Yesterday I argued that the Ten Commandments can and should be promoted — privately. Promoting one’s religion is expected . . . outside of government. But do that as a government official and suddenly what most folks consider good common sense morality sows discord.
Why? Simple. Your religion is yours. But the government is ours. It’s supposed to be. But since we don’t all share the same religion, your monument on public property or public commemoration seems nothing more than you shoving yours at us.
With the Decalogue, it’s even trickier. The Ten Commandments aren’t numbered as such in either Exodus or Deuteronomy. Jews, Catholics, and various Protestant denominations differ on ordering them. What one group calls the Fifth Commandment another calls the Fourth. What most American Protestants call the Tenth Commandment is numbered as the Ninth and Tenth by Catholics. And so on.
So any enumerated Decalogue is not merely Judeo-Christian-centric, likely to make Buddhists, Hindus, Yazidis and Sikhs at the very least uncomfortable. It would necessarily be denominationally preferential.
I bet most Ten Commandment listings promoted by American politicians are not the ones Catholics have memorized, by order — or Jews, or even Lutherans and Episcopalians.
These differences usually appear quite small, of course, especially in light of the overwhelming similarities. Accordingly, any disagreements about the Ten Commandments remain friendly, and will likely stay that way — unless government chooses one version over another.
In politics, the doctrine of enumerated powers is divisive enough. Add in multiple, competing enumerations of the Ten Commandments? Too much to divide us.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.