The Sixth Commandment

The week, I will bore you with the Sixth Commandment. It is Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17. The traditional form, from the NRSV, is, “you shall not murder”. The version in the BCP is, “to show respect for the life God has given us; to work and pray for peace; to bear no malice, prejudice, or hatred in our hearts; and to be kind to all creatures of God”.

This one is pretty straight forward, don’t murder anyone. Not too much wiggle room with this one. You can quibble over what is murder, but that’s about it. It’s short and simple. Rather a shame we, as a nation, don’t follow it.

The BCP version is longer, and better, in my not so humble opinion. It’s not simply about not murdering people. It is about not feeding into the institutions that murder people. And it is more than just murder. This commandment is about respecting the lives of others, and respecting our own lives. It asks us to respect all of God’s creation.

The BCP version goes even further than murder. It asks us to do the impossible; we need to not hate. I think that is important. I try to not hate and I know I fail at it, a lot. We all do. Being successful isn’t the point, trying to not hate or have malice is all we can do. If we aren’t even trying, then how can we say that we are following Jesus? Besides, it’s not the big things that matter; it’s the small ones that count. Every small change we make, every time we try our best, every bit of energy we put into loving others; will bring us a little closer to truly loving each other and God.

It’s really simple to say and hard to do. We are being tasked by God to respect our lives, the lives of others, and all of creation. It’s hard for me to do this because it is really hard. But I try and I think that is what God wants us to do. We are going to fail, and fail, and fail some more. That’s not imp ortant. As long as we try, the amount of hate in the world will go down. And that will lead to more love and peace and justice. God will not give us justice; it is our responsibility to create it for ourselves. Or as Terry Pratchett said, “YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.” Caps because it’s from Death in the Hogfather.

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The Fifth Commandment

This week, I’m going to talk about the Fifth Commandment. Traditionally, it is from Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16, and is, “honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving”. The BCP version is, “to love, honor, and help our parents and family; to honor those in authority, and to meet their just demands”. In the BCP, this starts the section on our duty to our neighbors.

I have issues with this commandment. Giving honor or respect just because someone has a certain role or position does not sit well with me. I have seen seen and heard of many parents who deserved little to no honor because they showed none to their children. The same goes for families. Some just don’t show enough respect to have much respect shown in return. And authorities, whew, how many have abused their positions of trust?

That said, I understand why it is there. We have to deal with our parents, our families, and the authorities and having some respect for them makes things easier. Plus, without respect, we would not have any kind of community. Like many things, balance is important.

Between the two versions, I like the BCP one better. It clarifies and expands the traditional version. The best part of the BCP is the end bit, “and to honor their just demands”. That one word, just, is very important. We shouldn’t simply follow any and all orders. If those orders are not moral, then we have a duty to not follow them. If the order isn’t just, we could end up hurting others or ourselves. God calls us to be just and the book of Job tells us that it is our responsibility to be just, not God’s.

Charlottesvile, Nazis, and How to Fight Nazis

Today, I’m going to talk about Charlottesville, white supremacy, and what I think should be done.

The tragedy at Charlottesville should never have happened. Proper planning and policing could have prevented it. Instead, it was allowed to spiral out of control. It’s sad that a woman lost her life because she felt the need to stand up to a bunch of hate-mongers. Was she in the wrong? Not in the least. Nor were the others who were standing with her. Should the idiots pushing hate have been allowed to have a group there? Yes, as much as it pains me to say it, they had a legal right to be there and spout their hatred. I also think they had a moral right as well. I don’t like the idea of setting a precedent saying that groups that someone disagrees with do not have a legal right to speak. Sure, it sounds good now, when we are talking about Nazis and KKK members. What happens when the Right decides to silence a socialist group, environmental group, or an LGBTQ group?

That brings me to white supremacists. I can believe that we still have them, that is all too easy to believe. Look at how many were claiming that racism is dead because Obama was elected president. Even as unaware as I am, I know that was a load of bull manure. When Trump was elected, those people felt safe to crawl out of their rocks and caves and strut around like they own the place. I’m not a big fan of hating anyone, but I do make a few exceptions and members of the KKK and Nazis are on the short list. What do these people want? America back, by which they mean an America populated only by ‘whites’. No blacks, no asians, no hispanics, not even the natives to this land. Well, unless they are willing to be servants, then maybe. They also want to see women subjugated again. They want all non-Christians to be treated as second class citizens, at best. And, they want to see every LGBTQ person killed. Needless to say, I disagree with them on all counts.

