Comment On This: Kurt Vonnegut

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Kurt Vonnegut– A Man Without A Country (you should read this book)

So what do you think?  Is Vonnegut’s idea here legitimate?  It does seem that we hear Christians espousing the Ten Commandments much more than the Beatitudes.  Why is that?  Why raise a fuss over words from Moses and not words from Jesus (I may be playing devil’s advocate here)?  I would love to hear the opinions of both Christians and Non-Christians on this one.  Leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

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10 Comments on “Comment On This: Kurt Vonnegut”

  1. June 5, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    As an atheist I believe that none should should be “espoused”.
    But that’s a great quote from a great quote from Vonnegut.

  2. Michael Burchett
    June 5, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    For most people it is really a struggle to get the state to accept Christian values…so that they can live in a “Christian nation.” For a lot of people I know, this is their way of trying to serve God, much like we serve the poor and go on mission trips, some other people try to get the ten commandments posted and fight against the acceptance of homosexual marriage, etc…while I see that as damaging, nevertheless they have a heart that is serving God so I don’t fault them at the heart level, only the execution of their love for God. The reason that it is the ten commandments is because that is what it has been for years…if the state’s acceptance of the Church is that they hang a giant “Jesus fish” then a lot of people would be fighting to get a “Jesus fish” hung in the courtrooms…but at the heart of it, people just want our nation to accept Christian values.

  3. danielt
    June 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    The Ten Commandments, and the Hebrew scriptures as a whole, are the basis for Christ’s teachings. He refered to them often. He even said he wasn’t taking away the Law, but completeing it.
    I would also point out that if you can’t do the “Thou shall not steal”, “Thou shall not kill”, and “Thou shall not commit adultery”, etc, then being merciful and peacemakers is a ways off. So let’s start with the basics first.

  4. curtisrrogers
    June 5, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    First of all guys thanks for commenting and reading. This is the point of these posts, to start a discussion. I have a few questions/comments of my own. First of all, Azevedo, I would be interested in knowing what your understanding/view is of the relationship between the 10 commandments and modern Christianity. Are the two strongly correlated? Why or why not?

    Micheal, you bring up some interesting points. I guess my biggest question from there would be have the ten commandments always been held in such high esteem in Christianity? Did the early church cling to them like many people do today? If anybody out there has done the research I would love to hear it.

    Daniel, yes Jesus’ teachings are based on the Hebrew scripture, he was after all a Hebrew, but the question I have is why did the ten commandments become more important, at least in the way that people champion them, than something like the Beatitudes. I would imagine that it has something to do with the simplicity of the 10 commandments as opposed to the more abstract Beatitudes. The ten commandments are a bit more clearly defined than Jesus’ teaching. Unfortunately I would also have to say that it may have something to do with the fact that the 10 commandments make it easier to condemn people than some of Jesus’ teachings, though certainly not all of them.

    So let me restate my question. Why did the old testament teaching become more popular that Jesus’ teach, and again popularity being defined as the fact that we never hear people push for the Beatitudes to be posted anywhere. I guess the question is better stated as how/why did the 10 commandments become a sort of mantra of Christianity over other teachings. Unfortunately, I think that Mr. Vonnegut may be on to something in that Christians are often quick to point out flaws in other people (the ten commandments) but fail to act out things like peace, love, mercy etc (the beatitudes).

    Thanks again guys, would love to read more of this discussion.

  5. Chuck
    June 6, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    I had to come back. Last night I was here twice and didn’t leave my comments and then today I thought, was Kurt Vonnegut a man of faith, an atheist, a Buddhist, I don’t know? I’ve not yet read any of his works, yes, I’m under-read. I wondered if Kurt was being like the ten commandment Christians. Was he just fussing and whining, making a noise for his belief? And sure he’s given us food for thought but the real question might be why do any of us have to fuss about anyone’s beliefs? Am I doing that here, maybe.

