Jenna Weissman Joselit reveals how the Ten Commandments have shaped U.S. law and identity.
Once again, the epic drama of slavery and freedom is upon us. No, I’m not referring to Ferguson, although others have written extensively on links there to the nation’s history of bondage, legal violence, and avoidance of justice. While others protest, this weekend millions of moviegoers will behold Exodus: Gods and Kings. “Let my people go” will square off against law and order. The fish will die; so will the first born males. The Red Sea will separate, for a time, and then its crashing waters will destroy an army. Exodus has been with Americans since the nation’s birth.
Rod Dreher revealed recently that he couldn't come up with more than six of the Ten Commandments from memory. He also pointed out the irony of this fact coming from someone who often gets on his "high horse about theological ignorance," so I won't pile on. I've mentioned before that, while I haven't retained everything I learned at my evangelical grade school, I do recall a catchy song for remembering the U.S. presidents in order. We also performed a lot of musicals, including the popular '80s Christmas program Angels Aware.
The Ten Commandents are prefaced not by an order but by a breathtaking announcement of freedom.