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I've never listened to her show; it's not on the stations that we can actually tune in here.  In fact, pretty much all I know about Dr. Laura is that within days of the publication of this book she was all over the Web buck naked, because an old flame sold some photos of her, and right now the Gay Lobby is raising unholy hell with Paramount because they don't think she should have her own TV show.  Seems the good doctor has the temerity to refer to homosexuality as aberrant behavior and that's raised some hackles.  But based on that little bit of info, I figured the book might at least be entertaining.  It is.

Schlessinger and her rabbi coauthor have not set out to rewrite the Ten Commandments.  Nor are they trying to author some weighty scholarly tome.  Instead, what we have here is a book that reflects the strengths and weaknesses that you would expect of a conservative talk radio host.  It is a chatty, opinionated, somewhat shallow, but topical and democratic (with a small d) survey of how the Mosaic commandments pertain to modern life.

Here is how they render the commandments and how they interpret them:

    1. I am the Lord, your God, who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery
        Acceptance of God as the ultimate author of morality and leaning of life.

    2. You shall not recognize the gods of others in My presence
        Beware of idolatry. Attaining money, power, stimulation, professional success, and accumulating possessions, while legitimate pursuits, are not the ultimate purpose of life.

    3. You shall not take the Name of the Lord, your God, in vain
        How we acknowledge or deny God and godliness through our words and deeds.

    4. Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it
        Recognize the value of time by refocusing on the most important elements of life; family, obligations to others, prayer, kindness, justice, and decency.

    5. Honor your Father and your Mother
        The obligation to parents reinforces the concepts of treating others responsibly in spite of sentiment or situation.

    6. You shall not murder
        Each human being is the essence of uniqueness, yet equally created in God's image. Not only can a life by physically taken, but demoralization and humiliation can kill our souls.

    7. You shall not commit adultery
        Sexual relations are made special and holy through a covenantal marriage. The honoring of commitments provides the family stability necessary for individual growth and health, community peace, and societal welfare.

    8. You shall not steal
        Respecting the property and reputation of others provides mutual safety, peace, and prosperity.

    9. You shall not bear false witness against your fellow
        While we should keep far from falsehoods, knowing when information could or should be shared can make the differences between destroying and helping others.

    10. You shall not covet
        Desire for the possessions of others destroys relationships and leads us to violate the other Commandments.

Now one of the things that makes the Commandments themselves so remarkable is the degree to which they remain universal and timely thousands of years after Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with them.  But who hasn't looked askance at a few of the ten?  A couple of them just seem too parochial.  But the authors' section on idolatry--one of those concerns that does not on its face seem to be too immediate--is a particularly good example of what makes the book useful.  We all tend to think of the second commandment as an outdated injunction against golden calves and the like.  But they breath life back into it by reading it as simply an admonition to keep the relationship with God and a God centered morality at the forefront of our lives, rather than the pursuit of wealth or fame or physical sensation.  At the point where any of these pursuits becomes the be all and end all of one's existence, they partake of the nature of a new religion.  Cast in this fresh perspective, what seems at first glance to be an antiquated call for monotheism (we are all monotheists now), becomes a timely call for keeping our priorities straight.  Likewise, the section on keeping the Sabbath day reminds us that the importance of the day is less that it be formulaically dedicated to God than that it be an opportunity for us to step back from the hectic rush of daily life and focus on the things that are truly important--foremost among them are faith and family.

Regardless of whether folks are any longer willing to admit it, our culture is by and large derived from this decalogue, from the various subsequent covenants with God and from the Gospels.  Any book that reminds us of that fundamental fact, and restores some vigor to the foundational laws of Western Civilization, is worthwhile.  This is not the place to look if you want some scholarly dissertation on the Commandments, but it is a perfectly acceptable look at why they remain important to our lives and to the continued health of our society.


Grade: (C+)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -COLUMN: Dr. Laura Archives (Jewish World Review)
    -EXCERPT: The Ten Commandments by Laura Schlessinger &  Stewart Vogel Excerpt from Chapter Four (Book Browse)
    -EXCERPT: Chapter One: How Could You Do That?!  The Abdication of Character, Courage, and Conscience  By Laura Schlessinger
    -INTERVIEW: The Conscience of America:  Could it be that America's #1 talk radio shrink  is calling us to a higher moral standard than many of the  most renowned spiritual teachers of our era? (What is Enlightenment? Magazine)
    -INTERVIEW: (Susan Goodman, Modern Maturity)
    -INTERVIEW:  Dr. Laura Schlessinger (Home Business Magazine)
    -PROFILE: (Leslie Bennetts, Vanity Fair)
    -PROFILE: NO WHINING!: Laura Schlessinger has the soul of a hall monitor, the manner of a drill sergeant, and a moral message that draws 20 million listeners (US News and World Report)
    -PROFILE: DR. LAURA PREACHES, TEACHES, AND NAGS  HER WAY TO THE TOP (Bob Rusk, Robert Rusk's Calling Hollywood)
    -PROFILE:   W O M E N   T O   W A T C H (Womens Wire)
    -PROFILE: Talk Radio: I am my country's mom Talk radio host Dr. Laura is the Rush Limbaugh of morality (Arsenio Orteza, World)
    -ARTICLE: Dr. Laura explains it all (Laura Berman / The Detroit News)
    -ARTICLE: Dr. Laura, how could you? Copyright war rages over moralist talk-show host's nude photos. (PATRIZIA DiLUCCHIO, Salon)
    -ARTICLE: Dr. Laura targets the new Sodom: Libraries: In her crusade for filtered Net access, the talk-radio moralist goes after sex educators, the American Library Association and porn (PATRIZIA DiLUCCHIO, Salon)
    -ESSAY: TELL Laura I LOVE HER    (Lorenzo W. Milam, Salon)
    -CHAT AND LINKS: Some Comments on Laura Schlessinger
    -ARTICLE: DR. Laura will Hector You Now (LAURA MILLER, Salon)
    -Homophobic Archive: Complete Transcriptions of Dr. Laura Schlessinger's Radio Monologues (Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation )
    -SERMON: Dr. Laura Schlessinger and the Ten Commandments:  Sermon given February 12, 1999, by Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl
    -REVIEW: of Ten Commandments Dr. Laura's Mt. Sinai Good on the law, but in need of the gospel (Roy Maynard, World Magazine)

    -ESSAY: Can We Be Good Without God?:  On the political meaning of Christianity (Glenn Tinder, The Atlantic)