Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Question Authority

In my recent workshop, I developed a short music/ dance drama from the nursery rhyme: “I will not be my father’s Jack, I will not be my mother’s Jill. I will be the fiddler and have music when I will…” I then wanted to cleverly shame everyone by showing how they broke the first Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Except I later found out that that’s either number 4 or number 6. Oops!

But I was a little surprised how few of the Ten Commandments that 90 people in the workshop knew. Can you recite them all? 

If you do, it will be transparently clear how little we heed them these days. Our President, for example, has indisputably broken just about every single one. Check it out and connect the dots. 

But here I was reminded why I rejected the whole Judeo-Christian theology as a teenager and young (and old) adult. The Commandments are found in two place: Exodus 20: 1-17 and Deuteronomy: 6-21 and really, didn’t the editor notice that the author is repeating himself? 

But the two things that struck me: 

You shall not make yourself a graven image…you shall not bow down to them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation…

Whoah, hold on! The spiritual Master of the Universe, who is here to inspire us to be our best selves, is jealous? Have you seen a therapist? Isn’t that a rather petty emotion for a Supreme Being? And the punishment! Not just reprimand the wrongdoer, but punish innocent children three or four generations hence. What kind of model behavior is that?

And then: you shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or his maidservant or his ox, or his ass (STAND-UP COMICS, TAKE NOTE!) or anything that is his neighbor’s.

 Lots of material here, but if you look up “manservant,” you see it translates to “slave.” So here is God condoning slavery, only asking that you’re not jealous of your neighbor’s slave. And wait? Jealous? Why can you be jealous but not us? Is this one of those “Do as I say, not as I do” commandments?

Well, I’m just warming up here. Check out Leviticus for more details than you would ever want (13: 2-59) for how to deal with leprosy and lepers. Then there’s 11:29 talking about all the unclean things that swarm upon the earth: the weasel, the mouse, the great lizard, the gecko, the land crocodile, the lizard, the sand lizard and the chameleon. Mr. God, why do you say “Every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth is an abomination?!” Who created them? Oh yeah, YOU!! Why would you do that? And don’t get me started on poison oak and mosquitoes.”

So yeah, lots of contradictions, lots of weirdness and really, how can anyone with half a brain cell accept this as the sacred text that guides their life? I think this was my first hint: “Question authority.” And I think you should too.

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