The Red Couch: No Other Gods Introduction


This summer, my seven-year-old asked why we need speed limits. I thought a moment before replying, “Well, I think it’s because we have trouble loving our neighbors without rules. In a perfect world, every driver would be thinking about kids playing and other people on the road but sometimes we need laws to help us be safe.” We then went on to talk about other laws that would be solved by remembering to love our neighbor.

This is the crux of No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments by Ana Levy-Lyons. She takes what can often feel like an obvious and antiquated set of rules and brings them into modernity. What do these practices show us about loving God and loving our neighbors?

I find it interesting that it took centuries of human existence before God had to explicitly spell out how we need to interact with each other. Maybe God held out hope that we’d figure it out through natural consequence? Regardless, after Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt in the Exodus narrative, the people had trouble blending their routines and expectations. They needed guidelines and a set of non-negotiable boundaries and so the Ten Commandments were given.

I think most of us can map out these ten ways to live: Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, honor your parents. These are guidelines that make any community run well. I mean, when’s the last time you really struggled with not stealing something or with murderous thoughts?

Levy-Lyons brings these commandments into a “Ten Blessings” type of practice. What does it really mean for us in the twenty-first century to not covet our neighbor’s property? What does it mean for people to honor their parents when they come from an abusive home? I think we’ve all seen how these rules have been distorted to benefit those in power but how do we live them out in our daily lives?

Through the lens of liberation justice, Levy-Lyons breathes new life into this text. Perhaps “You Shall Have No Other Gods Besides Me” is less about building golden idols and more about the priorities we give to corporations and modern powers. Perhaps it has more to do with how we spend our money and care for the poor than where we go to church.

I especially loved Levy-Lyons’ take on the second command: “Do Not Make for Yourself a Sculpted Image; Do Not Bow to Them; Do Not Serve Them.” What if we take this down the path of not ingesting Genetically Modified foods? What if we looked around our earth with the vision that everything is created in God’s image? How are we replicating and distorting that sacred image? How are we not honoring the true gifts God has given us?

Or the often misused, “Honor Your Father and Mother.” What if that means less obedience and more honoring the journey? What if it means that we recognize the humanity in our parents, even if we cannot forgive certain actions?

What if “Do Not Steal” means that we look at where our purchases are made. How are we stealing wages and livelihood in the name of a bargain? How are we stealing human rights in order to keep market prices low?

No Other Gods is filled with those questions and Levy-Lyons does a phenomenal job of backing up these queries with sound theological sources. She helps us demystify this set of rules that can be so easily bypassed or ignored. I know I often feel like I’ve checked the boxes for living a Good Life and don’t need to really dig into what the commandments could be calling me to do on this day.

As we discuss No Other Gods this month, I encourage you to engage with an open mind.

How could this book be affirming some change that has been niggling at the back of your mind?

How can you look at how God is calling us to live in this modern era with a fresh perspective?

I hope you’ll join us in this conversation!

“No Other Gods: An Interview with Ana Levy-Lyons” for The Red Couch

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

Commentary on the Torah by Richard Elliott Friedman

God: A Human History by Reza Aslan

We will be talking about this book all month long over in the Red Couch Facebook page. We hope you’ll join in the conversation! And come back here at the end of September for a discussion post led by Sheli Massi.

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