politicizing the 10 commandments
4/07/2006 11:36:00 AM
I was driving down a dirt road one day that dead ends. There are 3 houses at the end of that road. 1 of them had a sign. That means only 4 other people see the sign. I almost laughed...I was like, $10 for a sign for 4 people to read...that's $2.50 a person. Wow. Also, I was driving by a church, and out in front of the church with a multi-million dollar facility was a granite monolith with the 10 commandments engraved on it. I couldn't help but ask, how much did that cost?

I've been thinking for a while on this whole issue of rhetoric and polemic devices that Christians use to rally the masses to support particular ideologies. It is the same device the Pat Robertson and the Muslim clerics used to gain supporters for their views about the opposing religions. It seems that the 10 Commandment activists do the exact same thing. The intent of putting up signs is to fly in the face of court decisions made to remove the 10 Commandments (and references to God for that matter) from public buildings.

I've been reading "The Present Future" by Reggie McNeal. While I disagree with his philosophy of ministry, I think he makes some good observations about church.
Many congregations and church leaders, faced with the collapse of the church culture, have responded by adopting a refuge mentality. This is the perspective reflected in the approach to ministry that withdraws from the culture, that builds walls higher and thicker, that tries to hang on to what we've got, that hunkers down for the storm to blow over and for things to get back to "normal" so the church can resume its previous place in the culture. Those who hold this perspective frequently lament the loss of cultural support for church values and adopt an "us-them" view of the world outside the church as the enemy...Evangelism in this worldview is about churching the unchurched, not connecting people to Jesus. It focuses on cleaning people up, changing their behavior so Christians (translation: church people) can be more comfortable around them. Refuge churches evidence enormous self-occupation. They deceive themselves into believing they are a potent force.
I just finished Richard Land's "Imagine! A God Blessed America" In that book, Land makes a great point about Christian involvement in political issues.
An 'issues only' focus narrows our sight to temporal political agendas. A truly biblical vision opens our sight to the transforming power of the gospel in all of life.
First, things like the 10 Commandments being removed from public buildings is the symptom, not the problem. The problem is that we have of lost our commitment to share the gospel and substituted political activism for missions. I don't recall anywhere in scripture where Jesus tells us to make a Christian Utopia (Land would say otherwise), but rather the tells us to be submissive to government and pray for those in authority. I quoted Piper earlier, and his observation says that in doing so, make inroads to sharing the gospel.

Second, polemic devices further polarizes Christianity from the culture Christ wants to redeem. This is McNeal's main gripe in his book. This is "us-them" mentality he is speaking to. Christians are counter-cultural (as Land says) but they are also culturally relevant, in that they address the issues the culture is dealing with rather than separating themselves from the culture in a pseudo-Christian Utopia, which is the subculture built around para-church organizations. America is probably the only nation in the world where a person can do business without ever having to set foot in a secular business.

My question then is, how do we use the 10 Commandments? I think the answer to this lies in the purpose of the Law. Galatians 3:
(19)What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed (Jesus) to whom the promise (made to Abraham) referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.

(20)A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. (21)Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. (22)But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

(23)Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. (24)So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. (25)Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Notice the motif Paul is using: a school teacher. The purpose of the law was two fold: to reveal sin and to show the need for Christ. The law cannot impart life, which can only be given through Christ. If the law reveals our sin all the more, it makes us all the more aware of our need for a savior. Elsewhere in Romans 1, Paul talks about how conscience does the same thing. It reveals our need for a savior. With this said, instead of turning the 10 commandments into a polemic device, use the 10 commandments to show people their need for a savior. So what if the courts remove the 10 Commandments from public buildings? How does posting the 10 Commandments on public buildings do anything to advance the gospel or advance the Kingdom of God?

This is a little something extra: If you are going to list 10, why not all 613 commandments? If you only list 10, then you are missing 603 others. I stumbled across a website that is declaring May 7th "Ten Commandments Day." I think I want declare May 7th "613 Commandments Day" instead. That way we don't leave anything out.

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