According to the choices I make in broadcast television (including network news), my body and mind ought rightly to be falling apart. I should have aching joints, difficulty peeing, depression and jiggly legs. I should have shingles, pneumonia and memory loss, the latter of which can be treated with an ingredient found…in jellyfish!!! I know this because the advertising directed at viewers of these programs tells me so. I used to be reminded about the best part of waking up, and before that advised to get a bucket of chicken and have a barrel of fun. Now, I am encouraged to ask my doctor about symptoms and the side-effects of the cures, which somehow always include the chance of death.
On the plus side, the condition of the world reported between the commercials sounds much less dire than my own.
I was thinking about this situation when reading the curses that Moses instructed the Levites to proclaim at the end of Deuteronomy 27. Half a chapter later, (and for 50+ horrifying verses), the consequences and side effects of the imprecations are spelled out. Some of the curses yet make sense in today’s world – “cursed is the person who moves his neighbor’s boundary marker.” But I have to ask what was going on in the ancient world that out of a dozen such warnings, one of them is “cursed be anyone who lies with his mother-in-law.” That is not a criticism of my mother-in-law, of blessed memory, or of your mother-in-law, may she live to 120. But seriously folks, how prevalent did this have to be to squeeze into line ahead of cheating in the marketplace, pedophilia or bullying someone into agreement? I mean, who would think to sleep with his mother-in-law?
I ask this question because of my firm belief that God did not invent sin in order to prohibit it. Pretty much from the Beginning, the “thou-shalt-nots” are reactive. Cain murders Abel, Noah’s generation is corrupt, people’s language was confused for trying to build a stairway to heaven, etc. After a while, it seems like we just dispensed with the reportage of the justification and went straight to the prohibition.
But the problem with that is the ideas it puts in the reader’s head. Like the old riff, “Whatever you do, don’t think of an elephant!”, the punishments provoke thoughts of the crimes. “Whatever you do, don’t sleep with your mother-in-law” puts a thought into my head I can’t unthink. Maybe it was God who said to include this prohibition, or just maybe we now know a little too much about the anonymous editor of the Book of Deuteronomy.
That pain in my knee may just be a twinge and my foot-tapping during a meeting may just be a little impatience, but big pharma has convinced me to speak to my doctor about wiggly-limb syndrome – perhaps a real problem for a few, but nowhere near the epidemic that the ads on the nightly news lead me to believe is sweeping the land.
To this point we have a combination of stand-up comedy and blasphemy, but let’s land somewhere in between as we reach the end.
So much of this cycle’s presidential campaign falls into the “don’t sleep with your mother-in-law” category. The hyperbolic representations of the troubles our nation faces have placed ideas in the heads of the many that have previously been the embarrassing secrets of the few. For example, domestic tranquility is the second-highest priority in the Preamble to the Constitution, but your chance of being the victim of an act of terrorism remains an infinitesimal fraction of being killed by any of the following: a legally-owned firearm, a car driven by a licensed driver, an industrial accident or a self-administered opioid overdose. Yet one candidate is willing to revoke the First Amendment for millions of Americans (not to mention spending billions of dollars to accomplish and defend it) by elevating the acts of the few to an immediate concern for every voter by in effect proclaiming, “now I’m not saying every Muslim is a terrorist...”
There are many national priorities to be debated, as always. The approach of any political party is and should be subject to scrutiny and evaluation. Public policy ought to address the real needs of the nation and its people.
But seriously people. There is more that is great about this country than not, notwithstanding baskets of deplorables and poisoned candies. Let’s just not sleep with our mothers-in-law.