10 Awkward Facts about the Ten Commandments (for American Catholics)
10. There aren’t ten. And there is no agreement on which ten of the many are “the” ten. The phrase “ten commandments” appears in Exodus 34 and in Deuteronomy 10, which is a reference, but not a list. The strange thing is that the line about Moses writing on the (new) tablets “the ten commandments” is preceded by a list of totally different orders, such as “you shall keep the feast of the unleavened bread”. The familiar list is given earlier in Exodus 20, except that it is never there called “the Ten Commandments” and there is no mention of tablets until 11 chapters and 600-some commandments later.
Also, Exodus 20 gives thirteen specific orders, not ten. The same list is repeated in Deuteronomy 5, yet again not called “Ten Commandments”. Wikipedia offers this helpful table showing how seven different branches of Christianity carve up the “Ten Commandments”.
9. The First Amendment of the US Constitution is a requirement to break the First Commandment. Or, at least to create a society based on doing so. Cherishing the founding fathers and the Constitution means openly endorsing the right of every person to blatantly violate God’s numero uno law. Awkward, if you think the Godly Commandments are the moral basis of rightful behavior a la murder, lying and so on.
8. Catholics have to believe Exodus 20 doesn’t really mean it when it says “no carved images”, because this:
7. As if in reply to God’s “You shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain” suggestion, the founding fathers included a Constitutional protecting against all those who might break it. American’s have freedom of speech that trumps the delicate feelings of known and unknown gods. This is all still in the First Amendment. Don’t sweat it though, if anyone asks, we’re a ‘Christian nation’ (except Tripoli, if they ask, we’re totally not).
6. America is now largely dedicated to avoiding “keeping the Sabbath holy” in any way. I used to work retail and I can tell you this: Sunday is by far the busiest day of the week, every week, without fail. Then of course, there’s this popular Sunday activity where we actually require God to work and work for us:
By fixing the game in our favor. Kind of awkward, but only if you think “beating the spread” isn’t a form of holiness.
5. The Decalogue takes a strong stance on slavery, by insisting that humans that don’t belong to you should not be coveted, and should not work during the Sabbath- after all, slaves working on Sunday would be downright immoral.
4. While giving the commandments, God mentions that he is a “jealous” god. Jealousy is the fear of losing affection or position. In this part of the Bible God’s fear, empty threats and emotional outbursts make him seem like a pathetic stalker instead of the almighty Creator. Maybe he should have started with creating himself some confidence or by uttering “let there be well-adjustedness.” That would have been good.
3. God’s petulant threat to prevent people from not liking him anymore is to swear that four generations of their children will suffer for de-friending Him. Although it is rarely articulated, American law is based on the idea that people are responsible for their own actions, not anyone else’s, and not those of their parents. American jurisprudence seems ungodly in just about every word.
2. God says thou shalt not steal just a few chapters before he explains how he’s going to help the Jews invade every single neighboring nation to murder them and take their land and possessions. To be fair to American Catholics though, this is a past-time the founding fathers also enjoyed. Today we call it imperialism, genocide and theft.
1. As noted above, every single word and each commandment in God’s legal top-10 list is ignored, deliberately violated, or considered a silly relic by Americans except for two: murder and stealing. But according to the historical and anthropological record, every society on Earth, including those existing well before the Old Testament was dreamt of, has proscribed murder and stealing. That makes the 10 C’s as useful and relevant to American government and law as a placemat at Denny’s, but at least Moons over My’Hammy doesn’t come with a side of slavery.