Part III of a series.
Once again, it is time to challenge the gentle reader who votes on faith to take a good, hard look at the candidate for whom they intend to vote. Even as one who likely does not share your faith, I respect the importance this decision has for you. More than that, I respect the manner in which you need to make this decision, especially this year. For an observer looking at the choice and the nature of the choice from the outside, it seems you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I might not vote on faith, but I do vote on conscience. Trust me, it sure feels like an equally ugly decision.
As for today’s topic, the third of the Ten Commandments (as reckoned by Catholicism), I must confess…this one is awfully tricky. Worse, it puts me in mind of a line of questioning that saw me leave the fellowship of the Southern Baptist church of which I was a member as a young teen. The most challenging thing about this commandment in light of this series is that my goal is to challenge us all to look clearly at the candidates and see how they measure up to the moral compasses we use. For the Christian voter, that moral compass may be (but is not necessarily) the Law as handed down to Moses. The first seemed relatively easy, at least by comparison. The second involved a bit of digging and, I hope, some soul searching, but at least I feel one could come away from that challenge with some clarity.
However, how do we determine whether or not a candidate measures up to this commandment?
Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
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.
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.
Exodus 20:8-11 (NASB)
If only this question were as simple to answer as it at first seems. This commandment, far more than the first two, opens a whole can of worms. Question breeds question breeds question after question. The first naturally extends throughout the entirety of Christian canon, from the first page to the last (or so it seems to me). The second seems a natural extension of the first. Simply, don’t profane that which is sacred. But this one leads to a host of quandaries. There are those who would hold that a New Covenant disposes of the need for Christians to worry about the whole of Mosaic law, all 613 laws, including these ten. There’s the Apostolic Decree, which I addressed in a completely different vein some time ago, which holds Gentile converts to Christianity to only four laws.
Then there’s Mark 12:28-31
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD;
AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’
The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
The Apostolic Decree doesn’t mention the Sabbath. The two most important, as commanded by Jesus himself, don’t mention it.
He did have something to say about the Sabbath, though, and it’s the first hint of the can of worms springing open.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.
But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.”
But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions,
how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?
“Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?
“But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.
“But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
“For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
So, for starters, short of extensive background reading and/or spiritual guidance, we’re momentarily left uncertain as to whether the Sabbath needs to be observed in some particular manner, if at all.
If that’s not tricky enough, we’re also left to wonder on what day the Sabbath is observed. Matthew doesn’t spell it out for us using our modern calendar. Given the time and place, we can best assume the events of 12:1-8 occur sometime after sunset on Friday and before three stars appear in the evening sky on Saturday (as we reckon the days). From this as a starting point, the debate gets rather complex. Are you a seventh-day Sabbatarian? A first-day Sabbatarian? A non-Sabbatarian? On which Scriptural grounds? Based on which tradition? How do you know your choice is the right one? How do you know someone else’s is the wrong one? Seriously. It can be the difference between one day or another or no day at all, the difference between observing the third commandment or breaking it. If you haven’t entertained this question before, you might wish to do so now.
Aside from the practical good it may do your soul, how else would you be able to determine whether or not your chosen candidate holds to this law?
For the sake of argument, let’s just assume (quite possibly a very dangerous assumption) that the Sabbath is Sunday.
One example each for Romney and Obama should suffice, I think.
Mitt Romney used Sunday morning — prime TV time for politics — to depart from his core message about fixing the economy to tout a bare-knuckled foreign policy approach that would include “crippling sanctions” on Iran.
foxnews.com – September 9, 2012
Hours after his opponents Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did a Sunday morning TV show blitz, President Barack Obama criticized them for not offering more specifics on how they would keep revenue stable while not raising taxes on the wealthy.
“Governor Romney and his allies tell us that we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions on new tax breaks for the wealthy. Listen, you’ve got to do the math because when my opponents were asked about it today, they couldn’t. It was like two plus one equals five,” Obama told a crowd of more than 3,000 in a gymnasium at the Florida Institute of Technology here.
nbcnews.com – September 9, 2012
Funny way to spend a Sabbath, don’t you think? For that matter, what were all those other people doing at these events? Are our candidates leading them astray?