Theocracy And The Finger Of God

“And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”

—Exodus 31:18

“I’m not running for this position. I’m running to serve God and his will.”

—Judge Roy Moore

Today Republican voters in Alabama will quite likely choose Roy Moore, a twenty-four carat, lawbreaking theocrat, to be their nominee to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S Senate. And chances are, despite Democrats’ hopefulness, Roy Moore, a twenty-four carat, lawbreaking theocrat, will be Alabama’s next senator, after the December 12th general election.

Moore is infamous for a couple of law-ignoring moments. After he installed a two and one-half ton granite Ten Commandments monument in his courthouse in 2001 (he was chief justice of the state supreme court at the time), a federal judge ordered him to remove it. He refused. He then got canned by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. But he came back. He managed to get himself re-elected in 2012 as, again, chief justice of the Image result for roy moore and gunstate supreme court. In 2016, this lawbreaker decided it didn’t matter that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage was overturned by a federal judge. He ordered the probate judges in Alabama to keep enforcing the bogus law. He got suspended and eventually quit, after it became clear officials weren’t going to participate in his personally-enforced theocracy. (Although, interestingly and inexplicably there are still eight judges in Alabama who are honoring Moore’s dictum by simply not issuing anyone a marriage license.)

And, now the gun-toting zealot is back yet again.

Just the possibility that Roy Moore could sit in the Senate here in the 21st century tells us at least two things. One, it tells us Alabama is a very strange place. But we kind of knew that already. Two, though, it tells us that a large number of American Christians aren’t that far removed from Islamist theocrats all over the world, in terms of how much they despise genuine secularism. And make no mistake about it, we were designed to be a secular nation. Our Constitution is a secular document. It was not handed down by God, but handed down by some entity called “We the People.” And you won’t find any God-invoking language in the document. But, if it is God-invoking language you are after, you can find it in the Preamble to the Confederate Constitution. Wikipedia provides a handy comparison between the original and its treacherous imitator:

  • The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”[4]
  • The Preamble to the Confederate Constitution: “We, the people of the Confederate States, each state acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.”[1]

Even though the traitors invoked Almighty God’s “favor and guidance,” that didn’t work out too well (see: Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 9, 1865, for evidence of that). But despite that massive failure, the idea—the idea that this is God’s country and not our own—still persists. Jeff Stein, of Vox, recently wrote a profile of Moore. Stein got to the heart of the matter:

Moore’s defense in the Ten Commandments case is instructive. One conservative defense of the tablets could be that local courts should have the freedom to erect whatever monuments they want. This was not Moore’s argument. Instead, he said that the Ten Commandments should stay because they really are divine, and therefore more important than human law.

“The Ten Commandments are not only a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, as the Supreme Court stated in Stone v Graham,” he writes. “They are God’s revealed, divine law and the basis on which our morality depends.”

Few Christians, of course, can cite or name most of the supposedly vital commandments (which are presented in different versions in the Old Testament). Stephen Colbert famously and hilariously, more than ten years ago, revealed the hypocrisy of a Georgia congressman named Lynn Westmoreland (also noted for referring to the Obamas as “uppity”) and by extension the hypocrisy of most theocracy-minded Christians:

COLBERT: You co-sponsored a bill requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

REP. WESTMORELAND: Uh-huh.

COLBERT: Why was that important to you?

REP. WESTMORELAND: Well, the Ten Commandments is not a bad thing, uh, for people to understand and to respect.

COLBERT: I’m with you.

REP. WESTMORELAND: Where better place could you have something like that than a judicial building, or in a court house?

COLBERT: That is a good question. Can you think of any better building to put the Ten Commandments in than in a public building?

REP. WESTMORELAND: No. I think if we were totally without ’em we may lose a sense of our direction.

COLBERT: What are the Ten Commandments?

REP. WESTMORELAND: What are all of ’em?

COLBERT: Uh-huh.

REP. WESTMORELAND: You want me to name ’em all?

COLBERT: Yes. Please.

REP. WESTMORELAND: Umm. Don’t murder. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Uhhh, I can’t name ’em all.

Funny stuff.

In any case, Sam Harris said of the Commandments (in Letter to a Christian Nation):

They are, after all, the only passages in the Bible so profound that the creator of the universe felt the need to physically write them himself — and in stone. As such, one would expect these to be the greatest lines ever written, on any subject, in any language.

