Sarah Palin has come up with a novel idea. She told Bill O’Reilly recently that the law in America should be based on the Ten Commandments.
Now folks in Alabama are used to hearing this kind of stuff because we are home to former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. But it’s another matter altogether to hear a likely future presidential hopeful saying that the Law of Moses should be the law of the land.
So maybe it’s time we really thought about what that would look like.
As it turns out, parts of the Law of Moses are already the law of the land – stealing, murder and bearing false witness. Of course, bearing false witness is only a crime if you are under oath. If you are running for office or from scandal, lying will get you in trouble but won’t necessarily get you arrested.
After that, it gets tricky. For example, the first commandment states that we will have no other gods before God. Do we enforce that only literally – that is, outlawing all religions but Judaism and Christianity? Or do we also enforce it figuratively, so that anyone who places anything ahead of God is in violation of this law. This could dramatically hinder Sunday bass fishing.
Or how about the command not to make any graven image? How far do we go with that? Do we remove statues of our country’s founders? Do we eliminate images on our coins? And how about all those cool hood ornaments on our cars – can we keep those?
Taking the Lord’s name in vain is next. Swear words that include the Lord’s name are a pretty obvious violation. But how about when you are playing a heated game of ping pong and you make a tough point and before you can stop you hear yourself shouting, “Praise the Lord!” Is that taking the Lord’s name in vain?
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The Sabbath would be pretty easy to enforce. In fact, it has not been that long since Blue Laws were in effect most everywhere in the south. Just say goodbye to all those Sunday dinners at your favorite restaurant.
Honoring our parents is going to be really interesting. The intent of this commandment is not merely to have a positive attitude toward our folks. Honoring our parents means taking care of them in their old age; that includes financial support. Enforcement might be a problem, but if we can have deadbeat dads surely we can come up with some deadbeat children laws.
The obvious problem with the adultery part of the law is that unless we catch them in the act, it’s a real he-said, she-said thing. But not to worry. With state-of-the-art listening devices and infrared satellite imagery, we should be able to detect most of it.
The final commandment is going to be a real bear to enforce unless we can come up with some way to read people’s minds. How else could we ever know that someone was coveting someone else’s stuff?
Of course, there is another tough part to this commandment. It will devastate the advertising industry. I mean, that’s what ads are designed to do – stir in us to want what our neighbor has.
But I am sure the former vice-presidential candidate and the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court have a plan to deal with all these enforcement problems.
Seriously, I bet they do.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.