Monday, June 12, 2006

Christians should post Beatitudes, not Decalogue

In doing some research on issues of church and politics, I came across an interesting article, written by Prof. Jerome Meckier, a University of Kentucky professor of English emeritus. The premise of the article deals with Christians (primarily Evangelical Christians) voicing their opinion on the issue of fighting for the right to ‘post' the Ten Commandments, while not ‘living’ out the Beatitudes! Professor Jerome Meckier states:

Supporters of posting the Ten Commandments in America's post offices or on the lawns of state capitols misunderstand separation of church and state. Unfortunately, their grasp of Christianity is just as faulty. The Commandments are a pre-Christian document central to the covenant between the God of the Old Testament and his chosen people.

For Christians, the New Testament supersedes the Old. Tolerance and compassion replace the demand for an eye for an eye. The Sermon on the Mount, nine blessings, takes precedence over 10 strictures from Mount Sinai. Christians would do better to post the Beatitudes. Moses was an inspired lawgiver; Christ claims to redeem. The former commands the Jews not to anger God, whereas the latter reveals the sorts of people who will actually see him.

The Beatitudes may be said to list the characteristics of the ideal Christian. Such a person is poor in spirit, meek, a mourner, a seeker of justice, merciful, clean of heart and a peacemaker willing to be persecuted in support of truth and justice. The mourner I take to be anyone sorely afflicted; perhaps this includes all who can empathize. One can be poor in spirit -- that is, detached, free from material craving -- no matter how grand one's actual worth, although the less one has or needs, the better.

In Matthew, when one of the Pharisees, putting Jesus "to the test, asked him, 'Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?' Jesus said to him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets'." In short, Jesus reduced 10 commandments to two: honor God and love your neighbor. Instead of prohibitions, both are calls for positive action.

Jesus was a gifted pedagogue with a subtle sense of humor; he proposed less, yet demanded more. He knew how difficult it is to love another with the same degree of understanding that one reserves for oneself. Nor can one ever excuse another person's weaknesses and failures as readily as one accepts one's own. Two commandments are more difficult to obey than 10.

And just who is one's neighbor? If you expand the list beyond wife, husband, parent, siblings and the people next door, obeying Christ's second commandment becomes increasingly difficult. Loving one's neighbor is this world's simplest, yet hardest, imperative. Loving one's neighbor as oneself, one will not kill him, lie to him or about him, sleep with his wife or steal his cow…None of the great teachers posted anything. Christ, Buddha, Mohammed -- none erected monuments. Each taught by word of mouth and personal example.

Those who are eager to set up ostentatious display cases for the Ten Commandments should be compelled to memorize Matthew 22:35-40. Then they should have to write on the blackboard 500 times what may be called the 11th commandment: Thou shalt post no commandments.”

So, what are your thoughts on this issue? Do you agree or disagree with the premise of the article?

(article taken from: