February 28, 2014 by T. Gregory Argall
I wrote this many years ago, but it’s still relevant today. Probably even more so, as politically-ambitious people continue to be selective in the commandments they choose to observe and/or defend.
God could use an editor
Last week my son and I had lunch with my friend Bill and our conversation tended, as it does, to wander. At one point we found ourselves reviewing the ten commandments (the original, by God, not the Charlton Heston remake) and I took a somewhat editorial stance. There seems to be substantial redundancy in the whole package.
Let’s refresh your memory and then I’ll explain what I’m talking about.
* 1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
* 2. Thou shalt worship no graven idols or images.
* 3. Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.
* 4. Thou shalt keep the Sabbath as the Lord’s day.
* 5. Thou shalt honour thy mother and father.
* 6. Thou shalt not murder.
* 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
* 8. Thou shalt not steal.
* 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
* 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his house, nor his ass, nor his wife’s ass, etc.
Okay, the first four commandments are simply God’s ego trip and could be covered by one simple commandment: Respect God. Commandments 7, 8 and 10 can be summed up with, “If it ain’t yours, you can’t have it.”
Just so we’re clear on Number 9, “bearing false witness” means lying. “Thou shalt not be full of crap.”
Then there’s the matter of the misinterpretation of Number 3. Back in the day (Moses’ day, that is) the act of taking the Lord’s name in vain involved making an oath before God regarding something that one knows to be false. The more recent interpretation of substituting the Lord’s name in place of “Wow” is actually wrong. That’s right, all those times your mother cuffed you in the back of the head for swearing were based on misinterpretation. (Call your mom now and tell her. Or you could wait till Mother’s Day and then cuff her in the back of the head.)
To clarify this, here’s a couple of examples. According to God’s Ten Commandments, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ on a chocolate whole wheat cracker, this Goddamned coffee tastes like crap.” However, saying something like, “I swear to God, Honey, you don’t look fat in that dress,” is wrong and violates God’s laws and you’ll go to Hell.
Anyway, back to editing the commandments. Here’s all you really need…
* 1. Thou shalt respect God.
* 2. Thou shalt respect thy parents
* 3. Thou shalt not murder.
* 4. Thou shalt not have what isn’t yours.
* 5. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
That’s it, five commandments. It certainly would have been easier for Moses to carry them down the mountain. Of course, if you still want to go with ten for aesthetic reasons or out of respect for the Metric System or whatever, we’ve now freed up space for new commandments applicable to contemporary life.
Like, say, “Thou shalt not clog email boxes with spam,” or something like that.
Thou shalt try to be nice to each other.