Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

April 23, 2013

Lion and the Lamb: Displaying the Ten Commandments

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County Board of Education took a significant step in its meeting this past January. In a unanimous decision it authorized county schools to include the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Constitution of Tennessee in a display of historically significant documents.

The inclusion of the Ten Commandments in this list, however, raises some important questions since it is a document that has a primary religious context. The commandments appear twice in the Bible in its Torah section, the first five books that dealt with the formation, nurturing, guidance, and teaching of the newly freed Israelite community that had escaped from years of Egyptian captivity.

The Israelites had now entered into a new covenant or partnership relationship with the liberating God that Moses had introduced to them. The relationship with this God was to be a singular and exclusive one. There were to be no other gods, no images, no idols, no alternatives, no competitors. That is why the first several commandments dealt with the exclusive nature of this religious relationship.

The other commandments dealt with the ethical dimensions of their new community life. Liberated from the 24/7 character of their previous life of work and slavery in Egypt, they were now to observe a weekly sabbath day of rest, remembrance, and renewal. They were also to bring all of the other spheres of life into this new relationship under God—their relationship to other family members, neighbors, and their wider community.

It's important to remember, also, that the commandments come out of a time-bound period of perception and understanding. For instance, their context was a patriarchal one, with women being considered the property of men. That is why one of the commandments refers specifically to coveting a neighbor's wife or his other property—his house, fields, slaves, or animals.

Other parts of the Ten Commandments raise crucial questions today that are ignored by their mere display—questions that need discussion and debate. What does not killing or murdering mean in an age of perpetual war, drones, and gun violence? What does not coveting mean in an age of commercialism, consumerism, and advertising? What does not stealing mean in an age of corporate and individual wealth, greed, and inequality?

The function of Torah (teaching, guidance, and nurturing) in the Bible and in the religious community is never a settled matter, but always an open and continuing process. New times bring new insights. There is always a temptation to reduce this ongoing Torah to law and a regime of legalism.

The Ten Commandments need discussion and contemporary formulation and contexting. This is not the task, however, of our schools, and cannot be accomplished by the mere displaying of the commandments. The Cumberland County Board of Education needs to drop this religious task from its authorizing action.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
Parade
AP Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar