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Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Take Two Tablets and Call Me in the Morning-Lileks is at it again; even when he has a three-column day and the Bleat's a bit al dente, he's still a good read.
Summit Beer has a new brand called “Grand” - it’s a cheerful beer for the Bud crowd, the people who find hoppy beers too bitter, too harsh, too unbeery. I hear it’s good. The ads have a common theme - they show a picture, titled “Good,” and then show the picture with a noticeable improvement, and that one’s titled “Grand.” The ad on the bus shelter showed Moses with two tablets: “Good.” Then Moses with one tablet: “Grand.” You don’t know where to begin. First of all, I’m glad I live in America, where I can see an ad that mocks Patriarchs to sell liquor, and I don’t wonder whether the Committee For Hacking Off Hands of Blasphemers arrested everyone in the ad agency and made them draw dotted lines on their own wrists. But why is a beer company telling me that Five Commandments are better than Ten? Which ones would they like removed? I’m tempted to call the ad agency and ask, but they’d probably say something like “Uh, the second one, the one about guns. Also the one about quartering troops in your neighbor’s wife or something. I don’t know.” Right. Maybe the Ten Commandments is like the Constitution. It’s a living stone tablet.
One of the things that's always bugged me about Ten Commandment-bashers is that there isn't much their to disapprove of unless you're promoting anti-social behavior. A quick stroll through Exodus 20's an order.
1 Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.
No polytheists need apply, but you don't have too many of those hanging around. Some, but not too many.
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Not too many literal idol-worshipers around; you may have a few Voodoo-Santeria types, but that's not going to the deal killer.
7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
Remember, this doesn't just mean letting loose with a GD or a JC as an expletive. It also means invoking God flippantly. Here's where a lot of people get in trouble, like the old joke about the golfer holding up his 2-iron in a thunderstorm-"I'm safe as can be; even God can't hit a 2-iron."
8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11 "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
Here's where we start to get into trouble. Some of us abuse this mildly, by eating out on Sunday or swinging by the hardware store or grocery store on our way back from church or using Sunday to mow the back yard. However, where a lot of people get in trouble is working seven-day weeks. For health-care and public-safety folks, an occasional Sunday shift is fine, but other people seem to be so caught up in their work. I was about to light into people who are "spiritual" but don't go to church, but God doesn't mention that directly here.
12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
Dissing our folks is a good thing? If we honored our parents more, by taking heed of their advice when we're young and foolish and looking after them when they were old, we'd cut the federal budget by 25%, for a lot of social pathologies could be remedied by honoring our parents.
13 "You shall not murder.
Not too many people in the pro-murder crowd, unless it's for the unborn or the handicapped who've become negative net present value projects.
14 "You shall not commit adultery.
No, you're not supposed to get some nik-nik1 on the side if you feel like it; that's not good for you in the short or long run. God's not a party pooper; he's put a lot of political capital into marriage for a reason. Marrigage is the cornerstone of society and a model of God's relationship with us. Don't mess with it.
15 "You shall not steal.
...unless their rich and deserve to be stolen from. Not! This helps keep social order and happens to be one of the cornerstones of a free-market system. If my stuff is fair game for others to swipe, there's little reason for me to make it.
16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
...unless it would help my career or my cause. Not! Honesty's been the best policy since the get-go. Lies are usually found out, making things much worse in the long term. Plus, if you tell the truth, you don't have to remember which lie you told to whom.
17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Andrew, stop coveting your neighbor's ass! Liberals should be for this one, for our consumer-driven economy would grind to a halt if we didn't covet stuff. We're supposed to seek God as our primary focus, not stuff. Most of these aren't bad things. Being honest and respecting people, especially your parents and your spouse, are near-universal virtues; few people can argue that the last six of the commandments are bad public policy. Being forced to take a day off is a virtue as well from a worldly point-of-view; were it not for the custom of a Sabbath, bosses would expect workers to work every day. I don't think we could trim this to five without gutting our culture. I don't think the ad writer would appreciate having people sleeping with his wife or stealing his car or terminating him with extreme prejudice, and if Lileks did corner the poor fellow, he'd probably admit it. 1-Peanut Galery: bonus points for citing the pop culture piece that "nik-nik"comes from.

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