|The Ritze family's 10 Commandments monument|
at Oklahoma's state capitol
Back in 2012, the Ritze family donated a $10,000 granite monument of the Ten Commandments to the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission for installation on the state capitol's grounds. Their gift stands at six feet tall, on its own patch of concrete, near an entrance to the Capitol that is closed to the public. It literally took an act of Congress - the Oklahoma legislature, that is - to get permission for its installation, but that was more of a formality than anything else, since its legislation passed with strong bipartisan support.
This is Oklahoma, after all; one of the most conservative states in the country.
Its conservatism, however, is being tested by a recent announcement that a Satan-worshiping group now wants permission to install their own religious monument on Oklahoma's capitol grounds. It would be a seven-foot-tall depiction of a seated Satan, flanked by two life-sized children, and incorporating symbols representing Satanism. The idea is that people could actually sit in Satan's lap and experience being part of the monument.
There's even word that a group of Pastafarians want to erect their own monument in honor of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Hey - don't laugh; they got their own display at the Florida state capitol building this past Christmas, along with a more traditional Nativity display, and - no joke - a Festivus pole, in honor of the TV sitcom, Seinfeld.
You remember? "Festivus - for the rest of us!"
Granted, I've never been a gotta-have-the-Decalogue-in-every-government-building advocate. God's laws have become more political fodder than life application principles for many Christianized people, and the hypocrisy can be glaring to observers who argue for the separation of church and state. Then Christ-followers like me who also say we should refrain from using the Decalogue as a symbolic bully pulpit get lumped in with all of the heathen unbelievers like the Pastafarians.
But I've asked it before, and I'll ask it again: if you don't believe in separation of church and state, do you want your children listening to Muslim prayers over their school's public address system?
Perhaps this wouldn't be such a contentious issue if we believers in Christ could actually remove the hypocrisy from our lives that makes our professed allegiance to the Ten Commandments so difficult for the watching world to respect. Yet too many of us find it easier instead to assume that a granite monument suffices for heart-and-soul allegiance. Even if one of the Ten Commandments is to not create any graven images.
In fact, let's revisit the Biblical narrative of God's bestowment of the Decalogue upon His people. The narrative appears in two passages, in Exodus and Deuteronomy, and in both accounts, we learn that the Israelites see and hear the majesty of God as He enumerates His holy laws. In fact, they are so awe-struck at God's holiness, they ask Moses to recite the laws to them himself, for fear that they could not withstand God's direct communication to them. Can you imagine?
Probably not, since we are New Testament believers, who have come to God through Christ Jesus, His Son. We who are saved do not need to be in mortal fear of God, and in fact, He welcomes us to come and communicate with Him. He even calls Himself our Father. Yet how often in such familiarity, do we slip into a casual mentality and take for granted that God is still holy?
Indeed, God is not only holy, but His Ten Commandments haven't expired. This is one part of the monument debate that pro-monument Christians get right. And yes, our system of laws is based in large part on what God etched into those tablets that He gave Moses. But how are the Ten Commandments still relevant to us today? Christ's sacrifice at Calvary demonstrates what heinous sins are represented in the Decalogue, and the perfect Sacrifice that was necessary to atone for them. But it's not adherence to any of the laws themselves that save anybody, is it? Christ is our only Savior.
It's not even as though America has laws, for example, against adultery, idolatry, or coveting. Morality is not something that can be legislated. It's a matter of the heart, and the will; not a list of rules.
And if the intent of placing the Decalogue in places where people in authority could use them in their dispensing of that authority, perhaps a better section of scripture to monumentalize comes from 1 Kings 3, in which a newly-appointed King Solomon asks God for discernment in administering justice. God not only responds to such a humble request with His generous gift to Solomon of unprecedented wisdom, but riches and honor that were without equal in the king's lifetime.
Meanwhile, American Christians get all bent out of shape when secularists challenge the Decalogue's display in civic buildings, when none of us follow those laws to the letter anyway. We assume some monument to that stone tablet from Mount Sinai is a sufficient testimony of our belief in the God Who gave it to us, when in fact, God wants us to serve Him in spirit and truth. With our lives. In courtrooms, and statehouses, and living rooms, and bedrooms, and corporate cubicles, and boardrooms, and football stadiums, and factories, and churches.
Hmm. When was the last time you saw a $10,000 granite memorial of the Ten Commandments in a church? Or somebody's bedroom?
Granite isn't just what monuments are made of. Sometimes granite seems to be what our hearts and minds are made of as well. Maybe if we removed our own hard-heartedness, we'd be a better testimony of God's holiness than any hunk of carved rock.