Skip the miracle stories; they are more like cartoons than remedies. Don’t depend on messiahs—they usually wind up flawed, exposed, or defeated. The best prescription in Scripture is the lean and inclusive behavior manual we all call The Ten Commandments.
That gnawing dread that follows us around now, that the world is nuts, that people are crazy, that iconic buildings are vulnerable, that nothing works, that our country is not what it used to be—this stuff we think and worry about is simply not being serviced by the old tribal regulations and habits that twist the religious texts. All these tired platitudes lack the moral clarity of The Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments tell you what to do and what not to do. The rest of Scripture is commentary—even when it is poetic and memorable. Everyone argues over its nuances and provenances. The Ten Commandments simply defy argument.
All the tired platitudes lack the moral clarity of The Ten Commandments.
We pine for a shield against the unrelenting spiral of events—the bizarre medical epidemics, from Ebola to Avian Influenza A; the typhoons, earthquakes, and droughts; the unfathomable, omnipresent terrorism; the beheadings, the anthrax scares; the political shakiness and electoral venality; and, yes, the blatant immorality that too often seeps through organized religion.
We are weary of the shenanigans of church leaders who camouflage each other’s depravities, who deny women respect, or the others, medieval and grisly, that send children to kill other children with suicide belts strapped to their little bodies. All the while, these religious feudalists are telling us what truth is, what civilized behavior is, even though the real truth has been there in the old Scripture for some four thousand years—in The Ten Commandments.
The thing to remember is that the entire document, consisting of just 313 words, is written in spiritually generic language. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. The words, “Jew” or “Christian,” appear nowhere. No nationality is mentioned but for the reference to Egypt as the place from which “you” were freed. Israel, Christianity, messianic promises, priests, doctrine, tribes—none of these words or concepts are found anywhere in the most universally-embraced set of basic principles ever presented to this world.
It is all addressed to “you.” It was not addressed to angels. It was not dispatched to a selective mailing list of church councils. You are pre-approved for participation just by virtue of being a child born to God.
With verbal economy, it covers every dimension of human decorum and conduct. It gives you an uncontested God, a bottom-line value (freedom), and a family heritage. The latter derives from the Fourth Commandment, which not only tells you to “honor your father and mother. ” This commandment serves brilliantly as a paragon of spiritual pragmatism.
Notice the admonition is not to “love” your father and mother. The document more wisely instructs you to “honor” them. That does not mean you cannot or should not love your parents, whether in this life or in memory. But it does leave open the reality—widely experienced in this life—that not every man or woman who ever created or adopted children were successful parents, worthy of adoration.
Rather than kowtowing to theological idealism, this is a matter of spiritual common sense—another way to make peace with this world. Read the Commandments and find comfort in their order even as the world is so disorderly.