someone else control our lives. It’s far better that we find our own path to walk.
I think I’ll just re-title my list as “Ten Suggestions for Living” and let it go at that. Yeah, that’ll work for me…
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