The Other Ten Commandments

I am glad that when Moses came down the mountain with two tablets, there wasn’t another set for those of privilege. Thou shall not steal, unless of course, you can afford a good lawyer.

Thou shall not commit adultery, unless you are a politician who can afford payoffs. Thou shall keep thy Sabbath holy unless you want to go to Costco after church for a monster hotdog and a flat screen TV.

But today, there are two sets of rules.

One for those who play by the rules, and a set for those who don’t.

Some can knowingly infect others in a crowded place during a global pandemic and only get their wrists slap. Others will go down in history as being a viral equivalent of a suicide bomber, getting a sentence that ruins their life.

Rewind to 2002. We were lining up in the theatres to see Men in Black II. We had flip phones. We were devouring the pages of Alice Sebold’s Lovely Bones. Oprah was having a thin year.

We still watched something called the nightly news. And that’s when I had a surreal “Is this the fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol talked about” moment. A lanky youth who barely fit into my Acura was the lead story on all three networks, his name being mispronounced by Peter Jennings. I blinked uncontrollably at him in his orange peels.

“Nicco Briteramos pled guilty to one count of Intentional Exposure to HIV.”

Nicco made national headlines for knowingly spreading HIV to a sex partner. He spent over 18 months in a South Dakota penitentiary—rightfully so– and lost his scholarship.

Nicco. A kid like a jack in the box to fit in my Acura, a kid who could eat his weight in McNuggets. The kid who’s one shot at life was the scholarship he lost.

Fast forward twenty years later. Nicco is still being discriminated against due to his HIV status, fighting barbers who will not trim his hair. yet unmasked politicians spread COVID virus and equally as deadly lies of disinformation that lead to countless deaths and heartbreak.

Are they in orange jump suits?

No.

Moses, help me out here!

I flip through the Rolodex of my mind seeing faces of kids who spent their lives behind bars mostly because of their skin color or the lack of an “old man” who could bail them out.

The teen hustling weed gets cuffed, his customer does not. The white vandal from the burbs gets bail, his Latino friend gets six months. The prostitute is arrested, her john is not.

Anyone who says this is fair must be the same person who thinks it’s OK to cut in line at Disneyworld, cheat on their taxes, take more than one free pizza roll sample, don’t turn off their phone in theatres, cheat on their taxes, or use the special needs toilet when they don’t have special needs. They think life is fair because they got the upper hand.

Unfortunately, not everyone has their cards. Just ask anyone in Laos who has lost a leg to a landmine. It wasn’t their war but it was their leg.

Or ask the “Tasty Boys”.

The faces of two Kansas City boys still haunt my memory. They were sitting in front of me at a campfire at a Christian sports camp for urban youth around 2000. Their eyes were harder than masonry bit drill, their pain penetrating me to the bone. They didn’t raise their hand to get prayer, which meant, they needed a double dose.

I left camp, their faces permanently etched on the inside of my eyelids, with the dream of creating materials to help them. Not mamby pamby materials that work in the suburbs but lessons that connected faith to tough issues. Social injustice. Teen pregnancy. Illiteracy. Violence. When I contacted a veep at a Christian Publisher with my idea, his reply was, “We are a business, not a charity. Sorry.

So, I told them to screw themselves and started TastyFaith.

Or the Uyghur situation in China. Don’t be afraid of pronouncing the name of the people group. The slur of letters rhymes with Igor, the assistant to the mad scientist in horror movies, the initial sound is “we”.

The Ughurs are in labor camps in Northern China. They are mentioned in the thirty second of world news that isn’t clipped due to homeland insanity. But while the Ughurs are forced to work in camps with notorious conditions, they are making cool clothes for Uniglo that you can buy online. Their imports to America rose dramatically in 2020. Is this human atrocity OK to ignore as long as you look good?

Where is the rulebook? Are you ignoring what is right because Uniglo is having a sale on sweaters?

We all know the verse about turning the other cheek (Luke 6:29. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn him the other also). That verse doesn’t mean to look the other way so others can rob you blind. It’s about forgiving those who you want to clock in the face because they ain’t fooling no one.

Case in point? Jesus’ selfie.

When was that last time you saw a depiction of Jesus that looked anything like what a mid-Eastern man of 2000 years ago would look? American Jesus is usually wearing clean linens, has a Brad Pitt built, might have blue eyes, and hangs out with smiling children or barn animals. This is the Jesus that leads to a lot of cha-chinging at the church register.

But in reality, Jesus would be a bit disheveled and in need of height lifting shoes or sandals. His nose would be bigger than mine. And instead of being surrounded by children, there would be a swarm of lice or fleas. Parents would be looking over his shoulder with concern. And woah, stand back. A musky punch that a can of Axe couldn’t knock out.

The depiction of a god like that wouldn’t fill the pews or sell Nike shoes, either.

It is a good thing no one shakes hands anymore. A handshake these days means nothing because a person’s word means nothing. This has got to change.

So Moses, if you make another trip up that mountain, please get clarification on who must follow what rules. Life isn’t a motivational poster from Hallmark. Some get a bowl full of cherries. Others get lemons. The rest of us are told to make lemonade even though we are allergic to lemons and need an Epi-pen.

Wear masks. Wrap it up. Practice safe life.

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