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Carol Hoenig Headshot

Do the Ten Commandments Cover All the Bases?

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I've been thinking about one of the comments made in response to my latest Huffington Post blog, "A Mother's Love Versus Her Sons' Religious Demands" and decided to explore it, especially since it's something often said by those who have a laid-back faith, one that doesn't require a lot of thought. The comment implied all that is required for a heaven-bound afterlife is to obey the Ten Commandments, as if they covered all the bases.

I am reminded of Mel Brooks' delightful "History of the World" where Moses comes down from Mount Sinai and announces, "The Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen..." before he drops one of the tablets and says, "Oy...Ten! Ten Commandments, for all to obey!" Humorous, yes, but it does lead me to think that the Ten found in the Bible do seem to be lacking, not to mention require some qualifying factors. For instance, how many undeserving parents pound into their children to "Honor thy father and mother" simply because it was ostensibly chiseled into stone by God's instruction? And when those children don't honor the way the parents see fit, those parents justify punishment by not sparing the rod. Whether it's from a Supreme Being or earthly parent, punishing one's child into submission by threats of hellfire and damnation hardly seem justified.

The thing is, I do wonder how many people can not only recite the Ten Commandments, but believe that they are obeying all of them? For instance, do they understand that praying to saints contradicts what the first and second commandments command? How about the politicians, the ones who claim to be Christian, the same ones who slander their opponents with fabrications? Do they realize that the ninth commandment rules that they are not to bear false witness against their neighbor?

I dare say, there's quite a lot missing since life is more complicated than attempting to carve commandments into a stone tablet. Commandment or not, children should honor their parents, but parents must first earn their children's respect. It's a good reminder, too, that we shouldn't murder, but sometimes war calls for it. And the homeless woman with a hungry child may have to steal food from the apple cart for survival.

Whether it's biblical times or now, I hardly think that the Ten Commandments cover every issue. How could they when back in the day when they were first written it was legal to own slaves and women were considered property?

For me, though, it's a moot point, since I don't believe that the Bible is infallible or inspired and just because those commandments were first written in stone, doesn't mean that they provide a solid foundation that answers life's questions. However, next time someone tells you that they live by the Ten Commandments as their guide for life, ask them to recite them. You may be surprised by their reply.