Why is this a thing in my state? IN MY TOWN?

NM trial over Ten Commandments monument starts

I think I saw this statue once and didn’t know what was on it. I guess I thought it was a WWII memorial, like others I’d seen with lists of names on it. I didn’t know it was the Ten Commandments.

Google Maps view of monument from
highway 550. Speed limit here is
55mph and most people just see a blur.

It’s in a part of town that I rarely visit. It’s not on main street or in a place where any business or residential traffic goes past. It’s just off the highway where people are going 55 mph. And even then it’s behind some trees. In spite of the angle of the picture in the article above, the statue isn’t that big, about 3 feet tall. The only people that would see it are those that have business at city hall.

The monument “family” in front of city
hall. The 10 Commandments is right by
the door.

Now to be fair, this statue was not paid for with tax money. It was commissioned and erected by private individuals. City statute allows private ‘gifting’ of historical statues, with approval from city council.  A councilman preceded over the dedication ceremony. (There are four other ‘tablets’ that can be seen in this picture to the right. They are the text of the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. The Ten Commandments is right by the door. Another will be added on July 4, 2014 – The Bill of Rights.)

Link to ACLU statement from 2012:
ACLU Sues Bloomfield for Display of 10 Commandments

In my opinion, the only purpose this monument serves is to lead people to believe that city government is based on Judaic/Christian law. Especially given that it’s right by the front door and people would walk past it from the parking lot to whatever business they might have inside.

I know that many will argue that the Ten Commandments are the basis of most laws in the United States and are therefore ‘historical’. But the truth is, there are other ‘ancient’ law codes, some older than the time of Moses, that are nearly identical and some historians may even believe to be the basis of the Mosaic code (the code of Hammurabi, for example.)

One group seems to be behind the erecting of these tablets. The Four Corners Historical Monument Project. I am not sure what their motivation is behind all of this, right in front of a small town city hall, but they are doing. I suspect that the others were erected to ‘validate’ the Ten Commandment tablet, but that’s just my speculation.

And now we get to my thoughts. *These are just my opinions and not those of anyone connected to this project or the lawsuit.

Why the heck is so much time, money, and effort being spent on a tiny little grassy area in front of a building that few people spend any appreciable amount of time at? If these monuments are so important to the city, why not put them in a park? Or in front of the library? Or in the center of main street on the island? Why on a tiny grassy area just off the highway?

And, ok, so these are historical documents. The Declaration of Independence? Great. The Gettysburg Address? Fabulous. The Bill of Rights? Fantastic. But why the Ten Commandments? Show me one thing, one letter, one scrap of paper from Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, or any single one of the founding fathers that shows a direct correlation between the Ten Commandments, or any other part of the Bible, and the Founding Documents. Anything. Anything at all.

The only purpose of the Ten Commandments monument in front of City Hall, and right by the main entrance, is to imply that the city government of Bloomfield New Mexico is primarily guided by the Ten Commandments. I don’t care what other justification anyone else comes up with, that is the only logical explanation of the existence and placement of that hunk of rock in front of city hall.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a Christian. I love and appreciate the Ten Commandments. But, and I cannot stress this strongly enough, I hate public displays of them. Hate them with a passion. Same goes for Nativity scenes on public land (in front of a church, great, in a public park, not so much), or crosses and crucifixes on publicly funded land. Or Stars of David, or atheist symbols, or anything related to religious (or anti-religious) belief on public land. In a cemetery where you’ve paid for the plot, or on church land or in front of your own house, great. First amendment. Go for it. Put up whatever you want. Put up a giant penis. It’s your place and your rights.

On public land? No. No no no no no. The founding documents, great. Statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, fantastic. Those are history. Those are important events in AMERICAN history. And while it can be argued that some of the so-called Founding Fathers were, indeed, religious men, there is absolutely no direct connection to what they believed religiously and what they wrote and ratified in the founding of this nation. In fact, it seems they went out of their way to promote religious freedom. They wanted to be clear that they were not endorsing, supporting, or in any other way trying to justify one belief over another. There is absolutely no proof of any direct connection between the “Big Ten” and the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or anything else. At all.

And if we are talking about history, if we really want to claim that the founding fathers were Christians and everything they wrote was based on their faith in Christ, then we need to look at what Christ said about ‘the law’:

Matthew 22:37-40 And He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

If we are promoting the idea that the founding fathers were Christians, then this is what we should be posting instead of the Ten Commandments. The monuments should simply say “Love you neighbor as yourself”. That’s it and that’s all. Why is no one making big rock tablets that say that?

