the core of Judeo-Christian values
The Ten Commandments are the foundational laws for civilization. Individual cultures have laws that reflect these basic ones, as is evident from prohibitions against murder and adultery. Ancient cultures such as those in Mesopotamia had similar laws that predated the Ten Commandments, which indicates their universal appeal for ethics and morality. Some of the more famous Christian theologians such as Augustine and Martin Luther maintained that the Ten Commandments were foundational for Christian ethics. The Ten Commandments form the basis of our central core of values, and are central to American Judeo-Christian ethics. These core values are critical to our culture today.
Mark Rooker teaches at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, and is author of The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-first Century.
a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition
Commentators in America constantly talk of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but if we were to use the Ten Commandments as the yardstick, then America is very much a Judeo-Christian-Islamic nation. Muslims unequivocally believe in the Ten Commandments. Americans are often surprised to find out that about one-third of the Koran directly echoes Jewish and Christian sacred texts—including the entire Ten Commandments. Moses, who brought down the Commandments from God, is a highly revered and loved figure in Islam and is known as Musa. The inclusion of America’s seven million Muslims as part of the American religious tradition is therefore the elephant in the room. I cannot be a good Muslim without being conscious of my Jewish and Christian heritage. The Ten Commandments are universal. Muslims, however, are aggressively faithful to them because they still live in traditional societies and tend to be very religious. The Ten Commandments are relevant today not just for the Abrahamic peoples but for all people. One commandment that should be added is to love one another, which is attributed to Jesus. That should be the eleventh commandment for the 21st century because this is a century with so much hatred, violence and distrust. Today, this commandment is perhaps the most important as well as the most challenging.
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC.
a source of religious violence
Hinduism has principles of ethical and moral conduct that were put together many millenia ago and are relevant today. Called the Ten Commitments by Sage Patanjali, the originator of the principles of Yoga, they provide an ethical framework with lists of five things to do and five to avoid. The Yamas or restraints are: Do not harm (the basis for Gandhi’s principles of non-violence), do not lie, do not steal, do not overindulge and do not be greedy. The Niyamas or observances are: Be clean in mind and body, be content, be disciplined, be studious and surrender to God’s grace. The last is the only reference to God, and it refers to God as a universal being (God is One). The concept in the Ten Commandments about one God with the sense of an obligation to convert others to their God has caused great harm. The idea that God is a jealous God who will punish people who believe in other “gods” makes God more sectarian and has had tragic consequences in world history—killing “infidels” and creating pogroms and genocide—and continues to this day.
Ravi Sarma, M.D. is the immediate past president of the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, GA.