Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.
- Matthew 5:16
The majority of Americans who follow the Judeo-Christian faith just dont get it. Why is it against the First Amendment to display the Ten Commandments on a courthouse wall where laws are made or upheld, but it is censorship - another supposed violation of the same amendment - to forbid filthy, degrading self-expression in a municipal gallery of art? Why is it worse to offend the ACLU few, than to censor the majoritys freedom of expression, and treat their religious symbols with such scorn? (Note: The art gallery in question is in New York City, and the scorned symbols are a crucifix and a Madonna submerged in excrement.)
All Indiana Gov. Frank OBannon wanted to do was replace the Ten Commandment plaque that had been displayed on the statehouse grounds for years, until it was destroyed by vandals in 1991. The planned, 7-foot monument would have had the commandments on one surface, the Bill of Rights on the other, and the preamble to the State Constitution split between the narrow sides.
But because such a monument could have been interpreted as mixing state with an inherently religious text, two federal courts struck the proposal down.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court quietly let the lower court rulings stand.
But the church-state issue is an old quarrel, and old quarrels tend to attract two, predictable responses: A few people will continue fighting, perhaps to the point of violence, while most will tire of the effort and quietly surrender to the courts.
Though the activists have already lost battles against legalized abortion, teaching evolution as fact, and not allowing prayer in school, the people of Indiana and elsewhere are fighting now for the right to remind the country that the simple law of God is more effective than the voluminous laws of men. After all, they say, the Ten Commandments are generic. All but the first three (and possibly the 10th) agree with every other code in history, and the ones about having no other god dont identify who that god is. Besides, when asked what standard they live by, whether they are religious or not, more people list the Ten Commandments than any other code.
Nevertheless, todays nervous jurists repeatedly rule against allowing the presumed religious text to be seen on state-supported grounds. Or, as columnist Jonah Goldberg writes, The closer a person or group gets to doing precisely what the First Amendment was intended to protect, the more likely it is that the government will regulate or ban it.
But perhaps Judeo-Christians have another option besides continuing, or giving up, the uphill fight. Perhaps we could be just as effective, if not more so, by laying down our protest signs and angry pens, and trying to live what the Ten Commandments and other Biblical guidelines portray.
In the Sermon on the Mount, a series of talks Jesus gave to His disciples (Matthew 5-7), one of the subjects dealt with how they were to act in the face of persecution. Jesus didnt mean only when they were harmed physically, but also, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. If Jesus were delivering that same sermon today, His words would be remarkably similar to those He spoke 20 centuries ago: When people disagree with you because you are standing up for me, rejoice! Dont start acting as they do, but live as youve seen me live. Become the "salt of the earth and "flavor the ungodliness around you with my teachings.
Rather than fighting for your monuments and unenforceable laws, be a "monument yourself to what I have taught you. Instead of looking for places to display my laws for others to read, obey my laws yourself so they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven (5:13-16, paraphrased).
Perhaps living monuments are what God had in mind all along.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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