I’m not a fan of the Ten Commandments. I feel defensive when I read them. Perhaps they’re useful for running an institution where a high degree of authority and control is desired, but to expect a thinking, growing person to see them as Truth? I don’t buy it. Here’s why.
I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
I can understand the desire to make a distinction between God as Truth, Wisdom, and Love verses putting one’s faith in a God that is anything less, but if we have been given free will (which I believe we have) God wouldn’t tell us who or what to believe in. We’d be free to choose. Second, a “strange” God could encompass anything we haven’t been exposed to, such as another culture’s God. This commandment can be used to justify prejudice and racism, which I believe goes against the nature of God.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
Definition of IN VAIN: 1) to no end: without success or results; 2) in an irreverent or blasphemous manner. I suppose this commandment is telling people to be purposeful and intentional when addressing God, but it sets God up as an authority outside the person, which goes contrary to my personal experience and understanding of God being inside of each person. Besides, God can hold our anger, rage, and confusion.
Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day.
Why do we need a “LORD’s Day?” If God is here, now, everywhere and always, we are never separate from God. Taking time out for ritual and remembrance is one thing, but every day is holy. Jesus understood this, which is why he challenged the notion of performing healings on the Sabbath.
Honor your father and your mother.
What if your mother and father are abusive? What does it mean to honor a person, anyway? To put them on a pedestal? To listen to them even when they’re wrong? I prefer: respect others, but don’t put yourself in harm’s way, and know that it’s okay to go against the will of any other person, including your parents, if something feels uncomfortable or bad.
You shall not kill.
What about in self-defense? What if you’re protecting the life of those you love, or little ones in your care? What about killing someone like Hitler (e.g., Dietrich Bonhoeffer)?
You shall not commit adultery.
A large percentage of the population has committed adultery at one time or another. Maybe we really don’t want to be monogamous. Maybe our desire to have sex with another person is symbolic of our quest for union with God, and as long as we’re in a state of brokenness, we’ll continue searching for love and acceptance from other people. I’m not trying to justify adultery. I’m just saying that rather than condemn each another, let’s take time to understand the deeper reasons for our actions.
You shall not steal.
What about someone who steals food in order to survive or to feed their family? What if a person has fallen on truly hard times and is homeless or without money. Sure we have government programs, but there are times when a person feels stuck and become desperate. There are always other options, but when faced with starvation, survival instincts kick in, which is a good thing.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
I believe in being truthful, but the “you shall not” language makes me cringe. How about, “If you bear false witness against your neighbor, it sets up bad karma. If you want others to trust and respect you, learn to treat others with love and respect.”
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
What about your neighbor’s husband, or children for that matter? This rule comes from a patriarchal society that treats women as property. It’s sexist and seeks to control women. If two consenting adults are coveting each other, there’s something else happening that needs to be looked at and dealt with.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
If someone is in a bad situation and they take something in a moment of desperation, I’d have difficulty coming down hard on that person. I understand that to function as a society we need rules and regulations or rampant abuse would occur, but some situations require understanding and compassion, rather than strict observance of the law.
I think the Commandments should be rewritten from the perspective of those who seek growth in consciousness and who desire to become more compassionate and loving. Instead of “commandments,” how about “guiding principles”? Rather than “Thou shall not kill” how about, “Respect the life that has been given to you and to others.” Then, if in a moment of self-defense you choose to kill, or lie, you are choosing based on valuing your own life or the life of those in your care. Other guiding principles could include practice meditation, mindfulness, and prayer; blossom where you are planted; love and accept yourself as you are, and do the same for others. What are some of your guiding principles?