I’m not saying this is doctrine. That's above my pay grade. I’m just saying what I think the commandments mean to me. At least today.
Note: This is the Lutheran version of the Ten Commandments (the one I learned), stated as expressed in the King James Version.
By the way, I’m also not claiming to follow them all, all the time. But you need a yardstick, right?
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Eschew isms. Isms are anathema to human life. I don’t care if it’s a religious ism or a political ism, an ethnic/gender/racial ism or a national-ism, an ideological ism or rational-ism. (Foodism, as in the worship of, might be OK.) Isms rigidify and systematize. Life isn’t systems. Creation isn’t systems. Spirit isn’t systems. Isms kill, repress, and subjugate. They de-humanize. God’s isn’t interested in that stuff.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord they God in vain. Do not pervert God by employing him/her as an excuse for your own agenda. The universal spirit in which we all partake has nothing to do with the economic system, political beliefs, or cause to which you passionately subscribe. He/she does not care which team wins, or which athlete is victorious.
All things created by humans partake of the universal spirit, and thus they are all of God—to some degree. As they are all created by humans, they are also not of God to some degree. The more complex they become, and the farther from spirit, the farther they stray from God. So don’t go wrapping your own ideas in self-proclaimed God-ness.
3. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Set aside some time to think about something other than work, chores, schedules, and hurts. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is. It doesn’t have to be all that day. Go to the beach and watch the waves. Go to the woods and sit under the trees listening to the birds. Go to the desert and hear the wind. Going to church/synagogue/temple/mosque works too, of course.
The thing is, you don’t have to go anyplace, except in your mind. You need to go outside your thoughts of to-do lists and the mental litany of resentments and hurts, gotta-haves and wish-I-hads. Think about how you connect to the world and it to you. Think about how you are part of the same spirit that is part of the natural world. Think about how you are part of the same spirit that your greatest enemy is.
4. Honor thy father and thy mother. Parents are human beings. They are not saints, who can—or who should—do no wrong. They are not monsters, who are responsible for everything bad that happens to their children. They are people, which means they are lonely, fragile creatures searching for answers and love and comfort in a confusing, sometimes terrible, world. Most parents are unprepared for the job of parenting when it comes on, and what preparation they had may be little more than memories of a bad example.
Many parents do awful things to their children. Hurting the innocent, who place their trust in you, is a terrible thing. But those hurtful parents aren’t always in control of their actions. And many of those abusive or hurtful parents are just as pained by their actions as their innocent victims. They just don’t know how to stop, or how to acknowledge their guilt and remorse.
Honoring your mother and father means accepting them as humans, flawed carriers of the divine spark, who deserve the same compassion, and forgiveness, you want for yourself.
5. Thou shalt not kill. Don’t kill people, sure, but this means more than that.
Don’t kill ideas. Be open to new ideas and new perspectives on accepted ones. Don’t assume that you know everything and are smarter than others. Avoid listening only to those with whom you agree. Seek out the ideas of those you disagree with, looking for common ground, not just ammunition to use against their arguments. When you do argue with others, argue the ideas, not the person.
Don’t kill your inner child. Be open to new experiences. Try it, you may like it.
Don’t kill your spirit by hardening your heart. Giving love does not diminish you.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Relationships are built on trust. Adultery breaks trust, whether it is committed by husband to wife, parent toward a child, friend to friend, employer toward employee, or leader to the people he or she has the privilege to lead. Once broken, that trust can be difficult to restore. One important step on the road to restoration is to admit the error and apologize. (Without the assistance of an image handler.) Another is avoiding the temptation to break it again.
We have a relationship to the planet, too. Don’t violate that precious trust by using its resources willy-nilly and dumping your crap all over it.
7. Thou shalt not steal. People have a right to the things they earn. Don’t take their stuff, even if they have more than you.
People also have the right to their human potential. So don’t steal children’s dreams by forcing them to do something that they don’t want to do or that is alien to their nature. Let them develop on their own, in their own way, at their own pace.
Don’t steal the future of people who are not like you by erecting barriers that prevent them from seeking opportunities.
Don’t steal hope from immigrants, coming to this country—just as your ancestors did—trying to build a better life for themselves and their families. They aren’t trying to take away your job. They just want to live.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. This doesn’t mean “don’t lie.” It means “don’t lie to hurt someone else.” Don’t spread rumors or false reports about a person you don’t like. Don’t utter racist or sexist or other prejudiced comments—and challenge them when they are made.
This caution extends to not perverting the truth in your own mind. Don’t believe ill of someone just because a news story says they did something venal or self-aggrandizing or shameful. Give the benefit of the doubt: presume innocence. I was once told that we have received a mistranslation of the words of the angels to the watching shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth. The correct phrasing, this person (a trained priest and a linguist) said, was, “Peace on Earth to men of good will.” Be a person of good will.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. You want something somebody else has? Work for it. Maybe he or she inherited it, and you didn’t have that easy pass to the good life. Well, too bad. It’s the luck of the draw. Either that, or your soul wanted a different spiritual path than that and deliberately chose a different life. Either way, move on.
Perhaps you belong to a group that is oppressed or victimized, and you think it’s impossible for you to attain that “good life.” Remember that a fancy house is not “the good life.” Comfortable, yes. Good, no. But if that comfort is what you want, figure out a way that you can attain it, or some measure of it. It’s not impossible. Difficult, maybe, but it has been done by others like you. But you’re never going to be happy if you spend your time envying somebody else.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s. Above all, remember that things aren’t important. They cannot bring you happiness or peace. Let your neighbors enjoy all that crap they’ve accumulated. Think how pissed the kids will be when they die, and they’ll be left trying to figure out what to do with it all.
Oh, and don’t covet your neighbor’s cover or EP, either.
(Note: This commandment has the Jimmy Carter lust-in-your-heart exemption. If your neighbor is Fernando Colunga [especially in--or, for that matter, out--of period costume] or Halle Berry, you’re allowed to covet all over his/her ass. As long as you don’t run afoul of #6. Look, but don't touch.)
Words © 2009 AtHome Pilgrim
All Rights Reserved.