Displaying the Ten Commandments

Louisiana just passed a law requiring all public school classrooms to display the Ten Commandments.

Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed the bill into law on Wednesday, making the following statement: “If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses.”

The article goes on to say about the new law: “The posters, which will be paired with a four-paragraph “context statement” describing how the Ten Commandments “were a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries,” must be in place in classrooms by the start of 2025.” But don’t worry, it will be funded by donations, not state funds. Another unfunded mandate. Do these lawmakers even listen to their constituents?

The article also the bill points out that there is no requirement for displaying other documents that arguably had a greater impact on American laws, such as the Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence, or the Northwest Ordinance. I would add other documents as well – the Hammurabi Code, maybe some the Roman Republic foundational laws, and the Magna Carta.

Why let history get in the way of an ideological agenda though, right?

Never mind that there are two sets of Commandments listed in Scripture and they don’t come with a nice numbering system. There is debate about how many actual commandments there are between the two references to them in Scripture.. And if historical context is most important, maybe they ought to post them in Hebrew, the language they were written in. But that would require people to think and it’s quite clear that the elected officials who passed this nonsense have no interest in promoting critical thinking.

All you have to do is look at the state rankings on a variety of things. Just check out a recent ranking of the states by US News:

(Source: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/louisiana)

A higher number is not better. Education is ranked #47. That’s just one assessment.

So I’m wondering how placing someone’s preferred translation of the Ten Commandments is going to actually improve education in the state at all. How will that assist in raising Louisiana from #47 even up to #46? It won’t. Oh sure, there’s plenty of spin. But I’ll tell you that I have never, ever read anything anywhere that has shown that displaying the Ten Commandments in a classroom improves educational performance.

But again, let’s be clear, this isn’t about improving education. It’s about ideological purity. It’s about “correct” belief. These are folks who believe that the freedom of religion is about the freedom to impose their religion on others because they believe they are right and have been commissioned by God to impose the correct belief on others until they get it right.

Maybe these elected officials ought to read the commandments for themselves. Post it right on their desk so they can be reminded of how they violate it with each time they pass nonsense ideological laws. Especially number 3 – “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7, NRSV). Using the Lord’s name in vain, as it is commonly referred to, isn’t about swearing. It’s about using God’s name for your own purposes. In essence, you are making yourself into God and making God into your servant. It is a form of idolatry.

All of this isn’t even touching on freedom of religion for those who aren’t whatever brand of Christianity these lawmakers supposedly are. And it’s not even touching on the funding for this (donations – what happens when there aren’t enough donations???).

Let’s go back to the Governor’s statement about the law: “If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses.”

Look at the chart again – Louisiana is ranked #50 among the states. Tell me Governor, how will posting this set of Ten Commandments improve the crime ranking in your state? How exactly? Do they have some kind of magic about them? I mean if that’s the case, then maybe we should all just post the Ten Commandments on social media sites – you think that will improve behavior online? Or maybe we can have them posted next to stop lights and stop signs in order to improve driving. Or maybe we can have them publicly announced at sporting events after the National Anthem to improve sportsmanship. Maybe they should be on tax forms, or marriage licenses, or transfer of property forms – all of those things are addressed in the commandments.

If only displaying something would actually make some kind of change in any single person ever. But it doesn’t.

Being “right” is an addictive drug. Having the “correct” set of beliefs is so very appealing. But here’s the reality. People don’t change their beliefs when you impose your beliefs on them. They don’t change their beliefs when you demean people and badger people to change. They don’t change because you throw a whole lot of data and information at them. They aren’t computers. They are people. And people have emotions and feelings and are complex creatures. You want to change someone’s mind – act in a way that shows that you actually see someone, care about them, empower them, and set them free. In other words, see their humanity, their Imago Dei, and respect that. Encourage and support people to be fully who they are and who they are called to be.

I’m willing to bet there is no assessment in the law for determining if the law is having the effect that the sponsor and supporters of the law intend. So much for measurements.


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