The Ten Commandments According to the U.S. Government

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Every year
when Easter rolls around, some TV network shows C. B. DeMille’s
1956 movie, The
Ten Commandments
. This year, ABC showed a made-for-TV movie
that was broadcast for two evenings.

I wonder if the network decision-makers are more theologically astute
than we might imagine. The story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt is
a story about God’s deliverance of His people. So is the story of
Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

the Old Testament refers to Moses as a prophet. “And there arose
not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew
face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10). The New Testament teaches that
Jesus fulfilled this prophecy: “This is that Moses, which said unto
the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise
up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear” (Acts

But, I suspect
that the annual coordination of the two events has more to do with
action scenes and audience share than with theology. With the exception
of The
Passion of the Christ
, there have not been a lot of successful
Easter movies, unless we count Ben
as one of them.

So, in honor
of the season, which Eastern Orthodox Christians say is not over
yet, I include an up-to-date, politically correct presentation
of the Ten Commandments.


And God spake
all these words, saying:

I am the LORD
thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of
the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me, other
than We the People.

Thou shalt
not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing
that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that
is in the water under the earth, except the annual grammar school
maypole: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them,
although any violation of multicultural respect for all non-Christian
faiths is a hate crime.

Thou shalt
not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will
not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain, which does
not include the obligatory “God bless America” at the end of every
televised Presidential speech.

Remember the
sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do
all thy work, but time-and-a-half must be paid on day six. But the
seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt
not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant,
nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within
thy gates, except for the National Football League, golf, and Nascar.
For in six days, metaphorically speaking, the LORD made heaven and
earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh
day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it
especially for the National Football League, golf, and Nascar.

Honour thy
father and thy mother through the FICA tax: that thy days may be
long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Thou shalt
not kill, apart from believable official reasons at the time a war
breaks out.

Thou shalt
not commit adultery and still remain Constitutionally guaranteed
of a no-fault divorce.

Thou shalt
not steal, except by majority vote

Thou shalt
not bear false witness against thy neighbour, except with absence
of malice.

Thou shalt
not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s
wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his
ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s, unless he is in a higher
income tax bracket than you are.


For those of
you who still prefer the older version, you may console yourselves
with this fact: The old liberalism that interpreted the Ten Commandments
as basically antiquated rules for an ancient rural society, and
saw Jesus as a socialist revolutionary, or close to it, is pretty
much on its last legs.

Yes, they still
sing the old songs. Just this week I received this unsolicited call
for a new political vision. It was signed by Rabbi Michael Lerner,
better known as Hillary Clinton’s favorite rabbi. He called for
the creation of a new politics, indicating that something has gone
wrong with the old politics. This new politics must, he says,

the religio-phobia and hostility toward religious and spiritual
people that appears in some sections of liberal and progressive
culture, and to help the Left distinguish between reactionary forms
of religion and the progressives forms that it took with Martin
Luther King, Jr., William Sloan Coffin, Abraham Joshua Heschel and
many others, and to build a new spiritual progressive politics not
only for religious people, but also for those who do not believe
in God but are “spiritual but NOT religious.”

It must also

a New Bottom Line in the Western world so that institutions get
judged efficient, rational or productive not only to the extent
that they maximize money or power, but also to the extent that they
maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethically and
ecologically sensitive behavior, and enhance our capacities to respond
to other human beings as manifestations of the sacred and inherently
valuable and to be respected, and enhance our capacities to respond
to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur
of all that is.

That Rabbi
Lerner should speak of a New Bottom Line (capitalized) indicates
the extent to which the new politics is suspiciously reminiscent
to the old politics and the prevailing jargon of our era. Somehow,
I cannot imagine Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the Bottom

The market
for this kind of thing is narrow. It has been for about a generation.


For people
who are convinced that the Messianic State is the West’s primary
incarnation of Mammon — the god that promises more — the Ten Commandments
are the place to start the project of rolling it back.

those of you who are convinced that “Thou shalt not steal” means
what it says, and so does “Thou shalt not covet,” my book on the
Ten Commandments provides a lot of ammunition: The
Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments
. You
can download it for free.

19, 2006

North [send him mail] is the
author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
He is also the author of a free 17-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible

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