Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, March 04, 2005

10 commandment Religious Liberty Association

There is a recent release from North American Religious Liberty Association on the 10 commandments, apparently the church is taking a stand without taking a stand. I could find no official SDA site that had the release that was sent out via email to various places. So I will copy the whole thing here from SDANEWS.

SDANEWS: Ten Commandments Controversy
From: North American Religious Liberty Association (narla@religiousliberty.info)
Date: Wed Mar 02 2005 - 22:24:15 EST


Ten Commandments Controversy

It is over 3,300 years since Moses brought two tables of stone down
from Mt. Sinai. Three thousand three hundred years is a long time by
any human reckoning, and yet, the Commandments have never been as
relevant or as controversial as they are today. This week the U.S.
Supreme Court are set to decide if the government can display the Ten
Commandments, and if so, in what context.

Government Displays of the Ten Commandments are Problematic

Whenever the government becomes involved in religion, it is problematic
and the posting of the Ten Commandments is no exception.

• Which version? There are three widely recognized versions of the Ten
Commandments; the Protestant, the Catholic and the Jewish. When the
government decides to display the Commandments written out, it must
choose whose version to endorse. In recent years, edited versions of
the Ten Commandments have been displayed. These edits exclude, for
example, any reference to resting on the seventh day. This exclusion
has profound theological ramifications.

• What does the setting communicate? God placed the Ten Commandments
in the Ark of the Covenant under the Mercy Seat where blood
representing the atoning sacrifice of Christ was sprinkled. This
setting communicates the grace of God who mixes mercy and forgiveness
with judgment. The secular court house is a completely different
context. Here, if a man is guilty, he must pay the price. There is no
blood of Christ sprinkled as an atonement for his wrong doing that sets
him free. Placing the Ten Commandments in the court house setting takes
the heart out of the gospel message.

• Are the arguments accurate? At the heart of the arguments in favor
of government Ten Commandments Monuments is the claim that America’s
laws are based on the Ten Commandments, but is this true? If we look at
the Ten Commandments, only four are commonly found in the legal code,
and three of those are found in virtually all legal codes throughout
history. These three are: 1) Prohibition on killing, 2) Prohibition on
stealing, and 3) Prohibition on lying (American law forbids this in
very specific circumstances). The only laws that are uniquely based on
the Ten Commandments are prohibitions on engaging in certain kinds of
work on Sunday, which are a mistaken attempt to enforce the Fourth
Commandment. There is nothing in our laws about coveting, making graven
images, having gods before God, forcing children to honor their
parents, blasphemy (western nations used to enforce blasphemy laws),
and little if anything left regarding adultery. In truth, the laws of
the United States developed out of a long, complex legal tradition that
reaches back to the dawn of history and includes a broad array of
influences and cover a broad range of issues not even hinted at in the
Ten Commandments (e.g. everything from parking regulations to federal
communications law).

• Is this the right emphasis? There can be no doubt that society has
drifted away from God’s law. Ironically, much of this drift has been
encouraged by churches who have taught that the Ten Commandments were
“nailed to the cross” and therefore are not binding on Christians
today and that, further, it is impossible for those living under God’s
grace to keep them. Before soliciting the state to erect monuments of
the Ten Commandments, churches need to begin lifting up the law of God
as fulfilled in the life of Christ and imbued to His followers by His
grace.

Ten Commandments Litigation is Unproductive

Despite the problems surrounding the government posting of the Ten
Commandments, the litigation to have them removed is singularly
unhelpful. This litigation causes serious offense to the general public
for little, if any, gain.

Indeed, after their last Ten Commandments “victory” in Alabama, USA
Today published a pole that found 77% of Americans disagreed with the
removal of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court. There
are times when deeply offending 77% of America may not only be
worthwhile, but essential. This is not one of those cases. The backlash
caused by these cases is likely to hurt religious liberty for decades
to come.

Ideal Way to Communicate a Gospel Focused Message

Because of the uniquely unproductive nature of this litigation, NARLA
has not filed a brief on either side of this case. Rather, NARLA-West
has produced a brochure written by Christa and Alan Reinach and edited
by Cliff Goldstein, explaining the role of the Ten Commandments in our
lives today, and a poster to publicly display.

The brochures and posters are now available to be distributed to
friends, family, colleagues and the press, and can be ordered from the
NARLA website: www.religiousliberty.info

This is a great time to talk to our communities about the Ten
Commandments and to engage in our constitutionally protected right to
display them. The “Written on the Heart” brochures and posters are an
ideal way to share the joy found in Christ.

Addendum: The Ten Commandments in the U.S. Supreme Court

Sometimes people are surprised to learn that, yes, even in the U.S.
Supreme Court there are artistic renderings of the Ten Commandments –
in fact two of them. How could the government display of the Ten
Commandments be unconstitutional if the Supreme Court itself displays
these documents?

The back of the Supreme Court (the East Pediment) is where you’ll find
the first example of the Ten Commandments. Most people don’t see this
side of the Court, but it is interesting indeed. The designer of the
sculpture on the East Pediment, Hermon MacNeil, stated that his goal
was to represent “such fundamental laws and precepts as are derived
form the East.” To do this, he designed a sculpture that groups
Confucius, Moses and Solon (the great Athenian law maker) together. To
their left and right are various allegorical figures representing
aspects of the law.

On the north and south walls inside the court are friezes that include
the great lawgivers of history. This is where we find the second
depiction of Moses with the Ten Commandments. Here he is one of
eighteen lawgivers all represented in equal proportion in chronological
order, with the Egyptian Pharaoh Menes first, Hammurabi, King of
Babylon, second, Moses third, followed by lawgivers all the way up to
Napoleon Bonaparte, and including Muhammad and Confucius.

Some people think there is a third display of the Ten Commandments on
the east frieze inside the Court. Here we find a single tablet carved
with the Roman numerals I through X. According to the sculptor, this is
intended to represent the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to
the U.S. Constitution), not the Ten Commandments (hence it is
represented on a single panel, rather than on two tablets of stone).

In conclusion, the Ten Commandments do appear in two places in the
Supreme Court. In both cases, they are in connection with Moses, in one
case in a display of great lawgivers from the East and the second in a
chronological series of lawgivers. In neither case is a particular
version of the Commandments chosen.

We don’t know what the Supreme Court will say about governmental
displays of the Ten Commandments, but we can easily imagine that they
will focus on the context of the display and the intent, as they have
done in other similar cases. If so, they could rule that the displays
in certain contexts violate the Constitution, while in other contexts
– like those found in the Supreme Court building itself – they do not.

---

5 comments:

Ron Corson said...

One of silly things the Religious liberty newsflash says is about the different ordering of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish versions of the 10 Commandments.

Typically the folks at our own church have not researched the case and really don't seem to have a good grasp of the situation. Here is the answer to that dilemma, though clearly these plaques have been up for many decades and have not offended anybody who did not precisely have their numbering used.

" Erwin Chemerinsky is the attorney for Thomas Van Orden, a homeless man who filed the case in Texas. Chemerinsky has noted that Catholics, Protestants and Jews use different versions of the commandments. The Jewish version says, "You shall not murder," but the one used on the Texas monument says, "Thou shalt not kill," the wording in the King James Version of the Bible used by many Protestants.

But attorneys for Texas said in a court filing that the Fraternal Order of Eagles made the monument neutral. "To ensure that their monument would not be identified with any particular religious group, the Eagles carefully selected a nonsectarian text of the Ten Commandments that had been developed by representatives of the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic faiths." -- from http://www.sptimes.com/2005/03/02/Neighborhoodtimes/Variations_on_a_theme.shtml

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Explorer said...

For an issue destined to go to the Supreme Court I would wish the Religious Liberty Association would show a little more interest in this issue. They make a couple of good points so why not push the Christian community to acknowledge some of their fundamental inconsistencies. Why are there different versions of the 10 Commandments? Why do some preach against these commandments and then get worked up when the secular world dismisses them as well? As salt of the earth why not put the salt on the main dish and not on some side item that will be hardly noticed – a pamphlet which few will see or have to take notice of – come on.

Michael said...

Have you checked out the logo of the Ten Commandments Commission - the group putting together this event? It is very interesting to say the least. You can check out my perspective on it at:

http://abundantrest.org/?p=15

Michael