Sunday, April 20, 2008

Showdown at the Mount of Olives: Judge Roy Moore

I've never thought that I would have to choose between the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments. Nor, do I have to. If I did, though, I would go with the Sermon on the Mount. This is an issue raised in Grand Theft Jesus, although McElvaine is hardly the first to address it.

Long ago I read Randall Balmer's Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament. While I found much of the book lacking in solid research and riddled with vast generalization -- although in a much much more mature voice than Grand Theft Jesus -- Balmer had some very interesting insight. Some of that was in regard to Judge Roy Moore.

During the great scandal of Moore's refusal to remove the 10 commandments from the Alabama State Supreme Court Building, the first thing that caught my attention was the film footage of protesters that had surrounded the court house. At one point a woman threw herself down on the ground and said something to the effect of , "Don't take my God out of this government."

"My." I thought to myself, "Judaic Law is not my God. I wonder what religion she is."

Sadly enough, she believed herself to be a Christian. Last I checked, God is not the 10 commandments, and Jesus is Lord. Perhaps I'm confused.

After Moore was removed from office, I was struck by all the unnecessary pity that rose among many evangelicals for their fallen hero. In their minds, he had sacrificed, he had suffered. He lost his job, his income.

Malarkey! Baloney! I knew from the start he'd have a prolific speaking career (and he does) and that he'd probably write a book about it (and he did) and that he'd probably go on to practice as a lawyer (and he does). I've even heard talk about him running for political office.

If that's all sacrifice, boy, count me in! I'm all for sacrifice of that nature.

In addition to all that, when reading Balmer's book, I learned more about the start of the entire controversy, part of which was Moore's unwillingness to place other monuments in addition to the 10 commandments at the court house.

His lack of grace towards homosexuals, his ability to profit from his "sacrifice", his misunderstanding of who the real God is, and his lack of flexibility in dealing with people of different backgrounds would certainly keep him from my hero list.

One point, raised by Balmer and then by McElvaine and a plethora of others, was that no one ever argues to keep the Sermon on the Mount in any public buildings. Now, that has captured my imagination.

What would our culture be like if we, as a group, were striving become the meek, to be poor, if we looked for blessings in our mourning, if we hungered and thirsted for righteousness and justice, if we strove to show mercy, if we were constantly reminded that we need to be peacemakers....

Of course, those things haven't shaped our civil law, and they are more ambiguous than "Thou shalt not steal" or "thou shall not covet". But, really, if we were pursuing the beatitudes, wouldn't so much of the 10 commandments follow? If you're content being poor in spirit, are you going to covet? If you are striving to be meek, would you steal?

Wouldn't we live in such a great society if everyone was encouraged to live out those values? Of course, it would be impossible to enforce (imagine being arrested for arrogance!), therefore, not law. But, wouldn't the most amazing laws come from those ideas!

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