What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 6, 2013

Ten Commandments Update

I usually don't respond to letters to the editor found in newspapers.  I figure that everyone's entitled to their own opinion (even if I think it's wrong).

However if a public figure writes a letter to the editor about an issue, and especially if I've written about that public figure and/or that issue then I feel free to comment.

Where am I going with this?  Here.

The Rev. Ewing Marietta, Senior Pastor of the Liberty Baptist Church in Union, PA has written a letter to the editor regarding the Ten Commandments monument in Connellsville.  (Should even I bother with an Exodus16:1-36 reference?  Perhaps not.)

In it Pastor Marietta makes a few misrepresentations of the facts.  Most incorrect is this one:
The Constitution has not changed, but now we are not allowed to display the Ten Commandments outside a public building.
While I am not in favor of a such religious display (for example a stand-alone monument depicting the Ten Commandments) "outside of a public building" that's not exactly the issue here.

The issue is that the monument is on public school grounds - and that's unconstitutional.

As I've written before, there is some Supreme Court precedent regarding the Ten Commandments "outside of a public building" but as Justice Breyer points out in his discussion of Van Orden V Perry:
This case, moreover, is distinguishable from instances where the Court has found Ten Commandments displays impermissible. The display is not on the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of the young, government must exercise particular care in separating church and state.
So when the good pastor writes that "The fight is still on to save Connellsville's 10 Commandments monument. We can and must win this case." He's wrong on all counts as the fight is already over.  Public displays of the Ten Commandments are impermissible.

But I want to look at what Pastor Marietta writes next:
Should this monument even be an argument right now? We need moral absolutes more than ever.
Really? Moral absolutism is what we need right now?

Take a look at this:

In the video, Richard Dawkins is asked this question:
My question is for professor Dawkins. Considering that atheism can not possibly have any sense of absolute morality, would it not then be an irrational leap of faith, which atheists themselves so harshly condemn, for an atheist to decide between right and wrong?
And he answers:
Absolute morality - the absolute morality that a religious person might profess would include what? Stoning people for adultery? Death for apostasy?  Punishment for breaking the Sabbath? These are all things which are religiously based absolute moralities. I don't think I want an absolute morality. I think I want a morality that is thought-out, reasoned, argued, discussed and based upon, I'd almost say intelligent design. Can we not design our society, which has the sort of morality, the sort of society that we want to live in?  If you actually look at the moralities that are accepted among modern people, among 21st century people, we don't believe in slavery anymore. We believe in equality of women. We believe in being gentle. We believe in being kind to animals. These are all things which are entirely recent. They have very little basis in Biblical or Quranic scripture. They are things that have developed over historical time through a consensus of reasoning, of sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy. These do not come from religion. To the extent that you can find the good bits in religious scriptures, you have to cherry pick. You search your way though the Bible or the Quran and you find the occasional verse that is an acceptable profession of morality and you say, "Look at that! That's religion!" and you leave out all the horrible bits and you say, "Oh, we don't believe that anymore. We've grown out of that." Well, of course we've grown out it. We've grown out of it because of secular moral philosophy and rational discussion."
But are those punishments really the case?  Let's take them one by one
  • Stoning people for adultery?  Deuteronomy 22:22 says:
    If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
  • Death for apostasy? Deuteronomy 13:6-9 says:
    6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people.
  • Punishment for breaking the Sabbath? Exodus 35:2 says:
    For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death.
Is this what the good pastor means when he talks about how "we need moral absolutes" now?  It must be - the texts are from The Bible and they are clear as can be.

God, I hope not.


Ol' Froth said...

I think they know they're going to lose this case, and are setting themselves up for the figurative martyrdom that will follow the ruling.

SamStone said...

I also found this comment by Rev. Ewing to be particularly absurd: "The Ten Commandments are the foundation of our great country. Our children need to know this so that they may know why this country became the greatest nation on Earth. It truly provides freedom for all."

I think it is the US Constitution that provides freedom for all (Americans). And, that include the basic principle of the separation of State and Church, which he willfully ignores in his letter.

SamStone said...

I was curious about the film Prelude to War (1943) and what it said about the Ten Commandments. It turns out nothing directly. Watch the film at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBtdTiHsQqI

At 4:45 into the film, the narrator argues that the US became free through "a long and unceasing struggle inspired by men of vision: Moses, Mohammed, Confucius, and Christ, while showing pictures of just the 10th Commandment, the Koran, the Analects of Confucius and the Bible. So to the narrator, the Koran is just as important as the 10 Commandments, which Ewing conveniently ignores.

The film's narrator goes on to say these lead to the understanding that "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. It is the cornerstone upon which are nation was built and the ideal of all the great liberators … that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Note that he is not saying that we have a government teachings of the Christian Church, but simply a government of the people. Even quoting this very tacky 1943 War Department film, Ewing is completely off-base.