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How the Ten Commandments Subvert the Politics and Economy of the United States

How the Ten Commandments Subvert the Politics and Economy of the United States

Louisiana recently became the first state in the US to require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public classroom.

There are primarily three things that I’ve been thinking about when it comes to this issue.

First, Christian nationalism is on the rise. This decision is undoubtedly connected to that movement. Christian nationalism seeks to force its version of Christianity upon everyone in an attempt to exert power over others. That desire for power is in opposition to Jesus, who constantly taught his disciples that if you want to be first in the kingdom of God you need to be last in seeking power over others. 

Some politicians in Louisiana have argued that their decision isn’t about forcing religion on others, but that it’s about morality. They argue that the Ten Commandments provide a moral code that is important for children to know. Of course, Christian nationalists tout the moral framework of the Ten Commandments while supporting a political candidate who repeatedly breaks the commandments to not steal, to not commit adultery, and to not bear false witness. Consistency in promoting the Ten Commandments would require Christian nationalists to rebuke such a political candidate, but Christian nationalism is not concerned with moral consistency. It is primarily concerned with power. 

Personally, I would rather the Ten Commandments not be posted in public classrooms. But if they are posted, I think posting the wisdom of other religions in classrooms is just as important. 

The Subversive Nature of the Ten Commandments

Still, I don’t think that the legislators understand just how politically and economically subversive the Ten Commandments are to American society.

Take the fourth commandment, for example. It requires everyone to rest on the seventh day of the week. No one is to do any work on the Sabbath. All commerce would stop on the seventh day. The Sabbath commandment is a reminder that we are not economic beings that must be enslaved to the capitalism of our nation. Rather, we are human beings that deserve rest. Deuteronomy 5 states it like this, 

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord you God; you shall not do any work – you, or your son or your daughter, or you male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

As Walter Brueggemman states in his book, Sabbath as Resistance, the United States is far more like Egypt than Israel. Like ancient Egypts economy, our capitalistic economy depends upon a 7 day labor force. In other words, US capitalism goes directly against the Ten Commandments.

Meeting Everyone’s Economic Needs

And if we were to actually follow the Ten Commandments, we would ensure that everyone earned enough money to be able to take the Sabbath day off. Living by the Ten Commandments only works if everyone has their economic needs met. As Deuteronomy 15:7-11 states,

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near’, and therefore view your needy neighbour with hostility and give nothing; your neighbour might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land.’

This command to give liberally to anyone in need was not just a command for individuals. It was a command for the whole nation. When political rulers refused to live by this command to provide for those in need, the prophets criticized them for not following the will of God.

Christian Nationalism Isn’t Christian

The second thing that I’ve been thinking also involves Christian nationalisms desire to be a Christian nation. I’m curious why Louisiana would post the Ten Commandments because they aren’t distinctly Christian. 

Again, the Ten Commandments are important to me, but as a Christian, Jesus is more important. That’s why I wonder why the Louisiana legislature didn’t decide to post Jesus’ Eight Beatitudes as opposed to the Ten Commandments. 

Here are Jesus’s beatitudes,

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus’ beatitudes also subvert the political and economic culture of the United States, but they also subvert the military industrial complex. Highlighting the meek and the merciful is not conducive to America’s devotion to our military might.

Conclusion

But again, Christian nationalism is not concerned with actually following Jesus. It is far more concerned with power. Which is why it rejects the morals of the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus in favor of a political candidate who eschews these moral principles. 

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Adam Ericksen

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