Moral Precepts for Modern Americans

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Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of The Christ has provoked a unusual amount of religious discussion of late, thereby revealing an abysmal lack of basic religious knowledge among the populace. To repair this appalling ignorance, we had best start with the most basic precepts. Of course, it won’t do us much good to rely on antiquated statements; therefore, in the interest of providing a practical guide to spiritual and moral uplift suited to modern conditions, I offer here

The Ten Commandments
(updated and annotated for use in the welfare-warfare state)

  1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me unless the federal government orders you to do so. In a conflict between what your God-given conscience tells you to do and what a pack of politicians in Washington tells you to do, always give priority to the latter.

  2. You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain without an FCC license to do so. In the event of a serious violation, some well-placed campaign contributions ordinarily will serve as an adequate atonement.

  3. Keep holy the Sabbath day, especially if you live in south Louisiana and the New Orleans Saints are playing an away game. Even more sacred than the Sabbath are Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, International Women’s Day, and Super Bowl Sunday. Keep them holy, too.

  4. Honor your father and your mother if you happen to find both under the same roof (fat chance, if you have been born since the beginning of the War on Poverty).

  5. You shall not kill unless the president sends you to a designated trouble spot, some remote place populated by swarthy and ungrateful natives upon whom you may wreak death and destruction till the cows come home. (This is a corollary of Commandment number 1 above.)

  6. You shall not commit adultery, but if you do, you shall look earnestly into the camera, wag your finger angrily, and repeat the following denial: “I did not have sex with that woman (man, cocker spaniel, . . .), Miss (Mr., man’s best friend, . . .) Lewinsky (Olson, Spot, . . .).”

  7. You shall not steal unless you use the government as your intermediary, in which case it’s not stealing, it’s social justice.

  8. You shall not bear false witness unless you are running for public office or working as a government official’s “dirty tricks” guy.

  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife unless you play a part in a soap opera, live in the suburbs, have sex in the city, or get bored with your present wife.

  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods, but it’s okay to vote for politicians who promise to plunder your neighbor and hand over the loot to you. Afterward, you may take pride in having supported a kinder, gentler policy and in having observed all the Commandments that current laws and regulations require you to observe.

Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute, editor of The Independent Review, and author of Crisis and Leviathan and the editor of Arms, Politics, and the Economy.

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