The Ten Commandments are a pervasive yet divisive part of American culture. Religious conservatives champion them, even if they don’t always adhere to them in practice. The more religiously liberal and secular members of our society often bristle at what they may perceive as antiquated restrictions on their moral and intellectual freedom. Yet, this ancient text still has vital contemporary relevance, says Ana Levy-Lyons, a renowned Unitarian Universalist minister and award-winning writer who is equally at home in the worlds of secular humanism and religion.
In “No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments” Levy-Lyons offers a deeply perceptive reinterpretation for our modern lives — exploring ways that the Commandments can bring us meaning, illuminate our values, and help us navigate through the turbulent waters of social injustice, environmental crises and societal inequity that plague our times.
“The Ten Commandments are a resource for resistance,” Levy-Lyons writes. “They are a politically and spiritually brazen prescription — one which, if actually followed, would turn our world upside down. Far from being merely a vestigial remnant of an oppressive era (though they are that) and far from being a simple rehearsal of ethical norms on which we already agree (though they are, on one level, that too), the Commandments are counter-cultural practices. They offer a bold spiritual consciousness in which we commit ourselves unconditionally to the force in the universe that makes transformation and love possible. We don’t have to invent a bunch of new practices for a meaningful way to live out our spirituality and politics. There is a perfectly good set of ten of them, all ready to go, with as much progressive firepower as any of us can handle, that has existed for some 3,000 years.”
In “No Other Gods”, Levy-Lyons looks at each Commandment in new ways, moving beyond interpersonal morality to encompass the global economy and our hyper-connected age. From the first, You Shall Have No Other Gods Besides Me (Dethrone the Modern Deities of Political, Social and Corporate Power), to the 10th Do Not
Covet (Practice Your Liberation — You Have Enough, You Are Enough) — and all those in between — she underscores how the Commandments can prove a valued resource for anyone, from the secular to the spiritual-but-not-religious to the deeply observant, who wants to resist injustice, heal our earth and find personal dignity amid the free-for-alls of modern life.
Levy-Lyons is senior minister of First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, a quickly-growing urban Unitarian Universalist congregation. She earned a BA from Brown University and a M.Div. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Like most Gen Xers, her career has followed a winding path, from founding a web startup to a foray as a singer-songwriter. (She won the SIBL International Songwriting Competition and received a glowing review in Billboardmagazine). Her sermons have received numerous awards and she has contributed to HuffPost and edits for Tikkun.
“No Other Gods” will be released on March 6. The book launch will be held on March 7 at Book Culture Bookstore, and a book party will be held on March 8 at 7 p.m. at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn Heights.