Gordon Robinson, Contributor
First, I want to thank all my friends and relatives who called last Sunday to offer prayers for me upon reading Reverend Al's offer to be my Driva. The few left who consider my dissolute life of worth begged me not to accept the offer fearing, based on the formbook, where any future passenger of Reverend Al might end up. Remember, I was warned, what happened to Miss Daisy?
I give her the number one and drive her home
(Baby, baby, baby, baby!)
I give her the number two and drive her home
(So I beg you don't be lazy I tell you)
When I give her the number three (Oh, yea!)
Said, "Darling, I'm feeling free
(Make you be free!)
Put your lips close to mine and drive me home
(Baby, go on and do it, I tell you one time!)
Just like the all-male duo of Hopeton Lewis and Ewart Beckford (U-Roy), Miss Daisy turned out to be Mr Dudus and neither was free for long. So, Reverend Al, thanks for your kind concern, but no thanks. I'll politely decline your offer of transport with or without complementary wigs or darkers. Please feel free to continue to spout irrational church dogma. Don't try to find any basis in reason. Don't worry, you're not alone. The Church has being doing it for centuries. Me, I choose independent thought and rational discourse, thank you very much.
All this leads me to take a close look at what the Church has been passing off to its sheep since forever as The Ten Commandments. This is preached as dogma as often as they are needed to keep the faithful in line, assuaging guilt with regular contributions to the plate as it passeth before them. But, did God REALLY issue any Commandments?
oxymoronic free will
Again, let's try clear thought uncluttered by doctrine or other brainwashing techniques. One thing all Christian denominations agree on without hesitation is that God gave humans this gift called free will. One thing we'd better agree on (if we want to go to Heaven, that is) is that God isn't stupid. But, surely, only a nitwit would hand out free will at birth and follow it with not one, not two, not three, but TEN Commandments? Aren't the two scenarios rather oxymoronic? Or, just plain moronic?
Taken literally, for example, The Commandments forbid adultery. And Jesus, when asked, made it clear that we can commit adultery without what lawyers would call an actus reus. Just looking at a woman lustfully, said Jesus, means you've committed adultery in your mind (Matthew 5:28). Yet Jesus himself swiftly forgave an adulterous woman (with no precondition or 'prior action') and saved her from man's punishment, allegedly based on God's Word. And there's the 'Commandment' not to covet your neighbour's ass (which, I suppose, is an abomination on to the Lord).
And finally, there's the 'Commandment' against murder, which Jesus extended to include "anyone who is angry with his brother ... " (Matthew 5:21-26). Again, despite the infamous Old Testament "eye-for-an-eye" philosophy, Jesus preached forgiveness of his own murderers - "for they know not what they do" - and many modern nations have abolished capital punishment.
Now, how did these 'Commandments' come about? According to the Old Testament Book of Exodus (authorship for which is generally credited to Moses), after more than two months of seeking the Promised Land, camped with his followers in the Sinai wilderness, Moses "went up on to God" (don't ask me what that means; ask Reverend Al if it means that he floated to Heaven; or if God was waiting for him on top of an earthly mountain; or if he sought his God within) "and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain" (Exodus 19:3).
You have Genesis and Exodus,
Leviticus and Numbers,
Deuteronomy and Joshua,
Judges and Ruth.
The sixth and the seventh books,
They wrote them all.
Then, God gave him a message to carry to his followers. Now, it was a rahtid long message. Moses, the author, reproduces it faithfully from Exodus 19:4 to Exodus 31:17. Moses, the freedom fighter and spiritual leader, wasn't a Duff's Business College graduate, so shorthand wasn't his forte. But, good luck befell him and, when God finally stopped messaging (not 'massaging') and allowed him to scuttle back down the mountain, before Moses left, God gave him two personally autographed iPads (tablets of stone) with the messages "written with the finger of God" (Exodus 31:18). So, apart from everything else, Moses says he saw God Himself (in particular, his finger) writing all these messages down.
My leader born ya
That's why I nah lef' ya
No I nah lef' ya.
He gave I a message
To all those people
Who no love progress
Who no love progress ... .
As tribalistically true as Neville Martin was to Michael Manley in 1976, so was Moses to his leader centuries before. So, like Neville, Moses must've felt he didn't need his leader's instructions in writing. Why'd I say this? Because, after going through all those tribulations to get written instructions and dragging those heavy tablets down the mountain, when Moses discovered his people (clearly not loving "progress") had been carrying on something fierce in his absence, he promptly lost his cool and dropped the tablets. They broke. Oops!
But wait. Read on. Moses, the storyteller, says God gave him a do-over. God told Moses to come alone with two new tablets. According to Moses, God then showed himself to Moses and there followed lots of worshipping on Moses' part and preaching on God's part. So Moses worshipped (and fasted; no water; no bread) and God preached for 40 days (and, of course, 40 nights) until God felt Moses had worshipped enough and then God said, "Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel."
All my well-nourished readers should read that last passage repeatedly until it's fully understood. Moses, no doubt tired and hungry, wrote down what God referred to as "a covenant with thee and with Israel" and called it "the Ten Commandments" (Exodus 34:27-28). So, he staggered down the mountain ("the skin of his face shone"); called his people together; and "gave them IN COMMANDMENT (my emphasis) all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai" (Exodus 34:32):
Said you jook them with land lease
Said you jook them with land lease
Then you jook them with the Pioneer Corps
Jook them with the Pioneer Corps
Jook them with JAMAL
Jook them with JAMAL
Then you jook them with free education
Jook them with free education.
The Lord spoke of "a covenant", but Moses, tired and hungry and no doubt suffering from Chinese telephone syndrome, passed on the message ("jooked them") "in commandment". My limited understanding of a "covenant" is an exchange of promises (like a contract; ask our finance minister). A commandment is a horse's ass of an entirely different complexion. And, speaking of horse's asses, please note colloquial use of the word "jook" threatens no one.
So, what was the content of the exchange of promises of which the Lord spoke? At one point during his ministry, Jesus was asked what he thought was the greatest commandment in the Law. "Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40). Moses' message "in commandment" had become a lexicon. But Jesus made it clear that all else depended on these two.
Now, we must note the language used to itemise the remainder of Moses' "commandments". All begin with "Thou shalt not" or "thou shalt". Modern versions of the Bible, seeking to strengthen the Church's stranglehold on our minds, have converted "shalt" to "must", but that's obviously flawed. "Must" commands. "Thou shalt" promises future behaviour.
the unilateral contract
It follows so clearly as a light on a hill that God's original covenant was: if we promised to (or, better yet, did) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and to (or did) "Love your neighbour as yourself", God's promised we won't commit adultery, murder, etc., which Jesus extrapolated to explain that, once we kept our fundamental promises, He promised us that we wouldn't even look lustfully at any woman except our wives, nor would we even harbour anger or malice to "our brother", who we now know to be everybody.
Think about it. If you genuinely love God (who is within you and you within Him/Her) and your neighbour as yourself, why'd you do that neighbour harm? Why'd you covet his belongings? Would you want him to covet yours? Why'd you disrespect any woman? If you truly love your neighbour AS YOURSELF, you won't do anything to him/her that you wouldn't want done to yourself.
God isn't an idiot. He didn't give you free will and then "command" you how to exercise that divine discretion. He offered what lawyers call a unilateral contract (covenant). IF, and only if, you promise to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "love your neighbour as yourself", there are a series of bad (sinful even) acts that He promises you will never even consider doing.
Also, please note that the word Jesus uses is "love", not "worship". This ridiculous, dishonest concept perpetrated on people by the Church that our purpose on Earth is to worship God is so asinine as to be despicable. Why would God need us to worship Him? We are part of Him/Her and He/She is part of us.
If the Church is not to end up losing all relevance, it had better stop spouting dogma without reason or clear thought; stop trying to frighten church members into handing over their cash; stop painting a picture of a 'vengeful' God who doesn't exist; and start serving society's spiritual needs.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.