Putting God on a billboard

recent arrival in Chico, freelance writer and native New Yorker and now a writing tutor for Chico State University students

Have we so separated ourselves from God that we must post what we think are his words on walls?

Currently, there is a drive to have these supposed commandments of “God” placed in public places. The issue will be brought before the Supreme Court in the near future. Like it or not, the God of the Bible wasn’t in his best or most loving frame of mind when he passed down many bizarre laws to Moses.

Many people, including myself, view the Bible as man’s best effort to portray God’s desires. And, in so doing, it still reeks of man. For if God is superlatively wise and all loving, which the universe most certainly is, I doubt the whole of love, truth and knowledge could have rendered some of the following laws in close conjunction with the Ten Commandments, unless God is learning just like us:

Exodus 21:20: “If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished. But he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.” Exodus 22:2: “If a thief is found breaking in, and is beaten to death, no bloodguilt is incurred, but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed.” Exodus 22:29: “You must give me the firstborn of your sons.”

Do we post these sayings of “God” in public places as well?

Those are just a few verses taken out of context, one might argue. But I suggest you read the whole Bible cover to cover again. Jesus is quoted in the New Testament as saying that he did not come to bring peace to the world, but a sword. He tells us to “hate” our own father, mother, brother and sister, even our own lives before we come before God. He tells his disciples several times that they will not see death before the second coming of Christ.

What am I trying to prove by all this? Simply that life itself is our most splendid and precious gift. We can’t begin to fully enjoy that splendor until we are thoroughly honest with each other and ourselves. Concerning spiritual growth, we limit ourselves by placing finite attributes on something that is infinite. We need to draw strength from what we do not know as much as what we know. To obtain as close as a connection with God as humanly possible, one merely has to call upon the highest aspects of one’s self, and then listen.

Some people might find this article offensive. My own mother was outraged at my writing this essay. She said if the Ten Commandments were posted in more places we wouldn’t be having this war in the Middle East. What she’s forgotten is Christians, Jews and Muslims all acknowledge these very same sets of laws in their doctrines. It is well written and duly posted in many places. But what good has it done?

God is expressed in everything. When we can call on that truth in the moment of darkness without a book, or a posting on the wall, then we are going somewhere. If we want to see and hear God’s infinite expression, we need only open ourselves to that joy. In the meantime, spare us the dogmatic billboards in public places.