Sunday, December 13, 2009

Top Ten Commandments?

What happened to The Ten Commandments?

Although there are a few versions (depending on how you number them) the basics stay the same. At the Catholic High School I attended we were taught the following ten commandments:

1. You shall not worship any other gods or make yourself a false idol.
2. You shall not use god's name in vain.
3. You shall remember the sabbath and keep it holy.
4. You shall honor your mother and father.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's possessions.

There is nothing simpler in the complicated world of religion than the ten commandments. There is no ambiguity (or at least very little) and the list is short enough to remember. It was certainly easier to understand religion when I was a child and I was told these are the ten things you need to know.

I was reminded of these commandments recently because of the overwhelming news coverage of Tiger Woods breaking #6. While the details are sensational and titillating, the news coverage is warranted more by the interest of the general population seeing a star fall from grace, than from any widespread moral outrage. In fact, the newscasters have reminded us multiple times that except for a minor traffic infraction, Mr. Woods has not done anything illegal by cheating on his wife.

Now, I'm not inclined to get on my high horse and preach about his moral wrongs. But I am struck by the odd contrast in our society between the attention warranted by simple personal "moral wrongs" and perceived political "wrongs." Except for the fact that Tiger Woods is rich and famous his adultery would not be news, not even the fact that it was with multiple women. Not that I want the news to cover every adulterer's infidelity, but where is the outrage in our society for the simple sins.

I've seen more news stories than I can count about the obesity of Americans, despite the lack of any commandment about overeating. But I've never seen a news story about how many Americans steal or commit adultery.

Indeed, it is only a matter of time before the news turns back to the debates over whether or not we should have nationalized health care, whether global warming is preventable, or whether the government should legalize gay marriage.

Now, again, I'm not inclined to get on my high horse and argue that everyone should live by the Ten Commandments all the time, but they're certainly a great standard and a simple standard to aspire to. In the spirit of the story that "he without sin should throw the first stone", perhaps we should spend more time in our society worrying about the simple basics of our beliefs (or our religion) before we start preaching to others on more complicated issues.

Put another way: You shall not curse the evils of national health care, oil use, and gay marriage while at the same time failing to clothe the poor or feed the hungry, or aid the sick, or while failing to guard against your own covetous nature.

While I'm not saying these other issues don't merit debate, I am suggesting that we should all start by prioritizing our lives. If you still have time to spend protesting gay marriage or global warming then you obviously have the rest of your life in much better order than I do.

What's my point? Save your outrage for the outrageous, or it loses all meaning.

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