Judge Roy Moore may no longer be front page news, but his strange political theology has spawned a movement that seems to be gaining headway every day. With the judge as the frequent headliner, leaders within the Christian Right are organizing Ten Commandment rallies all across the country. This is no trifling movement. A rally in Dallas recently drew more that 5,000 people.
Judge Moore has even managed to draw the U.S. Congress in on the act. Rep. Robert Aderholt and Sen. Richard Shelby, both from Alabama, have introduced a bill that would remove jurisdiction from the federal courts in matters involving “the acknowledgment of God” in public places. The law, written by Judge Moore and his lawyer, would make it possible for any public venue to be used to showcase the Ten Commandments.
Interestingly, the bill is titled “The Constitution Restoration Act,” suggesting that the Constitution needs to have something restored. The judge and his follower believe that what is missing is the founder’s intent to make America a Christian nation. Liberal courts, they say, have erroneously removed this feature from the Constitution and the “Restoration Act” puts it back.
Instead of calling the bill the Restoration Act, however, it ought to be called “the revisionist act.” The passage of this law would revise history and bring it in line with the political purposes of the religious right. No serious student of the U.S. Constitution believes it was ever a Christian document.
Even some among the Christian Right recognize this. Gary North, in his book Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism acknowledges that the ratification of the Constitution was a “judicial break with Christian America.” He argues that Article Six which states that there will be no religious test for public office creates a “legal barrier to Christian theocracy.”
Unfortunately it is not just U.S. history that’s being revised. Judge Moore and his supporters are also re-writing the meaning of Christianity. All those who champion a theology that makes the acknowledgement of God almost exclusively about the Ten Commandments leaves out an important component. Where is Christ in their Christianity?
This preoccupation with the Ten Commandments is clearly out of step with the teachings of the New Testament. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount dealt a devastating blow to the legalisms of the law. He expanded the reach of the Ten Commandments to encompassing both act and attitude. The result of this expansion means the laws are impossible to keep. After all if anger is the same as murder, who is there who is not guilty? Many theologians believe that was precisely Jesus’ purpose—to demonstrate the inability of the law to create moral maturity.
In one of his letters the Apostle Paul describes the law as a temporary “custodian” that was no longer needed when Christ appeared. Christ, Paul wrote, is the end of the law. Following Jesus’ lead Paul wrote, “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
This has been the traditional Christian view of the law for over 2,000 years. What Judge Moore and his friends offer is a strange innovation. They are promoting a view of Christianity which ignores Jesus.
Think about it for a minute. Why do Christians want the Ten Commandments displayed and celebrated in public places? Why not the Sermon on the Mount? Why ignore the very words of Jesus—the center piece of Christian wisdom.
It’s enough to make you wonder if there is something in Jesus’ teaching that these new fangled Christians just don’t like.
James L. Evans is pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church, Pelham, Ala.