California may have given it the old Hollywood try, and Texas may have put a new nay into its remake of an old horse opera, but the award for Most Absurd Performance by a Supposedly Democratic State must go, once again, to Alabama. When the budget gets tight, dont focus on whos going to make up the shortfall. Fix your sights on a monument to Old Testament scriptures. Yessir, next to the Confederate Battle Flag, no symbol stirs up good Christians into fits of rage and screams of revenge offering them a brief Forrest Gump moment in front of the media eye like a gigantic stone Ten Commandments fetish.
But Alabamas own apostle Judge Roy Bean, er, Moore was quoted saying: This case isnt about a monument, it isnt about politics or religion. Uh-huh. Brief to Judge Moore: Its too late to get yourself into Al Frankens Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. (Maybe there'll be a second edition.) If this Madness in Montgomery isnt about religion or politics, why are commentators and common taters alike calling Judge Roys stunt a prelude to a gubernatorial (accent, once again, on the goober) run? The Commandments dont prohibit lying as such, just bearing false witness. But, since this is all taking place in a courthouse in front of the national press, Judge Roys mendacious statements come dangerously close to violating Commandment IX (or might that be VIII theres disagreement over numbering), don't they?
I wouldnt be the first to compare the mob dancing around the stone sculpture to idolaters, nor the sculpture itself to a graven image. But its a little odd, that thing about the graven images, eh? Lying per se didnt make Gods Top Ten List, but graven images are right out.
Since one way I make my living is engraving Ive been a bit worried about that Second (?) Commandment. True, this musical equivalent of typesetting doesnt involve actual engraving of plates anymore (its all done by computer) but does that make it okay? And what about paper money, which is still printed by engraving? That all-seeing eye atop the pyramid on the back of the buck if that isnt a graven image, then Id like to see one. But is the lesson to avoid paper money and trust only in gold or to avoid the love of money in general? This Bible interpretation just gets so confusing. The Good Book is so much clearer when it comes to lending money at interest. Thats condemned all over the place. So why arent Judge Moore and his brethren out there trying to shut down the local Bank of America?
What if we really did have to hang these Commandments in public classrooms? Would we have to have a whole new brand of in service training on graven images so teachers can tell the little tykes whether or not theyre in compliance with the Law as posted? And what are the implications for metal shop?
That whole graven image business is just the beginning. Once you take your sights off the artists representation of the Commandments and look at the list itself, it starts to hit you: Is this particular list really the foundation of our law and morality? And are we even sure what it says?
In fact, the Commandments appear twice in the Bible, once in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy, with some differences in the text. Further, there is disagreement over how to divvy up those verses into a Top Ten list. The way some count to ten, this is the First Commandment:
I dont know how that comports with a constitutional separation of church and state. But, theology aside, we might ask what this verse has to do with the good citizens of Alabama. I suppose black Alabamians can claim to have been led out of bondage, but what about Egypt? If you glance at ol Roys actual tablet, youll notice the part about Egypt has been edited out, along with other uncomfortable stuff like coveting thy neighbors maidservant.
Judge Roy should be less cavalier when it comes to editing the Laws of Moses. After all, as Jesus put it:
Had Roy the Apostle read his Good Book all the way to the back, he might have come across this from Pauls Letter to Titus:
Thats the problem with mixing politics and religion. Thats why the Founders (after centuries of European wars over questions such as whether God really was inside a cracker, or just metaphorically) bequeathed us a legacy of keeping the two apart. Thats why Judge Roy has to deny his theatrical gesture is about either one. It isnt so much believers against unbelievers, its the fact that believers disagree bitterly among themselves on matters that need not concern the state. Catholic readers will already be dubbing me a heathen for citing the KJV when they read the Douay translation. And on and on.
Justice Roy Moore joins the contemporary American trend in ignoring the very real problems of governance and taxation while rallying a childish-minded electorate around a visible symbol. The relevant quote isnt from the Bible, but from Shakespeare: The Devil can cite Scripture to his purpose.
All this plays out before the video cameras precisely while the states ultraconservative G.O.P. governor and lets give him credit for Texas-sized cojones has been arguing for somewhat higher and far more equitable taxation in order to improve services to the poor and get Alabama off the bottom of the nations social-health lists. He thinks thats what Jesus would do.
The Golden State opts for entertainment over governance in this lame comedy based on a goober-natorial recall.
Texas Democrats vamoose to the high desert while the Grand Old Posse tries to round em up. But are there any good guys in this overlong Western?
Leaves of Oak © MMIII Lindsey D. Eck. All rights reserved.
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