I am the Anti-Christ!
Many Americans think that Barack Obama has already filled the job, but it’s a big world so I think there’s room for a few of us out here.
Lionel, a jet-black man from Guyana said to me,
How can you be a good person and not a Christian?”
He looked at me as forthright and innocently as anyone has ever done.
Home for me at the time (1982) was a small basement suite in a little house in the bucolic, fruit-growing countryside of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Lionel, the ebony-skinned Guyanan, lived next door with his wife and 6 kids in a tiny wooden rental house that was more like a poor southern bayou shack than a true house. They were poor but happy people, and their little kids were the absolute cutest things going.
Lionel and I would get together a couple of times a week and lift weights and chat in the basement laundry room beside our suite. He and his burgeoning family had moved to Canada so that he could study theology at Acadia University in Wolfville. He wanted to be a man of Christ and God. He wanted to share his beliefs and his love of Christ. He wanted me to be like him.
I was the antithesis of his belief that to be a good person, one had to believe in Christ. He’d been taught this all of his life, and though he knew he should dislike or reject me, he couldn’t dig up a reason to hate or at least pity me. It was frustrating for the poor guy. I needed (and need) lots of help, just not the kind that Lionel was offering. I liked Lionel a lot.
To Lionel, you couldn’t NOT believe in a God and still live a moral life. A moral person must read and follow the scriptures laid out in the Book of Exodus.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
- You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…
- You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
- Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.
Commandment numbers 1 through 4 are really just protection for the benefit of the Creator and don’t hold a lot of sway in the life of the average person. But any business or operation out there needs some rules to protect their property, and God is no exception. God, in today’s multicultural and technological world, is a brand like Coca-Cola or McDonalds and we don’t want anyone mucking up that value. Competition from outside could sully or detract from the brand, and so some rules are necessary to keep the religion lawyers in litigation heaven. These rules all make sense when you consider the outside forces that would attempt to corrupt or steal the product. Just like Steve Jobs protecting the iPhone specs, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” doesn’t want or need someone stealing His flock.
5. Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
If the land the Lord has given you happens to be your parents’ home, then I think that today’s generation of young MAN-BOYS have taken this commandment to heart. The modern concept of “Failure to Launch” is buried within this commandment. Large numbers of 20’s to 30’s males, hands clenched to their joysticks, are camped on the basement sofas of their parents, some drawn in by the siren call of computer and TV screens, others too paralyzed by the nervous fear of real world responsibilities. I don’t think this is the land the Lord intended to give young folk to live long in, but how could He have anticipated the rise of X-Box and internet porn 2,000 years ago?
6. You shall not murder.
This is a great commandment. From early childhood, it’s pretty clear that most of us have an innate desire to bludgeon and kill our friends and neighbours, right? This command is probably the only thing that has held us back from wanton bloodbaths. Alright, you know this isn’t true. The really neat thing about having a brain is that it helps us realize that if we choose to go about killing others, there is a very clear and present danger that we are going to come under the same threat ourselves VERY VERY soon. Humans may not have a long list of instinctive characteristics, but I’m pretty sure that self-preservation is at the mountain peak of the list. The expression Live and Let Live is as good a commandment as the one provided in Exodus. It’s called a Basic Truth.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
Our intimate relationships are enormously complex and varied. A commitment between two adults of whatever gender involves a great deal of trust and emotion. The core structure of our society rests on a bed of family stability that works best in the presence of a pair of parents. Screwing around with another hottie could be great fun and pleasureful, but knocks a leg out of the tribal chair that we sit upon. This one can cause a lot of bruising. “Look but don’t touch” might do the job here except it kinda messes with commandment #10.
8. You shall not steal.
This is really just a copycat version of the You shall not murder commandment. It comes down to the Golden Rule, doesn’t it? Every religious and philosophical organization out there believes in the concept, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You”. Civilized groups know logically that a society that indulges in theft can’t move forward and think about anything other than guarding their refrigerators and Big-Screen TV’s. When I go to work in the morning, do I want the nagging thought to be, “I hope that chicken leg is still waiting for me when I get home”? Reminder to Self: Pay for the next Justin Bieber download!
Simply put, “DON’T LIE”. This commandment needs a touch of interpretation, in my view. Many lies are hurtful or injurious to those we love, and just as often to those we have no use for. Our court systems are jammed to the rafters dealing with this commandment. When I tell the National Enquirer that I had amazing hot sex with Britney Spears (this may or may not be a lie!) and they spread the good news to the world at large, Britney has a right to be pissed off with me. Apparently her latest boyfriend or husband thought he was her one-and-only. He gets mad and sues her for millions of bucks for hurt feelings and loss of reputation. MY LIE…MY BAD!
But, when Britney asks me if I think her ass looks good in those jeans, I’m going to be the first (and for sure not the last) to break this commandment. Break this commandment judiciously or DIE young, I’m afraid! God didn’t think the consequences through fully here or hasn’t had ANY lasting relationships.
10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Most of us are pretty susceptible to this covetness stuff, and all the advertisers know it. Billions of bucks are spent every year on Super Bowl and World Cup advertising to play into our weaknesses on wanting what our neighbour has. Is the Apple iPhone so much better than all of its competitors (well, probably yes) that we’re willing to pay a big ransom…OR….could it just be that maybe we want to be cool like Candace or John at work? I’m not sure about wanting someone else’s ox or donkey, I can make a big enough Ass of myself without taking someone else’s.
The Ten Commandments are not a bad basic set of rules to govern human existence. It could probably use some updating and bits of revision, but all in all, not too shabby.
My old friend Lionel was a good man with a heart of gold and a list of commandments to keep him on the straight and narrow. But do we really need a list of rights and wrongs from on high? The list IS valuable, but these are values we humans could figure out, accept, and follow for ourselves. Still, even when we know the good from the bad, we get our fingers caught in the cookie jar over and over again.
We try our best.
Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail.
Even if Moses came down from Mount Sinai to give ME the hows and whys of being a good person, I like to think I could figure it out all by myself!