The Ten Commandments in America

Scott Langston of Texas Christian University has posted an article on the SBL Forum entitled, “What Makes the Bible Meaningful/Useful: The Ten Commandments and American Ideals.” In it he discusses the role of the Ten Commandments in American politics, focusing on the opinions of Teddy Roosevelt. An excerpt:

Roosevelt had thus elevated the Commandments from personal or private standards of behavior to public or national standards. He had taken a text that had broad popular appeal, connected it to a political issue—reforming corrupt government and business practices—and even recast the Decalogue, and in particular the eighth commandment, to provide support for his goal. “Not allowing anyone else to steal” provided sanction for using governmental power to restrain corrupt politicians and businessmen, something for which Roosevelt became a hearty advocate. This popular embrace of the Ten Commandments, as well as widespread economic and social dissatisfaction, helped him make the Decalogue an “American text”—not just a text designed for individual use.

Thanks to Jim West for pointing this out.

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