Well, are they the greatest lines ever written? Let’s consider the second of the commandments (I chose Exodus 20:4):

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

Think about the absurdity of that for a moment. The alleged creator of the cosmos, omnipotent and omniscient, allegedly used his own finger to etch out that silly command, rather than publish some insight into, say, what causes many preventable diseases among his made-in-his-image creatures (we human beings finally began to figure that out in the middle of the 19th century, by the way). And consider the secondary absurdity that resulted from that ridiculously trivial commandment. Here is a passage from Wikipedia that demonstrates some of it:

In 726 Emperor Leo III ordered all images removed from all churches; in 730 a council forbade veneration of images, citing the Second Commandment; in 787 the Seventh Ecumenical Council reversed the preceding rulings, condemning iconoclasm and sanctioning the veneration of images; in 815 Leo V called yet another council, which reinstated iconoclasm; in 843 Empress Theodora again reinstated veneration of icons.[114] This mostly settled the matter until the Protestant Reformation, when John Calvin declared that the ruling of the Seventh Ecumenical Council “emanated from Satan”.[114] Protestant iconoclasts at this time destroyed statues, pictures, stained glass, and artistic masterpieces.[114]

All of that from essentially nothing.

There are more absurdities in the Ten Commandments, but Sam Harris deserves the last word on the last one, number 10 (don’t covet your neighbor’s house, wife, slaves, ox, ass, or anything else):

…what are we to make of the fact that, in bringing his treatise to a close, the creator of the universe could think of no human concerns more pressing and durable than the coveting of servants and livestock?

And what are we to make of the fact that a man who may become a member of the United States Senate can think of “no human concerns more pressing and durable” than pushing Iron Age dictates upon the nation and placing them above its man-made laws? As David Dinielli of the Southern Poverty Law Center put it, Roy Moore’s ideology “would allow those who think they know the unknowable and the mystic to impose their beliefs on everyone else.”

And unless a man-made miracle happens in Alabama either today or in December, we will have to deal nationally with a U.S. Senator who has a history of imposing his knowledge of the unknowable on his fellow citizens.

 

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  1. Upon looking up more details of the second commandment I find that it implies the existence of other gods and threatens to punish ” . . . to the third and fourth generation . . . ” the children of any who worship such gods. Also, for the children of those who do not stray, He promises special “mercy” for ” . . . a thousand generations . . . ” If the law of the Old Testament is to govern civil law, as Mr. Moore apparently wishes, it will be in sharp conflict with the context of the Constitution that calls for equality and justice for all.

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    • Jim,

      Most of the Founders, as flawed as they were, would be appalled that we are still having these arguments after 230 years of living under an evolving Constitution, secular to its core.

      While I was researching this piece, I came across (I don’t know where it was now) someone who actually cited Thomas Paine as part of an argument supporting the pro-Christian nation side of this divide. Now, Paine happens to be one of my heroes. And it galled me that his name was used in such a context. His The Age of Reason, a most remarkable book (actually a series of pamphlets), was actually a best-seller at the time, appealing to a lot of ordinary folks who had not been much exposed to such “heretical” ideas before. “My own mind is my own church” still gives me chills. Needless to say, most of the book was a sustained attack on the Bible, using methods that were somewhat ahead of his time.

      I bring up Paine because of what you noted about the second commandment, how “generations” were to be punished due to the dictates of a strangely jealous God, and how it conflicts with the equality and justice under the Constitution. Paine particularly hated the way the Old Testament portrayed God. After citing incredible atrocities supposedly committed under the command of God (found in Numbers, Chapter 31), he wrote:

      People in general know not what wickedness there is in this pretended word of God. Brought up in habits of superstition, they take it for granted that the Bible is true, and that it is good; they permit themselves not to doubt of it, and they carry the ideas they form of the benevolence of the Almighty to the book which they have been taught to believe was written by his authority. Good heavens! it is quite another thing, it is a book of lies, wickedness, and blasphemy; for what can be greater blasphemy than to ascribe the wickedness of man to the orders of the Almighty?

      Men made the God of the Bible after their own image. Thomas Paine recognized that more than two centuries ago. Yet we are here, in the 21st century, watching a man rise to power—with many millions of supporters around the country—who thinks God actually wrote a book that attributes to himself countless murders and genocide and other unspeakable horrors.

      We’ve come a long way. But there is so much left to do.

      Duane

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  2. Actually, you don’t need 10 commandments. 2 is enough. And here’s George Carlin to tell you about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE8ooMBIyC8

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  3. Anonymous

     /  September 27, 2017

    Am I being paranoid to fear a theocratic government, combined with government access to our voting records and private prisons might be a bad thing for some people?

    Kevin Beck

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    • Am I being paranoid to fear a theocratic government, combined with government access to our voting records and private prisons might be a bad thing for some people?

      Whoa, Kevin, that could never happen! Uh, wait, I just heard who won the GOP primary in Alabama. Yipes!

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      Reply
    • Short answer: no, you’re not being paranoid. It appears we are going to have to fight these folks for years and years to come–until the oldest among them pass on to the grave, or that big Tr-mp dumpster in the sky.

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