I think the deal with the Ten Commandments monument in Alabama is getting kinda silly.

"What this federal judge [Thomson] has said is that we cannot acknowledge God," Moore told Fox News earlier Friday. "My battle is not with the justices of the court, my colleagues, my battle is with the federal government, who has come in and told us how to think, who we can believe in."
Not exactly. The judge said you had the move the monument to a less public area. I don't agree with his reasoning or his conclusion, but he certainly didn't tell you what to think or who to believe in.
On Friday, about 100 protesters moved from the steps of the judicial building to a sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse, where Thompson works. Some ripped to pieces and burned a copy of Thompson's ruling. Demonstrators also held a mock trial, in which Thompson was charged with breaking the law of God.

"We hold you, Judge Thompson, and the United States Supreme Court in contempt of God's law," said Flip Benham, director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.

God's law to do what? Display the Ten Commandments in front of all courthouses? The melodrama really isn't convincing anyone; I guarantee it.
Thompson's order gave the option of moving the monument to Moore's office. But Khan said she asked Moore during a deposition about moving it to his office and he said the monument was too heavy.
That's just amusing, because I understand the monument is quite large.
An organizer of pro-Moore demonstrations, Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, said Friday the demonstrations will continue.

He said five protesters will kneel in front of each of two exits from the building to keep the monument from coming out.

"Our message is clear. We are going to peacefully block the way if they try to move it," Mahoney said.

Well, that's in the best civil-disobedience tradition (which I don't particularly approve of, in general).
One of the demonstrators, retired Birmingham school teacher Murray Phillips, said she knows the monument will probably be gone from the rotunda soon.

"I'm upset, but I'm not surprised. At least I am going to be able to say to my grandchildren that at least I tried to do something," Phillips said.

This is the problem. You tried to do something that was obviously going to be completely ineffectual. Not only was it ineffectual, but it's making you (and me, and God) look silly. Now, I happen to agree with the protesters' position: I don't think the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment should be interpreted (through the 14th Amendment) as forbidding state governments from establishing religion. The 14th Amendment does project the Free Exercise Clause onto the states, but it's not clear that the Establishment Clause fits into the same framework. Nevertheless, that's the law.

We need to ask ourselves: what are these protesters trying to accomplish? They are pushing symbolism over substance. Just as the Moonies want to get rid of crosses in an effort to promote "religious unity", these Christians want to erect (or maintain) a monument to promote Christianity. In both cases, however, they've got the cart before the horse.

Putting up a monument to the Ten Commandments isn't going to convince anyone of anything. It's not going to lead anyone to Christ. It will only accompish two things (which are probably these protesters' true goals):
1. It will reinforce the protesters' self-righteousness, and give them a feeling of having "done something".
2. It will irritate, annoy, and rankle the non-Christians who face it.

Both of these motivations are built on pride, and neither one of them is spiritually profitable. First of all, Christians should not pursue political agendas merely to make ourselves feel good and powerful. Sure, it can be satisfying -- and that satisfaction is based on a lust for power and validation.

Secondly, irritating, annoying, and rankling non-Christians is not an effective way to show them God's love. I imagine we all know people that piss us off, and as they become more and more bothersome we tend to listen to them and care about them less and less. I'm not saying that we shouldn't stand up for what is right, but I am saying that forcing kids to pray in school or prohibiting gay people from having sex isn't going to have any spiritual benefit, for anyone.

These types of protest are a troubling waste of time and energy. The more confrontational you become, the more resistance you will face. In order to be effective ambassadors for God, we need to be subtle and enticing. Jesus never forced anyone to listen to him, and we don't need to either. On the contrary, Jesus lived under a far more oppressive government, and he made absolutely zero effort to reform it. Why? Because change begins in the heart, not in the courthouse.

The message of God's love and justice is compelling, and more often than not we Christians are responsible for its ineffectiveness. Some people will listen, and some will not, but we are not called to do any convincing or coercing. That's the Holy Spirit's job; he works on the hearts of men and women, calling them to God. We are only messengers.

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» The Alabama flap from Catholic Light

Although my sentiments are very much with the devout citizens of Alabama who want to keep a public monument to the Decalogue in a courthouse, Michael Williams is correct: Justice Moore's legal case was weak, and the demonstrations advance nothing,... Read More



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