By Tom Ehrich
What happens, I wonder, when our leaders take the name of God "in vain," trying to baptize their preferences and claim God as their champion in the hunt for elective office?
This is surely what Moses meant when he passed along God's Ten Commandments. Number 3: you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Number 2: you shall not make any graven images of the Lord your God. Number 9: you shall not swear falsely.
For "faith-and-values" folks who periodically get exercised about the absence of the Ten Commandments from courthouse walls, they are mighty casual about violating the commandments themselves.
It's like Sen. Ted Cruz asking students to imagine freedom at an event that they were required to attend so as to build an audience for the candidate. Or to imagine God forgetting God's primary concern for the "least of these," and instead to imagine God as hostile to readily available health care.
It's like my home state of Indiana passing a law that legalizes discrimination. They called it the "religious freedom" act, but it's origin and intent are to demonize all but white, heterosexual Christians.
So what will God do to such hypocrites? Smite them? Or more likely, raise up prophets to remind people what God actually did say, what God actually does value, and what our actions as people of God are supposed to be.
God has been down this road before. Tyrants and fools routinely claim God as their possession and themselves as God's truest friend. It works for a while, especially when people are afraid and the power-seeker is new. Over time, however, hypocrisy tends to Lose its allure.
Then the hypocrites double-down on repression, as they did to Jesus after false accusations stopped working and only raw power could stop him.
We have come to that point in American politics. Try religiosity as the basis for discrimination, self-aggrandizement and destruction of rights. And if that doesn't work, use raw power. Deny the vote to unwanted citizens. Buy the airwaves to spread lies. Buy legislators, governors and mayors, and hope to buy a president. The run-up to 2016 seems dominated by small chaps shouting, "Buy me!"
Rig the economy to benefit only a few. Ignore the chumps when they protest. Trash the environment. Undermine public education. Make health care unaffordable again. The negative actions go on and on, and hypocrisy isn't even required. Now it's, "I have the money, and you don't. Stand aside."
It's time for those who actually follow the Ten Commandments to stand up and fire back. We might still lose. But at least God's name won't be taken in vain by charlatans, and what God actually wants for humankind won't be reduced to the power-seeking strategies of ideologues.