by David Sisler

In America's school rooms, court rooms, and other public gathering places, the Ten Commandments may not legally be displayed. Many believe that when avenues of free religious expression, a key element in the founding of our country, were eliminated from our public places, America began a down-hill slide that seems to have no stopping place.

In Samara, Russia, six of the Commandments are displayed on the walls of Detski Dom One, reminding the children and the staff that there are important directives for personal interaction which are larger than the individual.

Germany is descending to our level. Fewer than half of the Ten Commandments are important to Germans, according to a report from Religion News Today. Only four of the Old Testament laws are considered significant, a survey by Emnid-Institute for Spiegel magazine said. Prohibitions against murder, stealing, and adultery, and the command to honor parents are considered important by most, the survey found.

Every society — both present and historical — has laws against murder and prohibitions against sexual promiscuity, but Jesus taught that there is more than, "Thou shalt not."

Eugene H. Peterson gives a penetrating translation of Jesus' amplification of the Ten Commandments: "You're familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or a sister is guilty of murder. The simple moral fact is that words kill... You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don't go to bed with another's spouse.' But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by your lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices — they also corrupt."

When Jimmy Carter was running for president, he told Playboy magazine that he had committed adultery in his heart. John Updike marveled, "How strangely on modern ears falls the notion that lust — sexual desire that wells up in us as involuntarily as saliva — in itself is wicked!"

I wonder if the Germans who responded to that survey would have even listed murder and adultery as necessary, acceptable commandments, if they had considered the way Jesus expanded the depths of those dictums?

The residents of one Russian children's home post six commandments. The Germans think four are sufficient. Americans publically ignore them all.

Maybe if God gave us the opportunity to reason with him, he would see things our way.

God, how can you expect me to have no other gods before you, when I have so many priorities?

How can you expect me to have no idols to whom I give my devotion when I have wanted that flashy, park-it-in-Timbuktu, curse-at-anyone-who-gets-close, wash-it-every- other-day, fire-engine red convertible all of my life?

There seem to be so many religions who say they have found the only way into your presence, so how can I be guilty of misusing your name, when I am not sure what you wish to be called?

How can I keep the Sabbath holy when I have so much to do and only one day off each week to do it? Besides, what's a Sabbath?

You expect me to honor my father and mother, but they are so hopelessly out of date and out of step with modern times that they have no understanding of the life I am living. Some things in their lifestyles seem dishonorable to me, so why should I honor them?

You said not to murder, but have you ever driven home in rush hour traffic when just getting off of the freeway alive was a miracle, only to stand in the express checkout lane of supermarket behind fourteen people who cannot count to ten and then have one idiot jump the line because she has "just one loaf of bread" and is in a hurry?

How can you expect me not to commit adultery when my spouse won't let me commit matrimonial relationships?

If I was paid a decent wage, you wouldn't have to tell me not to steal. And it really isn't stealing to fudge on my expense report, or submit the receipt for someone's lunch when I didn't buy their lunch, is it?

How can you expect me not to give false testimony when even our president doesn't know what "is" is?

You said I was not supposed to covet, but have you seen the house my neighbor lives in, the car he drives, the clothes he wears, and the private school his kids attend?

It is 1999, God. So why can't we just make them suggestions instead of commandments? That way we won't break any of them. What do you think, Lord?


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 2/20/99

Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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