Sunday, July 03, 2005

grasping at space grasps at straws.

Something happens to the Reasonable's grasp of reason after they spend so much time dissembling language from reality. They become less and less capable of thereafter addressing reality through the right use of language. Kirk at Grasping at Space demonstrates that quite well here. He has a hang-up with the Ten Commandments. Seems like he sees government deifying itself just because some public buildings display them. Yeah. I'm sure that's it. Wonder if he has the same concern when that Judicial Branch of Government defines the reality of freedom for the nation? I'll bet a pint of guiness I'll here crickets if I ask him. Anyways, observe the dissembling:

Regarding those final six, there are some modern zealots who believe that humanity is so debased and morally stupid that it could never have figured out, without divine intervention, that lying, cheating, stealing and murdering were generally bad ideas.

I wonder if Kirk dwells in some strange, unrevealed paradise or something. He certainly no student of history. Consider all of the fantastic epics of history from every civilization of the ancient world. Where is lying, cheating, stealing and murder condemned in and of themselves? In nearly ever epic, from Gilgamesh to The Odyssey, the hero engages in some type of behavior prohibited by the commandments. Instead of condemnation, his acts contribute to his heroic status. Odysseus lies, cheats, steals, adulterates and sometimes kills his way throughout Homer's great epic. His ultimate reward is the peace of returning to his long, lost Penelope at last. The legal codes and civil practices of even the lawgiving Hammurubian Babylonians made unjust differentiation in the distribution of justice. Peasants could expect worse punishment than a nobleman for the commission of the exact same crime. The Ten Commandments express the Rule of Law in civilization's collective memory for the first time: No one is above the Law. All are equal in the sight of God. Besides, all Kirk has to do is pick up a newspaper or even check the headline news on his homepage. Look at how many choose to behave when they have figured out, with divine intervention, what evil acts are. Imagine how much worse they could act if it were completely up to them to figure it out on their own. Kirk clearly denies the reality of sin and it's consequence on our ability to reason, concupescience, a disordered desire to sin and to avoid virtue.

He's not finished, though. There are the four commandments in particular that concern him:

The first four Commandments are the ones that interest me here.

When any commandments such as the first four issue forth from a theocratic entity (as the Commandments originally did), the explicit message is that one should be unwaveringly dedicated to one’s God, while the implicit message is that the government is God. When a modern government endorses the public display of the Ten Commandments, it is implicitly demanding a degree of respect that no government ever can deserve.

He's certainly right that no government made by man--including the constitutional republic of the United States--deserves more respect and obedience than God. However, his conclusion that the public display of the commandments implicitly elevates government to God is absurd. Or perhaps I misread him here. Indeed! He believes that the commandments come froma "theocratic entity", i.e. a state of some kind. Perhaps he believes the modern biblical scholarship tripe that the Kingdom of Israel or Judah crafted the commandments based on some oral traditions being passed on or such other nonsense. He doesn't believe that the Commandments come from God. He therefore believes that any government that choses to display them is putting on the priestly robes in order to more legitimately lay claim to the people's loyalty.

Where to begin? Oh, right. The Biblical Scholarship nonsense. Only hardened atheists or their gullible dupes will find this "theocratic entity" business convincing. I don't know which of these Kirk is and I don't care in the context of this post. The point is that no ancient government wrote the Decalogue. The Commandments themselves are inscribed in all of our hearts because they are present in the Moral Law that is part of the Natural Law. Kirk is correct to point out that one can naturally determine the immortality of murder and the like. The Ten Commandments, however, provide that divine assistance a sin-addicted people need in order to clearly see their own condition. That is what the Commandments do. They invite all to respond to holiness. They account for what unholiness looks like. They convince the world that the world needs God in order to fully live a life of Truth and Love. They need God to be fully human. Reason suggests that if God loves humanity, then God will provide humanity with a way to come to know and experience him. The Ten Commandments supply this divine provision.

When government choses to display the commandments, they honor the tradition of the people from whom government emerged and to whom it remains accountable. The founding generations of this country lived in a culture nourished on enlightenment and Judeo-Christian philosophy. First and foremost, our founding fathers recognized that the commandments stood as that icon of the Rule of Law. No one may place oneself unjustly above anyone else. Our national heritage, the Declaration of Independence, expresses the summit of this understanding: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Thomas Jefferson affirms the natural law made evident by the Ten Commandments. Honoring the culture of our founding generation--and the one many Americans still adhere to today--is not, in any way, implicitly demanding the respect that is due only to God. It is preserving the unspoken will of the people, who have passed down the values that have secured our constitution, our institutions of government and society, and even the very creed that has become our national identity.

Stumbling, as the straws he mistook for a rational argument slip through his fingers, he makes an ironic observation:

To the best of my knowledge, there is no statement to that effect in the dicta of any court decision.

That's probably because even the most Reasonable judge in America has not subscribed to this utterly ridiculous argument. Perhaps, Kirk, you may wish to follow their lead on this one.