Inspired by the State of Oklahoma’s recent attempt to instill Judeo-Christian values via the Ten Commandments, this seems like a good time to go through the traditional list to see if there really is anything worthwhile to be found therein. I’ll use the allegedly non-sectarian phrasing from the monument itself, correcting spelling errors as they arise.
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
This one had always made me doubt whether the Hebrews really believed that there are no other gods worthy of the name. Why not something more theologically correct, like “There are no other gods” or “Accept no imitations” instead? We should of course allow for theological evolution, but it’s hard to see why Christians would want to emphasize that their concept of God has evolved.
In terms of model law (which these Ten Commandments are so often claimed to be) we are also off to a spectacularly bad start. Attempts to enforce theological correctness and uniformity of religious doctrine and practice were the cause of some of Europe’s bloodiest conflicts prior to the 19th century, and these wars became a major impetus for creating Jefferson’s “wall of separation” which he and Madison constructed upon the bedrock of Constitutional law. Put another way, the First Commandment is diametrically opposed to the First Amendment, Christian Nationalist historical revisionism notwithstanding.
In short, we get as far as number one of ten before running into a whole web of theological and legal issues which cast these divine dicta into serious doubt. The theocrats aren’t off to a good start here.