So, what do we do about this? Some groups have taken to responding with violence and others to starting violence with these people. This is a bad strategy. Antifa and like groups are nowhere near morally equivalent to Nazis and the KKK. Why do I even need to say this? Because there are many who think they are morally equivalent. That is the problem with this strategy. It makes it too easy for those opposed to white supremacy to become the victims and claim moral superiority. It’s counter-productive, although satisfying in the short run. So, do we do nothing? That would be even worse.

We must show up and keep showing up. We MUST be peaceful about it. Otherwise, we get tarred with the same feather as the white supremacists. Gandhi and King had it right, responding to violence with violence only creates more violence. Responding to violence with peace and dignity breaks the cycle of violence. The biggest objection to this that I hear is that being peaceful only works if your opponents are moral. That is just plain wrong. I’m trying to get the white supremacists to change their minds, that’s futile. I want to get the mostly neutral masses on my side. And to do that, I must clearly be in the right. I cannot lower myself to their level, or I risk looking morally equivalent to the masses.

There is this strange idea that people are rational and if presented with facts, will change their minds. Research has shown the opposite. When we are presented with facts counter to our world view, we double down on our world view. You want to change someone’s mind? Then you have to do it via emotions and stories. This is why we must not only be right, but look like we are right. I’ll repeat that, we must be right and appear to be right. Otherwise, we’ll be written off as being the same as white supremacists.

The Fourth Commandment

We are already a month into this and the prewriting seems to be working. I hope this is as interesting to you as it is to me.

The traditional version of this commandment is from Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15. It goes, “remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord  your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.” The BCP version is, “and to set aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of God’s way”.

The traditional version is rather interesting with its inclusiveness. The day of rest is for everyone. Doesn’t matter who you are, a slave, a woman, or a foreigner. Even animals get to rest on this day!  That’s something you don’t everywhere, even today. This day is for worship, but it doesn’t end there. It is about rest. No work was to be done at all!  A day where you are to do nothing, could you imagine that today?  I don’t think we can do this. We simply lack the ability to stop. We need to learn this skill or our health will deteriorate. Without rest and relaxation, we will cause harm to ourselves, physically and mentally. The ancient Hebrews were, somehow, able to see this and made it a commandment to take a day of rest. I find that amazing.

The traditional version is also about spending time with God. It’s a relationship and if we don’t put time into it, it will fail. This shouldn’t be work to make time for those with whom we are in a relationship.

The BCP version lacks the day of rest, which I think is important. Time for rest is very important. We are so busy that we rarely take time to relax. We go and keep going until we can’t go anymore and that is not good for us, our family, our friends, and God. We barely have time for what ‘needs’ to be done, so having time for anyone or anything else doesn’t happen often.

If we don’t spend time with God, how can we know them?  If we don’t take time to read the Bible, then how will we know if someone is deceiving us about our faith?  If we don’t worship together, how can we build a community of faith?  Our lack of communities dismays me. Few take the time to get to know each other. Even fewer take the time to create and maintain communities. Very few take the time to meet with others for mutual support.

They both agree on taking time to get to know God. They also imply that we need communities of faith. We need them because we cannot make it through life alone. Most importantly, and sadly not included in the BCP version, we must rest regularly. On a side note, in the BCP, this is the end of the section on our duty to God.

Third Commandment

Today, I’ll be talking about the Third Commandment. It is in both Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11. It goes, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name”. The version in the BCP is, “to show God respect in thought, word, and deed”.

As usual, I’m going to start with the traditional version. What’s it trying to say?  I think this one is quite obvious, don’t swear by God unless you mean it. Don’t use God’s name to defraud others. Don’t use God’s name to enrich yourself in any way.

This is one where I feel the traditional version is better than the one in the BCP. Not that I don’t like the version in the BCP, it is pretty good. They go in different ways. The traditional version is more about not using God’s name for selfish purposes. The BCP version is more about how you relate to God. It’s more individual than the traditional version. The traditional version focuses on the social aspect of respecting Them.

