“In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including Satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Statehouse.
“The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality.” (Source)
This is not a post about my feelings on church and state. I’ve talked about that before in an article I posted a while back at Provoketive Magazine. Every Christian should be aware of these issues. I will quickly add that the Oklahomans did it because they probably thought they had legal precedent on their side. In Van Orden v. Perry, the Supreme Court allowed a display of the Ten Commandments to stand, but for very specific reasons. You know, as a Christian, we really should be involved with reading and informing ourselves about why the Supreme Court does what it does instead of just watching television to get them to explain it to us.
With all that legal mumbo jumbo aside, I do want to discuss what I feel are some serious problems that cling to this issue like socks to a polo shirt when you take it out of the dryer.
1. Examining our rationale behind placing the Ten Commandments
Don’t start booing me yet. Why are we so intent on engraving the Ten Commandments on a six ton block of granite and placing it in front of courthouses?
No, I know why. I’ve heard the reasons. Here’s one – “It’s our heritage. When they took prayer and the Ten Commandments out of schools, things started getting worse.” Alright then. There is an issue at stake and it needs to be addressed when that question is asked. What if Christianity isn’t the majority religion one day?
I live in a state where prayers are still said before ballgames. But what if one day Christians aren’t the majority and another world religion decides that they have the right to say the prayers instead of the Christians because they have more people?
See the problem? We can’t allow the government to establish one religion, but we should encourage religious rights for all people.
Another thing that comes up: “We need to have it there so our kids and grandkids can see it and know this is a Christian nation.” Alrighty. If you can get them distracted away from their iPad long enough to see the six ton rock, that’s great. The idea that a rock can be a tool for witnessing strikes me a little strange.
Jesus didn’t say, “Go ye therefore unto all the world, placing the Ten Commandments onto large granite blocks so all can see them, read the law and be led to me.” Nope. We’re supposed to be individually sharing the love of Christ, his compassion, and showing them the need for a Savior. Sure, the Ten Commandments are a great starting point. But they work much better when you carry them around with you instead of putting them on a stationary stump of granite.
2. Putting up solid granite monuments with any religious iconography seems desperate
Are we putting up icons so that we can ensure a legacy of Christianity will be remembered? It’s almost as if we’re saying, “Well, we sure didn’t go out and witness to people in our neighborhood or in other countries, but we put up this granite slab that had the Ten Commandments on it. That thing sure isn’t going anywhere.”
It’s a sick sort of desperation. We feel like the brand of American Christianity is slipping away. And I might note that the American brand of Christianity is not necessarily always the same as what the Founder created. But here we are in our churches with people leaving at a high rate, people on the outside hurting and skeptical and we are chiseling rocks.
Reminds me of Percy Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias (which is cooler when Bryan Cranston reads it):
Is that what will be left of our brand of Christianity? “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare.”
It might be if as a church we don’t start looking outside to the same people Jesus was looking at. Too often our churches look like a country club clique. Heaven forbid an alcoholic, soldier with PTSD, adulterer, destitute family, or fallen pastor walk through our doors. There is a huge difference in the way Jesus did things and the way most of us do things. He went out and found people. A lot of us sit and wait for people to come to us. And if we don’t like how they look, smell, act or perform, we run them off.
3. The Satanic Church doesn’t really need a monument
In case you missed it, the Ten Commandment granite block is in Oklahoma. The particular church of Satan that wants to build a monument of its own to Lucifer is located in New York. The church of Satan does have the right to worship freely without persecution by the government. Let’s be clear about that.
But I’m not sure they should even be looking at constructing a monument. There are plenty of monuments dedicated to evil in this country. As Christians, each of us has violated the Ten Commandments on a regular basis. We have allowed ourselves to become desensitized to sin and we break the very rules we want to chisel on that granite.
Case in point – I set up this site to help pastors who have committed adultery and the people and churches who have been effected by their fall. Other sins? We lie, we steal, we cheat, we do not honor God with our lives, we covet, we hate our neighbor and by doing so, we’ve already built monuments to evil that have done more harm than any church of Satan could ever do.
And by allowing ourselves to become so filled with sin, we have neglected the Gospel and personal holiness.
So what do we do? In Revelation 2:12-17, John wrote to the city of Pergamum where he said the “throne of Satan” resided. The throne he was referring to was probably Pergamon Altar built for the worship of Zeus. It was huge and was very visible. What did Paul say to do about it? Repent and live a godly life.
We don’t need the Ten Commandments on a huge block in the middle of our town. Parents, grandparents, we need to be sharing Christ with our teachers. Pastors, youth directors, choir leaders – teach the people in the pews solid theology and how to adore Christ. Through the Word, through prayer, through biblical worship.
Can it be done? It has to be done. When people come face to face with Jesus Christ, they won’t leave. When they hear the Gospel proclaimed, it will not return void. “For how will they hear without a six ton granite block?” No. They won’t hear without Christians proclaiming the message.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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