    As for the ten commandments in a public building, they have been a force behind some of our laws and they have a place in our history. I personally am for letting history stand where a religious artifact (not sure if that’s the right word) has found a home. Right now it would be wrong to tear down a historic symbol of native American beliefs. The Afghanistan destruction of Buddhas was absurd. My view is to keep the stuff that has been up long enough without fussing and whining but to show consideration, respect and certainly get the communities view before adding anyone’s favorite belief to a public place.

    I come from a time when we could celebrate a Christian Christmas in public schools. Anyway, I’m kinda off subject so the why, why put up the old testament hard ass stuff vs some merciful Jesus love. I think it’s because we humans so often have hard hearts towards those we see as the other, our egos are tied to our beliefs and we are afraid. I’ll let someone else tell me what we’re afraid of if they wanna.

  6. curtisrrogers
    June 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    Hey Chuck, thanks for reading. Mr. Vonnegut was most definitely not a Christian. I believe he was an atheist. He spent a lot of time criticizing religion, government, and really just about everything.

    You make good points and I like that you view it strictly from a historical aspect. That seems to be a view not often taken as, especially in our part of the country, religion is infused into everything.

    Also I feel like I should note that we do not post these quotes on the site to attack anyone, like Vonnegut, but rather to start a discussion amongst readers. Thanks again for reading, be sure to come back and visit often.

    • Chuck
      June 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

      Thanks Curtis for your response. I understand that you didn’t post the quote as any kind of attack, I just like to try and figure the perspective of the quoter and fully appreciate the use of quotes as discussion starters and I think all quotes are fair game.

  7. Zach
    July 1, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    I’m a little late to the party, but I just saw this post on the monthly recap. I’ve learned a little, and become increasingly fascinated, by Kurt Vonnegut only in the last year. I worked for a while in a building that his Grandfather designed over 100 years ago and on a, “liberal America/love everybody” street that has a 5 story mural of him (Kurt) painted on the side of a building.

    Anyway… As a regular skeptic/cynic about both patriotism and patriotic religion I’ve found some of the things he said to be very interesting. Regarding this one, I think it might be two-fold. First, Americans are extremely passionate about justice… No doubt about that and with the lens that I’m most familiar with, justice by keeping the rules (especially rules benefiting the American idea of freedom) and giving (“worthy”) punishment to those who don’t. I think this idea of justice more visibly aligns with the Ten Commandments. Secondly, I think a lot of it has to do with ignorance. Simply, what you hear more of is what will be more real to you. The Ten Commandments story is very popular and very well known, perhaps more so than the Sermon on the Mount to the average American Christian. Could it be possible that the majority (those rallying for 10 Commandments on courthouses) are more educated on the Ten than on the SOM & Beatitudes? I think that plays into it. A person is more likely to promote and believe in what they hear more about. An American Christian has probably heard both stories and read both scriptures, but without specific interest he has probably heard & learned more often about the Ten.

    Vonnegut was a skeptic, a cynic, an academic, and a humanist. Even though he probably didn’t believe in the divinity behind the Bible that the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount came from he obviously seriously studied it & Patriotic Christianity from an academic perspective. I also think, being a Humanist, he was probably really fascinated with the life & speeches of Jesus. The profession of the divinity of Christ by US Christians, but the promotion of the Ten Commandments more loudly than the Sermon on the Mount didn’t add up to him. In my opinion, understandably so.

  8. September 8, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

    I suspect this isn’t really Vonnegut. It doesn’t sound like his style.

    Anyway: Contrary to popular beliefs, there aren’t a lot of “Rules” in the New Testament. “Don’t drink blood,” and “Don’t eat food sacrificed to Idols” and “Don’t eat carrion,” are in there, but it’s not like any of us are likely to do that anyway. And that’s seriously like HALF the rules in the book. Jesus was more about guiding principles than rules.

    Which makes it hard to really depict. I mean it’s so much easier to say “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” than to rattle off the sermon on the Mount.

    Rules are easier than grace. So there y’go

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