The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelite people while they were being led by Moses to the Promised land. They were meant to guide and direct them so long as they existed as a nation. That was the original covenant, given to the Israelites. Jesus brought us the New Covenant. (Old Testament and New Testament mean, literally, Old and New Covenant). If we, as Christians, are under the New Covenant, then the Old Covenant, while historical, no longer applies. And even then, the New Covenant only applies to those who choose to believe and follow it, it should not be FORCED on anyone. It should not be shoved in people’s faced and imposed upon them in any sort of legislative manner and not ever EVER on public land.

I am glad that the case has been brought against the monument in front of my city hall. It sends the wrong message to everyone that visits the building, especially in an area of the country where, while there are many religious people that follow a Judeo/Christian tradition, there are many other diverse beliefs in this area. Not the least of which is the traditional Navajo (or, more correctly Dine’) religion. By and large the Dine’ people are the dominant ‘race’ in this area. The Ten Commandment are almost a slap in the face to some of the elderly among them that were forced into religious schools where they faced ridicule and abuse. So are the founding documents, for that matter, but since Bloomfield is on US land I can’t really argue much more against them.

I guess what really burns my butt is the blending of religion and patriotism. Love God and Love your Country. As if you can’t do that latter unless you do the former. It’s like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are on the backside of the Cross with Jesus. You can’t have one without the other.

That’s crap.

There are atheists and agnostics and many other ‘non-Jesus believing’ people that have done great things for this country. They have fought and bled and died for this nation. For the principles in the Constitution, not the Bible. Their sacrifice is dishonored if we are going to insist that religion is intrinsically tied to patriotism.

I hope the ACLU and those they represent win this case in my hometown and the monument is taken down. But I also hope that the group behind the monuments keeps the others up. I kind of like them, even if that little bit of grass is kind of getting crowded. (I would really like to see them at one of the public parks. Like Salmon Park, which is in the middle of town and is a nice area to spread a picnic blanket. It could use some public art.)

Update: On August 9, 2014, our local station reported that the district court has ordered the monument to be removed within the month. See the story here.

Is it important to believe every word of the Bible is 100 literal? What if you can't/won't? My experience.

Note: I am not a theologian, nor am I Bible or language scholar. I do study the Bible, but not as a vocation. I also study other religions as well as science, but again, for my own edification not as a career. I write this blog not to be ‘right’, but rather to just share my own journey and to open the door to discussion.  The views presented here are mine unless otherwise noted.

When I started this blog I thought I would pursue any avenue I could to let people know it exists. One of the things I did was join Reddit.

If you are not familiar with Reddit it is a site where… uh… well, hmm… how to describe it… Well Wikipedia says this:

Reddit /ˈrɛdɪt/,[3] stylized as reddit,[4] is a social news and entertainment website where registered users submit content in the form of links or text posts. Users then vote each submission “up” or “down” to rank the post and determine its position on the site’s pages. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit)

My experience, however, is that you post something on Reddit and then people spend great amounts of energy insulting your intelligence and mother. For example, I shared a link to my first “What the Bible Really Says” post, talking about Genesis 1 and the creation story. So far I’ve gotten 200 responses regarding how stupid I am and how any view that doesn’t take the “Creation in 7 days” story literally is doomed to hell and also that person’s mother must have been a slut. And those are the nice ones.

Seriously. I can’t make this stuff up.

Now I am sure there are many many great communities of people on Reddit and many great discussions going on. Just not in the community I tried to share my link.

It seems the overwhelming point of view there is that the Bible and (in this case) the 7 day creation story have to be taken literally because if you can’t believe that, how can you believe anything?

When I became a Christian I did a lot of studying. Well, before actually. This was in the mid 90s and the Internet wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now. AOL was still the main way to connect and websites were still in their infancy. I won’t share the whole story as to why I started on that path, but it’s sufficient to say that I didn’t come to my faith lightly. I read. A lot. I read the Bible, I read the Koran, I read books by atheists, I read books by “New Agers”. For a time I was unemployed and spent a lot of time at the library. Needless to say I read a lot. I was on the search for truth. A lot of people claimed a lot of stuff was true. What, if any of it, really was true?

In another post I will share how and why I arrived at Christianity as true. (It’s a long story.) But I did. 

I don’t really remember if there was a point that I felt that everything in the Bible was 100% true. That is to say 100% literal. But as I continue to read and study and grow in my faith I am coming to the conclusion that some of these things CAN’T be true, at least not in a literal history kind of way.

