Where do the Ten Commandments belong?

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By Lou Elliott Jones

So a move is afoot in Levy County to place a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the county courthouse.

The county commission last week OK’d guidelines for monuments on the courthouse lawns.

We have one at the Chiefland City Hall. It’s a huge black and white monolith. It’s there because the Chiefland Commission expressed the need for more prayer in the community.

I pass it at least once a day during the week.

I often use the sighting as a mental test to see if I can still remember all 10 directions.

At the same time, in my travels around the county I look for other sightings of the Ten Commandments. I can attest that I regularly see yard signs espousing them.

One thing I don’t see is the Ten Commandments on the front lawns of churches. Although I am told that the church at Rosewood once had them on a sign outside the church.

Which brings the observation that isn’t it the jobs of churches and the pastors to teach the commandments and to help us to live by them?

I am simplifying and skipping a lot of detail, but the story of the commandments that I learned, according to Exodus and Deuteronomy, is that they are God’s covenant with Moses and Israel.

Depending on which religion you belong to it can be as short as 10 or as many as 15 directives. Some Jews will tell you the Creator gave them 618 commands for their lives. But most folks agree there are Ten Commandments.

And most agree it’s a contract for living life.

The Creator originally wrote them on stone tablets. And when those original tablets were broken, they were scribed again on a new set of stone.

At the time it was said to be a covenant — a contract between God, Moses and Israel.

That’s why the Israelites spent all those years lugging about the Ark of Covenant, built to God’s specifications, with the pieces of the original and replacement tablets around the desert, to war in Jericho and other places.

Eventually the Ark was installed in the Temple at Jerusalem as designated by God. After the temple was destroyed, another was built and the Ark restored to it. But them Nebuchadneezer won a battle against the Israelites and destroyed the temple. At the same time he gave mythic relevance to the Ark as it went missing in the Temple’s destruction.

It’s not the first time the Ark was lost. It once fell into the hands of the Philistines who found out that taking something that belongs to God could be a bad thing. Something about boils, mice, plague and hemorrhoids followed it on a tour of five Philistine cities. Eventually they were more than happy to return the Ark to its rightful owners along with some gold statues.

It wasn’t written on the stones, but it’s always good to keep a copy of any contract on hand whether written on Office Depot recycled paper or etched in stone. And since we are talking about the most debated subject in the world — faith — there’s plenty of reason to keep it on hand.

But where to keep it is the question that comes to mind when I pass the commandments monument.

When did it stop being the job of religions, churches and pastors to be the physical keepers and teachers of the Commandments and become government’s job to post and remind us of God’s covenant?

Lou Elliott Jones, the news editor of the Chiefland Citizen, may be reached at news@chieflandcitizen.com.