One of the things I see Christians do too often is put words in God’s mouth. They say that they alone know what God has said and is saying. All too often, it is merely a way for these people to use God’s name to bring them money and power. Others become legalistic, they stick to the words in the Bible and ignore what the spirit of those words are. How is that respecting God?  How is turning a deaf ear to the message in the Bible respecting anyone?

To sum it up, we should love God with our whole heart and mind and soul. If we do that, then we will be respectful towards God. Part of being respectful towards God is to not put words in Their mouth. And to not use our relationship with God as a way to bring power, glory, or money to us, especially in a fraudulent way. If we truly respect God, then we will take the time to discern the Spirit of God’s words, all of Their words.

The Second Commandment

The next one up is the Second Commandment. Traditionally, it is, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of the parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” This is from Exodus 20:4-6 and Deuteronomy 5:8-10. Whew, that is an awful lot for something pretty simple. The BCP shortens it to, “To put nothing in the place of God”. I wonder if ancient scribes were paid by the word.

Again, I notice that the traditional version implies that there are more gods out there. I suppose it could be trying to say that the God of the Bible is the one true god. Or, it could mean that the God of the Bible was one of many and the primary one of the Hebrews. The polytheism and henotheism in the Bible has always intrigued me. Maybe because there are so many who will insist it isn’t there.

The traditional version should be summed up as, don’t worship idols and be true to the Lord your God. Much simpler and easier to remember. The version in the BCP is more interesting and much, much shorter. It also invites the question, “what do I put in place of God?” Many put work and our pleasure first. But the one thing I see worshiped in place of God the most is money. We Americans do have an unofficial religion and it likely has more practitioners than any other religion in the US. We worship money like a god. We trade our time, our health, and our relationships for the stuff. Many will even trade their values and parts of who they are for these little slips of green paper.

Too many of us have become slaves to money. Money was meant to be a tool to make our lives easier and we have made it our master. We put people who have lots of money on a pedestal and demean those who have little. Money is funny that way. We’d call someone with a million hammers strange or a hoarder, but if it’s a million dollars, then it’s ok. If you have a lot of money, you can circumvent the law, while those without money are often put under a heavy yoke by the law.

This is not the way God intended things to be. God wants us to keep them in mind because everything that is, was, and will be is a part of them. Part of worshiping God is helping others without counting the cost, without asking if those you help are “worthy”, and without degrading and demeaning those who ask for help.

In short, Christians should be worshiping God, not people, not things, and most definitely not money.

First Commandment

Hello all, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to write and type up a few posts and try to build a bit of a buffer. With luck, this will help with the whole not being exactly emotionally stable thing.

So, we’re on to everyone’s favorite, the fifteen, no, ten commandments. I’m going to take them one at a time and in order. I want to go in depth about what each one means to me. I’ll be using the Episcopalian and NRSV versions. For the Episcopalian version, I’m going to pull it straight out of the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer.

The First Commandment is, “To love and obey God and to bring others to know him”. I like the way this is worded. It sounds less harsh than the more traditional version.  That version goes like this, “You shall have no other gods before me”. This is from both Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7.

Looking at them, they look like they are mostly statements about who God is. I feel that the one from the BCP is close to the traditional version in spirit. We Christians should listen to and love God; that’s part and parcel of being a Christian. And that means reading the Bible, the history of the Bible, and the history and culture of the people who wrote the Bible. Without knowing about all of that, you can’t truly understand what is written in the Bible. It requires more than just that, though. We need to go to church regularly to worship with others and make sure we aren’t starting down paths that will lead where it’s not healthy to go. It means praying and creating time to hear what God is saying.

One thing that has always been interesting to me is how the traditional version says ‘you shall have no other gods before me’. Not that you should have no other gods, but that you should worship the Biblical God first. Read that way, you can worship other gods, as long you you revere the Biblical God above all others. I think that this is rather interesting and something that Christians really ought to think about deeply. Maybe others aren’t wrong, they simply aren’t us.

Anyway, to sum it all up, the First Commandment is about who God is and your primary duty towards them. And maybe we should be more tolerant of others. Just maybe.