For centuries Western Civilization has embraced the Ten Commandments as the bedrock for law and conduct. But, in the twenty-first century, such an assumption no longer holds true. Bit by bit the Ten Commandments are being chiseled from their central position in our culture.
In 2001, after a two-year legal battle, a 5,280 lb. granite Ten Commandments monument was removed from the rotunda of the Alabama State Capital.
In 2004 the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Kentucky ruled that the Ten Commandments could no longer be displayed in public schools and courthouses. To do so, the court ruled, would be an endorsement of religion.
In 2014, followers of the pagan faith, Wicca, sued the city of Bloomfield, N.M. over a 3,000 pound Ten Commandments monument that stood in front of the City Hall. The court ruled the monument had to be removed as a violation of First Amendment rights.
In June 2015 the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the presence of the Ten Commandments on the capitol grounds was unconstitutional. On October 5, under cover of darkness, the 4,800 lb. slab of stone was moved from the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds to a private location.
These reflect sensitive legal issues in our nation that values freedom of religion and separation of church and state. But what is more disturbing than the removal of monuments is the removal of the Ten Commandments from our consciousness. Few can name them. Stop for a minute and see if you can recall all ten of the commandments? Can our children or grandchildren quote them? If we don’t know the Ten Commandments, how can they guide us in our values and action?
Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. ” (Mathew 5:17-19).
The first four of the Ten Commandments tell us how to have a healthy relationship with God. The next six tell us how to have healthy relationships with each other.
Zhao Xiao, a leading economist in China, researched America’s secret to prosperity. He concluded, “... the key to America’s commercial success is not its natural resources, its financial system or its technology but its churches. ... The market economy is efficient because it discourages idleness, but it can also encourage people to lie and injure others. It thus needs a moral underpinning.” Xiao’s conclusions are remarkably similar to Alexis de Tocqueville’s in 1840.
Starting next week, this column will reflect on each of the Ten Commandments and their implications for today.