Now to be clear, obviously not everything in the Bible is completely literal. There are long stretches of poetry and songs. If some of the things in Psalms about God are meant to be taken as completely literal, then God has wings like a giant chicken. So already, out of the gate, even those that think the Bible should be taken literally will acknowledge that there are some things that are figurative. The parables of Jesus are another example. They were stories to teach a lesson, not necessarily things that literally happened.

So I’ll focus on the first chapter of Genesis since it was my post on that topic that crushed my self esteem and ruined my life (ok, not really, but some responses were nasty). Are these stories history or are they myths? If they are myths are they less true? By that I mean are they to be discarded or, like the parables of Jesus, are they meant to share a TRUTH that is too big to comprehend otherwise?

In the post that I shared with my friends on Reddit I share a “what if” about the seven days of creation. What if that story isn’t meant to be literal but was used to teach people about God using an easy to remember mnemonic (seven comes up a lot in the Bible)? It was just a “what if” and not something that I had researched or anything, or even really had incorporated into my own belief. But if some of those folks on Reddit had their way, they would have burned me at the stake.

But were they right in their criticism of my theory? Do we HAVE to take Genesis 1 as history? If we don’t believe it then do we have to throw everything else, from Exodus to Revelation, out with the trash?

What if I CAN’T believe it?

I love the Bible. I really do. But I can’t take everything, especially in the early chapters of Genesis, as history. I really can’t.

Why?

Science. Observation. Using my eyeballs and reading books. Logic….

Dinosaurs existed. Genetics and evolution are facts, observable facts. Science is not the enemy of the Bible, in spite of what many would say. In fact there are many that would say you have to throw out science to believe the Bible. Or worse, come up with ridiculous, unprovable, ideas to skirt around proven science.

But to do that you would have to deny some of the very basic things you can observe. The world is round, the earth orbits the sun, dogs can be bred into different bree
ds, insects can develop immunities to insecticides, babies develop from the egg and sperm of their parents and on and on and on. These are things that you can SEE, these are things that are PROVEN. Even a child ‘gets it’. 

But what about the “bigger” things? Like ‘amoebas to man’ evolution? What about million year old rocks? Fossilization? The Big Bang? Those aren’t things that can be directly observed, how can we trust scientists when they talk about these things as fact? Aren’t they just speculating?

The mistake here is to oversimplify the science. Or to make it overly complicated. Or to just keep asking “how do you know you can trust it?” over and over until people start to doubt it. Things like radiometric dating that shows the age of rock and fossils. There are long, complicated equations that explain how it works, equations that I don’t understand. And most others don’t either. So those that would bring doubt to it just say over and over “how do you know? How can you trust it?” until people don’t think it can be trusted.

Do I fully understand God’s creative process? No. Do I understand all the science behind those theories? No. But I understand some. And from the little I do understand, and a basic high school understanding of the scientific process, I can see that these thing can be trusted.

Is it important to believe that God spoke and there it was? Is it important to believe that there was a literal world-wide flood and just some animals in a boat from which the world was repopulated?

No. I don’t think it is. Just because these stories are stories doesn’t mean they aren’t TRUE. Just because they are myth and not history does not mean that there isn’t some truth in them. Let me explain.

Jesus told parables. These were stories meant to teach a lesson. We still use parables today to teach our children, fairy tales and Muppets and talking vegetables. These are things that don’t actually happen, but we use them to give our children important truths about life.

I think that is what the Genesis stories are about. God created the world and the stars and the planets and everything. That is too much for the human mind to comprehend. So rather than explain “well, this is how DNA is formed and this is how the fusion in the center of stars works and this is how a sperm and an egg become a living being”, the early people of Israel shared a story in 7 simple steps. It wasn’t about HOW, it was about WHO. The point isn’t 7 days, the point is GOD SAID and there WAS. The point isn’t a guy, a big boat, and a bunch of animals, the point is GOD SPEAKS and man OBEYED. (Note: it is true that many many cultures have a similar flood story, including a boat and animals – who knows why. Maybe there is a grain of truth there, but still not the point.)

Those who insist on the book of Genesis being literal are missing the point. They are putting the process above the Person. They are putting history above the author. Those that debate miracles over science are not trusting that God is GOD and forgetting that the HOW is not as important as the WHY. 

What do you think? If we are Bible believing people, are we to take it all literally? Or should we just throw the whole thing out? If you’re not a Christian, what do you think of people who insist on the Bible being 100% literal?