Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ten Commandments as Ten Beatitudes

(excerpt from sermon by Rev. Kirk Lee, delivered at St. James Episcopal Church, Marietta, GA, October 5, 2008)

I didn't think there was much new to say about the Ten Commandments, but Rev. Kirk Lee tried. He questioned the advisability or even possibility to "put aside" the "overlap between public and private spheres of moral and religious life." He capped his sermon with a new spin on the old "Shalt nots." Here are excerpts:

We live in a day where the very concept of some type of objective, independent morality is being questioned. ...Where are we going to find such a standard?

...We could depend on human feelings, as illustrated in [the] song, "how can it be wrong when it feels so right?"

Or ... we could rely on majority vote. How can it be wrong if 55% of the people voted for it? Right?

The problem with these choices is that feelings change, and the majority often shifts its position.
...We need something or someone who stands outside of the world, outside of just being human, outside of the community, who can look in and give us direction. That someone can only be God.

Some people complain that the Ten Commandments are just too inflexible, too narrow and negative. ... But they are not all negative. ... When we turn them over, we find the ten most positive statements about life ever written. Here is how they look:

Blessed are they who put God first.
Blessed are they who need no substitutes for God.
Blessed are they who honor God's name.
Blessed are they who honor God's day.
Blessed are they who honor their parents.
Blessed are they who value life.
Blessed are they who keep their marriage vows.
Blessed are they who respect the property of others.
Blessed are they who love the truth.
Blessed are they who learn the art of contentment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently wrote a paper for my language class regarding whether or not modern science was verging on being the new "Frankenstein's Monster." To my instructor's dismay, I very much digressed from the topic of immoral science to the definition of morality from a scientific perspective. I'll spare the details, but my ultimate conclusion was that Dr. Frankenstein recognized his actions as immoral due to an instant and inexplicable moment of horror upon seeing his creation come to life. If we, as a people, do not experience a comparable ethical revival, then how can we know we've done wrong? Furthermore, if we don't recognize our actions as evil, are they really evil at all?

Our society proudly condemns God for claiming to love our kind while allowing catastrophic events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina to take place. Yet at the same time, this community of high-standard critics finds no problem with issues like abortion. It seems very ironic to me that, when God decides who should live and who should die, He's immoral. Yet when a woman wants to do the same, she's merely exercising her natural rights.

Again, my example has become a digression. Let it suffice to say that without any divine moral standard, there is no moral standard whatsoever, and therefore no morals. Frankenstein's conscience catches him as he commits his "sin," yet if it had not done so, it would have been his word against the reader's. Without a supernatural judicial force, neither point of view would be the more credible. In other words, unless there's a God to establish a certain right or wrong, then the entire universe is left to majority rule. My paper concluded on the note that, in purely secular terms, there is no immorality, because there is no morality for it to oppose; and there is no morality because there is no moral law giver; and there is no moral law giver because every man is actually the master of his own soul and can determine ethical standards for himself with virtually no accountability. However, if there is a God, and if He expects us to be accountable for our actions, then He must have given us some sort of list of rules that could very clearly outline what is and what is not ethically sound. Therefore, the major issues of society as it stands now would merely have to be applied to this set of rules on a case by case basis, without people jumping through logical hoops in an attempt to dance around the "Golden Rule."