Jots & Tittles
Ten Commandments Banned
A divided Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that found the display of the Ten Commandments in front of a municipal building unconstitutional. Two residents of Elkhart, Indiana, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, had sued their city to remove the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which bears the Ten Commandments along with two small Stars of David, the Greek letters chi and rho (the first two letters of Christ), an eye within a pyramid (as on a one-dollar bill) and an eagle clutching an American flag. Erected in 1958, the monument was the brainchild of a local judge who hoped the inscription would have a positive influence on troubled teens.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas disagreed with the court’s decision not to review the case, noting that the commandments bear not only religious but also legal significance. The placement of the monument outside Elkhart’s municipal building, which houses the local courts, “simply reflects the Ten Commandments’ role in the development of our legal system,” Rehnquist wrote.
Justice John Paul Stevens, taking issue with Rehnquist, noted the prominence of the words “I am the Lord thy God” at the top of the monument. He wrote: “The graphic emphasis on those first lines is rather hard to square with the proposition that the monument expresses no particular religious preference—particularly when considered in conjunction with…two Stars of David and a symbol…that represent[s] Christ.”
Even Cowboys Get Religion
The migratory nature of life on the range has lent the cowboy an image of a rugged individual spurning ties to society. The inability to put down roots has been a hallmark of the cowboy lifestyle for decades.
Today’s wranglers are not satisfied livng this way, however, and many have sought a new direction, attending cowboy 011church services and Bible studies. The International Bible Society, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has come up with a publication aimed at this audience, a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs titled The Way for Cowboys. The pocket-sized book is not much larger than a pack of Marlboros.
The biblical text is the New International Version—no special references to cattle roping or bucking broncos here. This translation into contemporary English was first published in 1973 by a group of evangelical Christians aiming to make the Bible more accessible.
Interspersed with the biblical text are glossy photos of pensive men in plaid shirts and cowboy hats, testimonials by saved horsemen, advice on marital problems, and poetry. Cowboy poet Jon Beaverman borrows his imagery from Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my saddle partner / and we’re never apart / whenever I want / we can talk heart to heart.”
Samson the Sociopath
Samson’s problems may have started long before Delilah gave him his radical, strength-sapping haircut. According to Eric L. Altschuler, a research fellow in the brain and perception laboratory of the University of California, San Diego, and his colleagues, the biblical judge who used his supernatural might to defeat the Philistines may have suffered from a bad case of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
Contrary to what the name suggests, ASPD does not refer to a shy and withdrawn individual, but to someone—often called a sociopath—who is incapable of forming normal emotional ties to others. Victims of this personality disorder exhibit a disregard for social conventions and laws. Other symptoms include deceitfulness, impulsiveness, irritability, aggressiveness, recklessness and remorselessness.
Today, anyone showing three of these characteristics might be diagnosed with ASPD, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual. Samson displays them all. After he rips apart a lion with his bare hands (that’s aggressiveness), he fails to tell his parents (deceitfulness) (Judges 14:6). When his father-in-law refuses to allow him near the wife he has abandoned, Samson sets fire to 300 foxes and shoos them into the Philistines’ farms, where they destroy fields of grain, vineyards and olive groves (irritability, impulsiveness, lawlessness and aggressiveness) (Judges 15:1–5). He gloats (lack of remorse) after facing down 1,000 Philistines in battle with only a jawbone as a weapon (recklessness and aggressiveness) (Judges 15:15–16). Finally, he tells Delilah the source of his strength (more recklessness) (Judges 16:17).
Samson’s enthusiasm for torturing animals and setting fires is especially typical of children who might develop ASPD.
Two Thumbs Up from the Pope
Good movies are good for the soul. Or so it seems. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of filmmaking, the Vatican has cited 45 films as having special religious , artistic or moral value.
La Passion (France, 1903)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (France, 1928)
Monsieur Vincent (France, 1947)
Flowers of St. Francis (Italy, 1950)
Ordet (The Word) (Denmark, 1955)
Ben-Hur (United States, 1959)
Nazarin (Mexico, 1958)
The Gospel According to St. Mathew
A Man for All Seasons (Britain, 1966)
Andrei Rublev (USSR, 1969)
The Sacrifice (Sweden/France, 1986)
The Mission (Britain, 1986)
Thérèse (France, 1986)
Babette’s Feast (Denmark, 1987)
Francesco (Italy, 1989)
Nosferatu (Germany, 1922)
Metropolis (Germany, 1927)
Napoléon (Italy/France, 1927)
Little Women (United States, 1933)
Modern Times (United States, 1936)
Grand Illusion (France, 1937)
Stagecoach (United States, 1939)
The Wizard of Oz (United States, 1939)
Fantasia (United States, 1940)
Citizen Kane (United States, 1941)
The Lavendar Hill Mob (Britain, 1951)
La Strada (Italy, 1954)
8 1/2 (Italy, 1963)
The Leopard (Italy/France, 1963)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Britain, 1968)
Intolerance (United States, 1916)
Open City (Italy, 1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life (United States, 1946)
The Bicycle Thief (Italy, 1948)
On the Waterfront (United States, 1954)
The Burmese Harp (Japan, 1956)
Wild Strawberries (Sweden, 1957)
The Seventh Seal (Sweden, 1957)
Dersu Uzala (USSR/Japan, 1974)
The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Italy, 1978)
Chariots of Fire (Britain, 1981)
Gandhi (Britain, 1982)
Au Revoir les Enfants (France, 1987)
Dekalog (Poland, 1988)
Schindler’s List (United States, 1993)
The Bible in the News
The Bible doesn’t carry a money-back guarantee, but readers can nevertheless be assured of becoming healthy, wealthy and wise—at least according to the popular press. In this column, we turn to the Bible’s health tips, which, in the news, usually mean diets.
No biblically based diet has been more successful than Gwen Shamblin’s Weigh Down Diet. Her gospel: Eat what you want, in moderation, and get plenty of exercise by kneeling frequently in prayer. Shamblin has not only attracted myriad devotees but has also gained the attention of prestigious publications like The New Yorker, the Sunday Independent (London) and the Washington Post. Part of the appeal might be her acceptance of rich foods—as long as they have biblical precedent. Thick red meat and corn chips are on Shamblin’s menu: Just remember the prodigal son’s fatted calf and the priestly grain offerings of Leviticus.
George Malkmus takes a much stricter approach with his Hallelujah Diet. Eat only what Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden: mostly raw fruits and vegetables. Processed foods are shunned as positively sinful. Malkmus does permit eating meat but encourages dieters to follow the biblical example. “In Bible times, meats were 3 percent fat versus the 30 percent they contain today,” one of Malkmus’s satisfied followers told the St. Petersburg Times.
Given the difficulty of determining which biblical passages take dietary precedence, some recommend abstaining from food altogether, although not, of course, on a permanent basis. The National Association of Evangelicals and the Campus Crusade for Christ exhort followers to emulate Jesus, who preceded his public ministry with 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.
Increasing numbers of Jews observe fasting on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement in the Jewish calendar) and maintain kosher dietary practices that modify food intake based on biblical teachings. It is then not surprising to find a cookbook like A Biblical Feast: Foods from the Holy Land (Ten Speed Press), which uses such ancient Near Eastern staples as lentils, mustard seeds and millet, as well as quail eggs and beef broth—the latter an ingredient in a dish dubbed Jacob’s Potage.
From devil’s food cake to angel food, there is almost no food or eating practice without biblical support.
Ten Commandments Banned