So you think you know a few things. Not a lot of things, like how to perform brain surgery, but a few things you’ve known for years and accepted without question. This week I learned this is sometimes not the case.
I’m talking about the Ten Commandments.
No, this is not a religious post, it’s a post about diversity.
Most people are aware that Meryl Streep recently received a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globe ceremonies and that her acceptance speech highlighted the inappropriate behavior of a certain someone who is known for ridiculing and bullying anyone who gets in his way. Whatever side of the argument you fall on, you are entitled to it; this is also not a political post.
My revelation came via a Facebook post following the speech, one that asserted Ms. Streep had “born false witness” against a certain someone in her remarks, citing the Ninth Commandment for the “thou shalt not” of this transgression. This gave me pause. As a youngster raised in the Catholic faith, the Ten Commandments were drilled into me a half-century ago. Surely the author of the post meant the Eighth Commandment? To my knowledge, he had unwittingly accused Meryl Streep of coveting her neighbor’s wife. I commented on the post with this concern.
The first reply to my comment was from a person who, I guess, considers themselves an authority on the Ten Commandments: a do unto others-flavored “bs”. The next reply said, “Sorry, you are WRONG!” He cited “thou shalt not commit adultery” and said there was no commandment that covered the coveting of wives. Amazed, I inquired what Ten Commandments he was referring to and listed the ones I remember from childhood. No reply from the critics. Puzzled, I did some research.
As it happens, everybody was right. Hold onto your hat: there is more than one version of the Ten Commandments! No, I am not kidding. If you are Catholic, Augustine or Samaritan, you know the same version I do. For others, number nine has either to do with coveting your neighbor’s house, coveting anything of your neighbor’s or bearing false witness. Who knew? Not one of the Ten Commandments is universally uniform between religions when it comes to sequential order. Not one. If you’re interested in learning more about this here’s one source:
It’s a strange feeling when something you believed was an absolute truth is not so. This got me thinking. If Christian religions are at variance with each other in something as basic as the Ten Commandments, and many of us don’t even realize there is a variance, how much greater the problem when understanding the history and practice of other than Christian religions?
In the twentieth century it was the Jews who were persecuted for being The Other. In present times, an alarming number of people are making noises about registering Muslim Americans, painting an entire religion and culture with their own fear of a handful of violent extremists. Have any of these accusers, I wonder, ever talked to a Muslim American? Surely there are many different sects within this religion, and most of them are rational and respectful of human life? Face it, folks, most of us know nothing about religions that are similar to our own. How many times have I heard someone state that Catholics worship statues? Not true. Without study and inquiry, it’s implausible to judge another’s religious beliefs and understand how those beliefs are carried out in daily life.
And let’s not forget the American part. Muslim Americans have the same right to religious freedom as the rest of us, as guaranteed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Unless, of course, there’s a different version of the Bill of Rights than the one I learned in school. Yes, I just looked into that; no, there is not.
My hope for 2017 is that everyone will make a renewed effort to become objectively informed about the things that trouble them, not through radical right or left talk shows/publications, but through independent inquiry and the fearlessness to discover the reality behind the opinions. Wikipedia has its flaws, but reading their entries is better than wallowing in willful ignorance.
There is a grand and diverse world out there, waiting to be discovered. Seize the adventure!