Readings for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time: SIR 15: 15-20; PS 119: 1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; I Cor 2: 6-10; MT 5: 17-37.The emphasis in today’s liturgy of the word is on the wonders of God’s law. “Keep the commandments; no one has a license to sin,” the first reading from Sirach intones. “Walk blamelessly in God’s law; observe its decrees; delight in its wonder,” sings the psalmist in today’s responsorial. And then in the Gospel reading Jesus presents himself as the defender of even the least of the commandments. Break the least, he says, and you’ll be least in God’s Kingdom.On hearing all of this, I couldn’t but squirm on behalf of Christian Trump supporters who respect what they consider God’s Word. After all, The Donald seems to live by his own rules. And those guidelines don’t seem to have much to do with the Bible’s Ten and the delight, joy, and fulfillment today’s readings suggest infallibly result from observance of the Decalogue. Or as comedian, Bill Maher put it during the campaign season, “It’s hard to bring up the Ten Commandments when your candidate has spent most his life breaking all of them.”On the other hand, Richard Dawkins, a sworn enemy of Christianity has formulated his own Ten Commandments. Ironically, Dawkins’ rules are more in harmony with today’s delight-full estimation of God’s Law. In fact, they seem more worthy of Christian support than the one’s Mr. Trump apparently lives by.So just for fun, in the light of today’s readings, let’s contrast the two sets of commandments, and see what we can learn. It might be that Dawkins’ natural law commandments are more promising in terms of Nature’s delight, joy and peace than what we hear implicitly proclaimed by casino king Donald Trump and his Christian followers.
Begin with Mr. Trump. Here’s how humorist Neel Ingram compared the Bible’s Ten Commandments with what seems to be their Trumpian counterparts. (Ingram hosts a website called Chewing The Fat With God). Using Trump’s own words, Ingram writes:
Commandment 1: You shall have no other gods before Me.
Commandment 10: You shall not covet anything that is your neighbor’s.
Commandment 10 (Trump Edition): Don’t covet. I’m really rich. When you’re really rich there’s nothing to covet. Except p*ssy. When you’re a star you can do anything. Grab them by the p*ssy. It’s amazing. Terrific.
Mr. Trump’s outrageous profanity aside, now take a look at what today’s readings have to say about God’s law. All of them (and especially Jesus’ words) suggest that “God’s Law” has nothing to do with Mr. Trump’s guiding principles. Neither is it written in stone. Instead, God’s commandments are enshrined deep in the human heart. And human happiness is impossible without observing that law which in its essence is no different from nature’s law.
That’s the line Richard Dawkins takes. Beginning with The Golden Rule, he lists his Ten Commandments in the following words:
Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you
2. In all things, strive to cause no harm
3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.
5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder
6. Always seek to be learning something new
7. Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
8. Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.
10. Question everything
Dawkins also has something to say about that fraught area of sexuality which evidently so concerns D.T. and his Christian friends. But whereas The Donald emphasizes power and exploitation while his friends emphasize prohibition and suppression, Mr. Dawkins’ commandments stress the joy and freedom centralized in today’s readings. Dawkins writes:
Enjoy your own sexual life (as long as it does not harm to others), and let others enjoy their sexual lives in private according to their own inclinations which in any case are none of your business.
2. Don’t discriminate against or oppress anyone because of their sex, race or (insofar as possible) species.
3. Don’t indoctrinate your children. Teach them to think for themselves, how to weigh evidence, and how to disagree with you.
4. Respect the future beyond the temporal limits of your own life.
Now those laws are “delightful,” wouldn’t you agree? They seem to make sense because they reflect human nature and nature’s laws. Their observance could bring the world together rather than tearing it apart on the basis of supposedly revealed religious dogmas.
That’s what Roman Catholic (but suspended) theologian, Hans Kung thinks. He says that such a “global ethic” is necessary to finally end the armed conflicts that characterize our age. Towards that end, Kung has articulated four principles: (1) International peace is impossible without peace between religions; (2) there can be no inter-religious peace without inter-religious dialog; (3) there can be no inter-religious dialog without agreement about a global ethic, and (4) our world cannot survive without such an ethic that is universally accepted.
The United Nations seconds Dr. Kung. It boils down his desired global ethic to just four basic “commandments”: (1) Don’t kill; (2) Don’t rape; (3) Don’t lie, and (4) Don’t steal.
Could it be that Christians have more to learn about God’s law from an atheist than from the authoritarian so many Christians and Christian pastors evidently support?
In any case, while the latter promises eternal conflict, the former holds hope of dialog, mutual understanding, and cessation of hostilities.
The choice is ours: Trump’s self-serving law or God’s law written in our hearts.