I’m about to say something that might be considered sacrilege in some parts (including these here parts I live in – namely, the Bible Belt):
I don’t think erecting a Ten Commandments monument on government property is a great idea.
But Arkansas is headed there.
State Senate Bill 939, passed last week by the Senate and the House and sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson for his signature, will allow for the placement of a stone monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Arkansas Capitol.
“There are many historical monuments around the Capitol, and we’re just giving room to another one that has significant historical value,” said state Rep. Kim Hammer, as quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. (Hammer is one of the bill’s 42 sponsors.)
I think that’s an oversimplification of the issue, and I think, as Christians talking about public issues, we tend to do that – oversimplify things – in an effort to make all things seem equal. But sometimes it means we want things to be equal for us.
Have we thought this through?
All things being equal, I’d agree with the state lawmakers who want the monument in public. I am a Christian who practices her faith daily (or at least I try to), and I believe that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on two stone tablets, lo those many centuries ago. I’d even agree that the Commandments have “significant historical value,” as Hammer stated.
And I even agree with what SB939 states: everything from “The courts of the United States of America and of various 29 states frequently cite the Ten Commandments in published decisions” to “God has ordained civil government.” But I’m not sure that this …
“The placement of the monument under this section shall not be construed to mean that the State of Arkansas favors any particular religion or denomination over others.”
… is enough to convince the naysayers – or me.
Because not all things are equal, and not everyone in the good ol’ U S of A is a Christian. And significant historical value? I have to wonder if that was truly the sponsors’ motive. Hammer’s justification seems disingenuous. That’s usually the type of argument we come up with when we think our real argument will fall flat.
And maybe if the monument had been placed a century ago, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But it wasn’t, and we are.
So, as Christians, when we use an argument like “significant historical value” as a way to justify our position but what we really mean is that we want you to shut up and get out of our way, we lose an opportunity to connect, to really engage, with those we purport to want to reach with the Good News of the gospel. In fact, we shut the door in their faces.
I believe Christians are commanded to preach the Good News, and one of those ways is public declaration of our faith without shame or apology. But when it comes to displays of our beliefs on public property, I think we’re opening a can of worms we may not want opened.
Our country was founded on the basis of religious freedom for everyone.
So if Christians place a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds, what’s to stop a Muslim, a Hindu, a Wiccan, an atheist or anyone else whose beliefs with which I differ from placing a monument on that same state government property?
Nothing, in my opinion. Except maybe a passel of lawsuits and a bunch of acrimony. And a lot of lost time, money and goodwill. A bunch of slammed doors.
Is that what we want?
Is that what we as followers of Jesus Christ are looking for? To win some argument so that “our” form of government can dictate how others believe?
Like we could even come close to doing that. (As those liberals are fond of saying 🙂 you can’t legislate morality.)
I am all for defending religious liberty, but I’m also all for common sense.
I believe that each time we argue about a religious display on government property, or some other religious “liberty” that, in reality, is a way to force our beliefs down someone else’s throat, we’re placing one more wedge between “us” (Christ followers) and “them” (those we purport to try to reach with the Good News). Sometimes I think we just want to win.
But if we set up this monument, I think the best we can hope for is a tie.
I was extremely nervous about posting this. I’m not sure who will read it, and I am not looking to offend anyone or stir up a fight. I’ve always tried to stay away from controversial topics on this blog, so this is the first time I’ve written anything like this. (So, a little anxious.)
I could be wrong. Everything I stated above is my opinion, though, and I’m blessed to live in a country where stating an opinion is allowed.
I’m willing to change my mind if someone makes a persuasive counter-argument. Although I’ve made some definite statements on one side of the issue, there are a few topics I feel more strongly about than this one and am willing to argue more vehemently about. This one isn’t a hill I’m willing to die on.
I welcome others’ opinions. I really do. If you agree or disagree with my views on this topic, please feel free to post a comment. I ask only one thing: BE POLITE AND RESPECTFUL. I respect your right to disagree with me; please respect everyone else’s right to do the same.
I’m married to an atheist, who’s also a fellow “former journalist,” and I trust his judgment. I asked him to read this before I published it – not so he’d agree with me but so that he could tell me whether my writing contained gaps in logic. (I’m not a professional debater, folks; I’m just a gal with opinions.)
I prayed about this before posting. I can do nothing without the power of prayer to back me up.
Thank you for reading.