Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Flirtin' With Disaster: The Annotated Ten Commandments

I’m travelin’ down the road,
I’m flirtin’ with disaster.
I’ve got the pedal to the floor,
My life is running faster.
I’m out of money, I’m out of hope,
It looks like self destruction.
Well how much more can we take,
With all of this corruption

Been flirtin’ with disaster,
Y’all know what I mean.
And the way we run our lives,
It makes no sense to me.
I don’t know about yourself or,
What you want to be - yeah.
When we gamble with our time,
We choose our destiny

"Flirtin' With Disaster" by Molly Hatchet

Civilization has always been flirtin' with disaster. Diseases, climate changes, migrations, invasions, wars. It's always something. Sorry if I've inadvertently plagiarized something I've read somewhere.* It's so hard to remember sometimes. Anyway, what do people do to create order and harmony in the world? Make rules forbidding those things they have learned will cause conflict. And make rules requiring certain things known to reduce conflict. People have known this for millennia. It isn't some new idea created by Fundamentalists, or "evangelicals" or however you say it, who just want to make life a little more complicated than an animal's instincts.

The most important role of religion is to instruct and instill a moral code of living in harmony with others and nature. If you try to get rid of religion in a society and transfer its role to some other institution, you always have worse problems than you were trying to solve by eliminating religion in the first place. History tells us this, but many "intellectuals" don't want to acknowledge it. They only want to point out the original problems and how religion contributed to the problems, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, so back in the beginning of civilization there were some wise people who taught the others how to get along. The wise guys didn't know how they got this information that others didn't have, so they decided that it must come from the Source of all the other cool stuff our minds can do that none of the other creatures can do. Those old wise guys could intuit that we really are made in the image of the Creator (and Destroyer).

What Is and What Should Never Be

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." Exodus 20

These are usually considered the First and Second Commandments, though there are some variations among different Christian traditions. They were meant to establish the authority of the Source. They mean 'look to Me first and don't think that something or someone else is where all of the world comes from or who has the answers.' Wouldn't we expect the creator of something to be the ultimate source of how things work and how to make them work better? Anyone with half a brain would know that we don't come from a Golden Cow or any other silly idols that people have worshipped over the ages. An idol can be anything that people give more power and influence than they give the Source. The "no graven images" means that we shouldn't try to limit God with our own imaginations and creations. It doesn't mean not to take pictures or make artwork or whatever. As long as we don't worship them and give them power over us they aren't forbidden as idols.

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." Exodus: 20

This means that people should never use God's name for their own personal gain. It has nothing to do with cussing, contrary to popular mythology. What this is talking about is what Joel Olsteen does, and many other people who sell God's word for their own profit. Basically these people are not living as God commands and are encouraging others to live that way too.

8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

Even God took a day off. After He created the world he stood back and said, "This is good. I'm taking a break." That six day creation is symbolic, and that day of rest is too. How can we truly appreciate and enjoy our world and our lives and our Source if we don't take at least one day a week to focus on all of this wonderful creation? People really lose their humanity when they stop appreciating all of these things. Our minds have evolved to need time to rest and process our experiences of life. Dreaming is one way of doing that, but of course, our awake minds and bodies need resting and processing time too.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you."

Again, respect your Source. All of these first Commandments are about acknowledging and honoring our Source.

13 “You shall not murder"

This is the first of the restrictions on our behavior. Murder always causes more conflict than it could solve. It's kind of a no-brainer rule, but sometimes the animalistic instincts overtake people and cause them to break the rule. There are lots of arguments in our modern world as to what exactly is murder. What about self-defense? Abortion? The death penalty? Well, there is probably something in the Bible about self-defense, but at the moment I'm not interrupting my limited quiet time to write in order to find it. There is a lot in the Bible about people being punished with death. I personally believe that some criminals, like murderers, etc., have forfeited their right to live. And I also do personally believe that abortion is murderous, but I also recognize that women should have 'control' over their own bodies. This isn't a topic I really want to explore right now though.

14 “You shall not commit adultery"

This is one of the reasons for murder, so it's natural to forbid activities known to cause other bad things to happen. Makes sense.

15 “You shall not steal"

Stealing causes more conflict than it solves. And it indicates that one does not trust and honor the Source.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor"

Again, lying only causes more conflict than it solves. This Commandment means that we shouldn't falsely accuse others of wrongdoing. We shouldn't lie in someone's defense either.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Coveting means to want or envy that which others have. Coveting is probably the cause of most adultry, stealing, and lying. When we compare ours with others' we are on the road to coveting. God was wise to recognize that coveting leads to other sins and to warn against it. If we all could actually follow the Great Commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves, then we would be happy for others' wealth and blessings instead of feeling jealous and resentful.

So you see, there is a lot of wisdom in those old holy words. People who hate God and religion are only showing how much they don't understand about it.

18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”

It's all about getting along with others. It's so simple and maybe even elegant. Not that it is always easy to follow all those simple rules, it isn't. As humans we still have many animalistic instincts and urges. We modern people are no different from the ancients in that way. All of our knowledge and technology have only increased the sophistication and complexity of our sins, but they haven't really changed the basic nature of them. And in many ways, the "intellectuals" today have made their own knowledge into idols that they worship and place before the Source. Well, no matter how smart they think they are they are still flirtin' with disaster. ;-)

And that's today's sermonette.

*I wasn't following the details of the "Clinton accuses Obama of plagiarism" story, but what I heard was that Obama said some of those typical, classical inspirational phrases of the 1960s. The "I Have a Dream" and "Ask not what your country can do for you...." ones. Well, you know, you better free your mind instead. Oops, I guess I just plagiarized. ;-)

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