Thursday, February 11, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
“The Ten Commandments” — appropriate!
We’ve had our share of crime lately, as the headlines in last week’s paper attest. It looks like there is a crime story on the front page of The South Reporter just about every week, so I was not surprised when Barry devoted his column to his family’s own recent encounter with burglars. Who does not have a story of this sort? I am glad the Burlesons came through the experience unharmed and with minimal loss of property.
Barry ended his column by quoting the Ten Commandments – a very appropriate statement to put in the newspaper, I think.
For while the first four commandments (no other gods, not worshiping images, not taking the Lord’s name in vain, and remembering the Sabbath day) are particular to the Hebrew and Christian traditions, the last six (honor parents, do not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet) are common to all the world’s religions and the various humanistic philosophies as well. No stable society that promotes the common good can live without these.
The “thou shalt not” commandments in the Bible are not fully honored simply by abstinence. For both the Hebrew scriptures, Jesus, and his apostles taught that the positive aspect of all these things is shown by loving our neighbors as ourselves. In other words follow up, “do no harm” with acts of generosity and concern. St. Paul put it best when he said, “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).
Most Christians believe that faith involves an individual commitment to God, and that changed individuals gradually transform a society. But there are times that individual effort is not enough. It is why we have schools, fire departments, hospitals, and retirement homes. When I used to minister at Parchman, I was amazed that the prisoners could sing all the hymns by heart. It was then I realized that it takes more than religion to have a good society.
We can pray for and minister to those who are drawn to criminal activity, but to “truly love” these neighbors, we must do more. We owe this to the common good, and increasingly those of us who are law-abiding realize it is in our own best interest.
Mississippi has one of the highest rates of poverty, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and low educational achievement. Our community needs to make the concerted effort to build up its citizenry through good schools that places like Oxford and Tupelo have made. I know that education does not automatically make people good, but we know with certainty that the better one is educated, that the tendency to crime, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, poverty, and criminal activity is greatly reduced. Schools are so much cheaper than jails, and their alumni offer so much more to a community.
For too long Mississippi’s leaders have acted on the belief that only a minimal education is needed for the general population, and perhaps this was so when the great mass of jobs involved plowing a field or working an assembly line.
I believe that many of our politicians still think this way. But agriculture has been mechanized and “unskilled” factory jobs have gone overseas. Now we are reaping the sad harvest of people who were poorly educated, who cannot find work, and who, too often, turn to drugs and the crime that supports those addictions. It is not enough simply to take care of our own children.
Many persons in Mississippi are very prosperous. We have such a disparity between “rich” and “poor” that in many ways we are like a third world country. But no stable democracy functions without a strong middle class. The ranks of this “middle class” are shrinking, and I submit that better schools are what those of us who have been blessed ought to promote for those who have not.
We have the option, of course, of just installing burglar alarms, sending our children to private schools, erecting tall fences around our property. But who wants to live in a castle with a moat, with the drawbridge pulled up and boiling oil ready to pour over the parapets?
It is in everybody’s best interest to improve our schools — because what good are the Ten Commandments if the people in the jails can’t read? Ride over to any of our neighboring communities and you will see that change and improvement can come.
Compared to the poor countries of the world, Marshall County has lots of intelligent people with plenty of resources. We can have progress too, if our leaders can find the resolve.
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