Lindsey Eck’s
L · E · A · V · E · S   of   O · A · K

New Leaf
Feature Articles  •  Reviews  •  Opinion Index
Archives  •  Toons  •  Home

31 August 2003
Political Theater of the Absurd: Act III
The Apostle

California may have given it the old Hollywood try, and Texas may have put a new “nay” into its remake of an old horse opera, but the award for Most Absurd Performance by a Supposedly Democratic State must go, once again, to Alabama. When the budget gets tight, don‘t focus on who’s going to make up the shortfall. Fix your sights on a monument to Old Testament scriptures. Yessir, next to the Confederate Battle Flag, no symbol stirs up good Christians into fits of rage and screams of revenge — offering them a brief Forrest Gump moment in front of the media eye — like a gigantic stone Ten Commandments fetish.

But Alabama’s own apostle — Judge Roy Bean, er, Moore — was quoted saying: “This case isn’t about a monument, it isn’t about politics or religion.” Uh-huh. Brief to Judge Moore: It’s too late to get yourself into Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. (Maybe there'll be a second edition.) If this Madness in Montgomery isn’t about religion or politics, why are commentators and common taters alike calling Judge Roy’s stunt a prelude to a gubernatorial (accent, once again, on the “goober”) run? The Commandments don’t prohibit lying as such, just “bearing false witness.” But, since this is all taking place in a courthouse in front of the national press, Judge Roy’s mendacious statements come dangerously close to violating Commandment IX (or might that be VIII — there’s disagreement over numbering), don't they?

I wouldn’t be the first to compare the mob dancing around the stone sculpture to idolaters, nor the sculpture itself to a graven image. But it’s a little odd, that thing about the graven images, eh? Lying per se didn’t make God’s Top Ten List, but graven images are right out.

Since one way I make my living is engraving I’ve been a bit worried about that Second (?) Commandment. True, this musical equivalent of typesetting doesn’t involve actual engraving of plates anymore (it’s all done by computer) but does that make it okay? And what about paper money, which is still printed by engraving? That “all-seeing eye” atop the pyramid on the back of the buck — if that isn’t a graven image, then I’d like to see one. But is the lesson to avoid paper money and trust only in gold — or to avoid the love of money in general? This Bible interpretation just gets so confusing. The Good Book is so much clearer when it comes to lending money at interest. That’s condemned all over the place. So why aren’t Judge Moore and his brethren out there trying to shut down the local Bank of America?

What if we really did have to hang these Commandments in public classrooms? Would we have to have a whole new brand of “in service” training on graven images so teachers can tell the little tykes whether or not they’re in compliance with the Law as posted? And what are the implications for metal shop?

That whole “graven image” business is just the beginning. Once you take your sights off the artist’s representation of the Commandments and look at the list itself, it starts to hit you: Is this particular list really the foundation of our law and morality? And are we even sure what it says?

In fact, the Commandments appear twice in the Bible, once in Exodus and once in Deuteronomy, with some differences in the text. Further, there is disagreement over how to divvy up those verses into a Top Ten list. The way some count to ten, this is the First Commandment:

I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. (Exodus 5:6–7, KJV)

I don’t know how that comports with a constitutional separation of church and state. But, theology aside, we might ask what this verse has to do with the good citizens of Alabama. I suppose black Alabamians can claim to have been led out of “bondage,” but what about Egypt? If you glance at ol’ Roy’s actual tablet, you’ll notice the part about Egypt has been edited out, along with other uncomfortable stuff like coveting thy neighbor’s maidservant.

Judge Roy should be less cavalier when it comes to editing the Laws of Moses. After all, as Jesus put it:

And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. (Luke 16:17)

Had Roy the Apostle read his Good Book all the way to the back, he might have come across this from Paul’s Letter to Titus:

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. … But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. (3:1–2, 9)

That’s the problem with mixing politics and religion. That’s why the Founders (after centuries of European wars over questions such as whether God really was inside a cracker, or just metaphorically) bequeathed us a legacy of keeping the two apart. That’s why Judge Roy has to deny his theatrical gesture is about either one. It isn’t so much believers against unbelievers, it’s the fact that believers disagree bitterly among themselves on matters that need not concern the state. Catholic readers will already be dubbing me a heathen for citing the KJV when they read the Douay translation. And on and on.

Justice Roy Moore joins the contemporary American trend in ignoring the very real problems of governance and taxation while rallying a childish-minded electorate around a visible symbol. The relevant quote isn’t from the Bible, but from Shakespeare: “The Devil can cite Scripture to his purpose.”

All this plays out before the video cameras precisely while the state’s ultraconservative G.O.P. governor — and let’s give him credit for Texas-sized cojones — has been arguing for somewhat higher and far more equitable taxation in order to improve services to the poor and get Alabama off the bottom of the nation’s social-health lists. He thinks that’s what Jesus would do.

Act I
Arnold Schwarzenegger  •  Gray Davis
Cruz Bustamante  •  Arianna Huffington
California Split

The Golden State opts for entertainment over governance in this lame comedy based on a goober-natorial recall.

Act II
Tom DeLay  •  Rick Perry 
Gonzalo Barrientos
The Unforgiven

Texas Democrats vamoose to the high desert while the Grand Old Posse tries to round ’em up. But are there any good guys in this overlong Western?

Back to Intro

Top  •  Feature Articles  •  Reviews  •  Opinion Index
New Leaf  •  Archives  •  Toons  •  Home

“Leaves of Oak” © MMIII Lindsey D. Eck. All rights reserved.
Articles may not be republished in any medium, including reuploading to the Web, without permission.