The Ninth Commandment

Welcome back again! Today, I’ll be expounding on the Ninth Commandment. I promise, we’re almost there. This one is traditionally worded as, “neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor”, and comes from Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20. The BCP updates like this, “to speak the truth and not mislead others by our silence.” Another nice, short one. Even the BCP doesn’t drag it out.

This time, I feel the BCP is merely updating the language and not trying to expand upon it. I like the expansions, but they do tend to be a bit wordy. Also, the bit about honesty and justice in our dealings from the Eighth Commandment feels like it should be here.

The Ninth Commandment is as important now as it was 3000 years ago. It’s talking about trust and not breaking it. Way back when, contracts were almost all verbal, so it was rather important to be able to trust the people you were dealing with. Plus, trust was, and is, needed to keep people working together. Many cultures held variations of this commandment as their primary law. Breaking it would lead to death, ostracism, or banishment. You could be declared to be a non-person; it was taken that seriously. This is the don’t lie one, and not simply because lying is bad. If you’re not trustworthy, no one will listen to you or be willing to deal with you. And, it makes others’ lives worse as well. The merchant may have needed that money to feed her own family.

The BCP really does a great job with updating this commandment. It clarifies the intent without adding bulk. Lies of omission are still lies and must be avoided. Does this mean you can’t lie to the Nazis about where you hid the Jews? I think God would be willing to overlook cases like that. You are saving the lives of others and treating people well was considered to be very important, and still should be.

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The Eighth Commandment

Welcome back y’all! This week, I present the Eighth Commandment. Traditionally, it comes from Exodus 20:15 and Deuteronomy 5:19. It goes, “neither shall you steal”. The BCP expands it like this, “To be honest and fair in our dealings; to seek justice, freedom, and the necessities of life for all people; and to use our talents and possessions as ones who must answer for them to God.”

The traditional form is pretty simple and straightforward. Don’t take stuff that isn’t yours. There’s not a whole lot to say about it. Now, the BCP version is interesting. It expands the no stealing rule in an interesting direction. You need to be aware of the consequences of what you do, so you don’t take that which is needed by another. Underpaying people is stealing just as much as picking their pockets is. You take what is someone else’s, and it doesn’t matter whether it is by outright theft or by denying people enough to survive on.

This one reminds me of something from another part of the Bible, Luke 12:48. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” If you have a lot, you will be expected to help many with what you were given.

Also, the BCP adds being honest and fair. Theft through dishonesty is still theft. Cheating people out of their money or other possessions is wrong. Seeking justice and right action is left up to us. We aren’t meant to tear each other down. We need to help others, build people up, and love everyone for who and what they are. God is calling us to look at how our actions affect others.

The Seventh Commandment

Sorry about the delay, had a bit of a depressive episode for a while and kind of let this drop. I’m hoping to hit a three month buffer. Anyway, on to the show. This week, we’ll be looking at the Seventh Commandment. It’s Exodus 20:14 and Deuteronomy 5:18 and goes, “you shall not commit adultery”. The BCP has, “ to use all our bodily desires as God intended”. Another one that is short, sweet, and to the point. It should be no surprise that I prefer the BCP version.

Why is adultery so important? Because it is a breech of contract. Back then, women were property and were owned by a man. If she slept with another man, she was violating the contract between the two men who owned her, her father and husband. She must be a virgin. Why was this so important? Because that was how he knew his children were his. Why do you think she had to marry her rapist? She was no longer valuable and could not be sold.

Now, I’ve thought about this commandment and how it relates to polyamory. Is being polyamorous committing adultery? I don’t think so. It is a different sort of contract. One that requires all participants to agree. If all consent to the contract and it is fair to all persons bound by it, then, it isn’t adultery. Not saying that one of the people in such a relationship could commit adultery, there is still a contract to consider. Even more interesting, back in ye olde times, men could have multiple wives and concubines and even sleep with their servants and that wasn’t adultery. It was a rather one-sided affair.

I don’t agree with adultery being it’s own sin. I think the BCP nails it. God gave us sex and sexuality and they meant us to enjoy them. As with many things, it is important to be respectful to others and ourselves and be responsible for what we do and how we do it. Individuals must draw their own lines. There really isn’t much guidance on this one. Plus, virginity is overrated, in my opinion. Having it or not is neither good nor bad, it just is.

In short, talk with your partner or partners, respect everyone, and don’t be a douche. Oh, and ancient patriarchal ideas of women and femininity need to die.

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.

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.