The Red Couch: No Other Gods Discussion

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I knew the Rosary and the Ten Commandments before I knew the Pledge of Allegiance. I knew the Stations of the Cross before I ever heard we had a constitution of the United States. When we were little the priest caught my brothers drinking the holy water and daring their buddies to do the same. We literally lived and died by the law of the church.

Lament. 

When I was asked to read and reflect on No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments, I wrote a friend and said, “God has a sense of humor…” I wanted nothing to do with the title of this book. I ran my little plaid skirt away from the Catholic church years ago. I ran far away from the law and anything that remotely smelled like the law. I assimilated the law with Man and not with God. No Other Gods though, from the first page, uncovered healing that has been waiting between the pages of wisdom Ana Levy-Lyons brings us. 

“…the gods we worship write their names on our faces. A person will worship something, have no doubt about that… for what we are worshiping we are becoming.” Emerson

Lament.

If I am honest I put down this book more than I should have. I was rebellious in reading it. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to know what I was doing wrong. I assumed it was going to tell me all of the commandments I had broken and once again I found myself back in the confessional reciting my Hail Marys and wondering when I would ever be good enough. Instead what I found within the words of these pages crying over and over again. 

Lament.

I am in a season of grief. Of lament. Of anger. Of perhaps even rage. 

It feels like it will never end. This grieving. The unraveling of it all. A deconstruction of what I thought I believed. Of what I thought those around me also believed. Of what I thought they would defend. 

Lament. 

I wasn’t sure I could write about who God was or what faith even meant. I felt like an imposter. A lonely deconstructing girl aching for a better world. Here I am asking you to read a book about the Ten Commandments. Read these rules and live by them. Here are the things you are doing wrong written by men thousands of years ago. 

Lament.

Instead, it isn’t what you think it is. This isn’t about the blond-haired scary man in the sky you were taught in Sunday school sitting in a church basement with green felt on the wall or on Wednesday night earning badges on your red vest. 

Lament.

This is about the YHVH, the being without boundaries. “YHVH is all that is known and unknown. It is past, present, future and beyond time. It is all the people we love. YHVH is considered the most sacred name of God because it is something we can not even fathom.” And yet, we put boundaries and filters on who is in and who is out. Still. 

Lament.

If there was a chapter or a commandment that shook me to the core, it would be the Third Commandment: Do Not Take the Name of God in Vain – Defend the Goodness of God; Take Responsibility for Resistance and Change.”

On page eighty-three, Lyons says

“The losses sustained when people lose faith are painful, even traumatic. In most cases of the defamation of God’s character, the believer is alienated not just from the religious institution, but from God. Our notions of God are interwoven with the people who speak about God and the institutions that teach about God. When reality is misrepresented, when God’s reputation as a good and loving God gets tarnished, it’s hard to disentangle this from our own beliefs. We lose faith, and faith once lost, is difficult to retrieve.” 

It is hard to disentangle.

Lament.

Yet go on to read the second part of that commandment: Take Responsibility for Resistance and Change.

If that doesn’t call to the fire within my bones. It is a call to rise. For us all. Lyons goes on to show us that across the world extreme global poverty––to feed the one billion children it would take less than one-quarter of the total income of the top 100 billionaires.

Rise.

The scientific consensus on global warming, with all its attendant disasters, is that its cause is humans––the consumer and lifestyle practices of people in the developed world. 

Rise.

Full-time workers in America languish in poverty and cannot afford healthcare for their children or themselves because corporations refuse to pay a living wage. 

Rise.

We could go on and on. We are doing these things to ourselves. It is not God. It is not just the way of the world. It is the way we have let the world become. Lyons asks us to consider that the third commandment does not ask us to naively innocently turn a blind eye to the suffering of our world. The third commandment asks us to properly identify the perpetrator. 

Rise.

And the perpetrator is me.

And the perpetrator is you.

And the perpetrator is us.

We must recognize our earth as the Garden of Eden, complete with abundant fruit trees and clear rivers running through it and enough food and water for everyone. It is up to all of us to lovingly protect and nurture each this abundance in the name of YHVH.

And may we do the same for each other.

This is the greatest of all commands.

Rise. 

“God is so powerful and so passionately committed to the marginalized, that it overturns the laws of nature on their behalf time and again.”

Where do you see your relationship with the Ten Commandments?

What surprised you most about No Other Gods?

In November we’ll be discussing Once We Were Strangers by Shawn Smucker. Join our Facebook group for discussions and deeper resources.

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Sheli Massie

Sheli Massie

Sheli Massie is a story keeper, seeker of justice, healing and hope in a broken world. She believes in longer tables, unlocked doors and living a barefoot life. She and her husband live outside of Chicago with their five children and one grandlove. You can find her over on instagram, Redbud Writers, and her website.
Sheli Massie

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