American Civil Religion and the Dangers of Removing Scripture’s Moral Teachings from Their Context

James R. Rogers investigates the different meanings of biblical law for Jews and Christians, and the mistake both make when they try to isolate the Torah’s moral teachings from their context. The result of this “reductionist inclination” can be found in American discourse about “Judeo-Christian morality,” a phrase that Rogers takes to refer primarily to the Ten Commandments:

[W]resting the Ten Commandments out of the book of Exodus (and Deuteronomy) and treating them as stand-alone moral requirements . . . misses the point of Exodus. . . . The popular view of Exodus [is neatly summed up] in the classic film, The Ten Commandments. . . . The film skips thirteen chapters in Exodus relating to the design and construction of the tabernacle, as well as all of Leviticus and Numbers, [much of which] relates to the sacramental environment around Israel given the presence of the tabernacle in Israel’s midst, all the way to the end of Deuteronomy.

And [then there’s] all the rigmarole about food, and sacrifices, and cleansing oneself from this and that. The problem is that all that stuff isn’t just so much rigmarole. . . . As reported in Exodus, the purpose of the exodus is that God would dwell in the midst of Israel in the tabernacle. . . . The exodus [thus] represents a signal turn toward the restoration of the fellowship that humanity had with God in Eden.

[T]his is not to dismiss the Ten Commandments as somehow unimportant. Indeed, the tablets go in the inner house of the tabernacle, in the ark of the covenant in the holiest of holies. The point rather is that, in the narrative of Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments is necessarily interwoven with the tapestry of God’s presence. As with the sacrificial laws, the food laws, the cleanliness laws, and other laws in Leviticus and Numbers, they’re not [just] rigmarole. . . .

But popular American culture pulls out and isolates the Ten Commandments, then skips over the last half of the book of Exodus [along with] Leviticus and Numbers, all of which connect the Ten Commandments with the grand pivot in God’s relationship with humanity. [Both] Moses and Jesus, and religion in general, are thus identified [in the popular view] with deracinated moral law. This civil religion—Christian ethics without the person of Christ; Judaic ethics without the person of God—has distorted the religions it purports to express. In doing so, it has hindered, rather than helped, both religion and religious engagement with the public square.

Read more at Law and Liberty

More about: American Religion, Civil religion, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Ten Commandments


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy