Sunday, 7 February 2010

Should our Laws be Mosaic?

In tonight's Channel 4 documentary The Bible: A History, we were treated to a defence of the Ten Commandments by Ann Widdecombe. It failed spectacularly, as witness after witness pointed out the problems with her thinking.

She ran through some of the history of the old Testament, and the dottiness of the Mitzvot. When confronted with this dottiness, she recognised it as mad, but failed to extend that to the Decalogue.

She consulted with a Biblical scholar, Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who pointed out that the 5 books supposedly written by Moses couldn't have been, and, in fact, Moses might not have existed. Further, it was very unlikely the exodus occurred! She pointed out the lack of evidence for such a large scale migration. Ann didn't like this, so asked if the scholar knew there was no exodus, to which she conceded she couldn't discount it completely. So Ann ended by saying "We've heard a suggestion that Moses may not have existed, but when pressed she had to say of course nobody's quite sure!". Disreputable behaviour, to say the least, from Ann.

Some interesting history followed, talking about the domboc, and the Reformation. She exposed her Puritan credentials by praising the antics of John White, one of the first colonists (although he never actually sailed). This man exploited a devastating fire in Dorchester to impose his favoured morality on the population. Not the sort of behaviour I would hold up as exemplary.

She then 'interviewed' Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry (recorded after the Westminster debate). Hitchens and Fry lambasted the Commandments for being in part truistic and in part abominable. It's pretty obvious which is which:

You shall have no other gods before me
You shall not make for yourself an idol
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
Honor your father and mother
You shall not murder
You shall not commit adultery
You shall not steal
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
You shall not covet your neighbour's wife
You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour

(I know that's eleven; there's some juggling of the numbers amongst different denominations)

These interviews were clearly heavily edited, and certainly showed Hitchens and Fry to be very irritated by these laws. And why not? The last two are thought crimes. And a clinical psychologist was on hand to tell her that suppression of such innate desires was more damaging than expression of them. Widdecombe's outrage at modern consumerism would be less offensive if she hadn't been a firebrand Tory all her life, an advocate of the free market.

Towards the end, as she recorded a 'to camera' monologue, a pedestrian passed by doing the internationally recognised sign for the mad.

Care in the Community?

This seemed symbolic of poor Ann losing the battle, and possibly her marbles too!


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