After a nice, greasy hangover breakfast, I finally made it back to Jeff’s building. He had changed the name on the door to be “G. Dammit”. The door swung open before I could reach the knob.
Jeff looked like a seven-year-old waiting for me to laugh at an obscure knock-knock joke. “G. Dammit! Do you get it?”
“Not to tell you your business, but doesn’t that break the third commandment?”
He looked puzzled. “Covetting? What does covetting have to do with it?”
“That’s number ten, you goof. Number three is ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.’”
“Pah! What kind of an insecure arsehole would write that?”
“You did. How can you not know your own rules that you told to Moses on Mt. Sinai? I would have thought this would be important.”
“Come on Paul, give me a little leeway. That was a long time ago, and Moses didn’t always take the best notes.”
“Since they seem so open to interpretation, would you mind if we go through these commandments together?”
Jeff was suddenly very interested in his fingernails as he said, “Sure. Let’s do it.”
I opened my Elvis bible to a folded page. “Okay, here’s the first one: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Jeff gave a disgusted look. “Do I REALLY seem so insecure as that? Even if the other gods are not real, I’m sure my Department of Incoming Prayers would totally appreciate the lighter workload.”
“Number two: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”
Now he just looked confused. “Isn’t that basically the same as the first rule? I know I could be accused of some redundancy in the past – I mean, how many different kinds of squirrels do we REALLY need – but I don’t think we need two commandments that say ‘I’m number one!’”
Couldn’t argue with that. “Now here’s the one that got us on the topic: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
“Wow, man. I sound a little oversensitive on that one. It doesn’t bother me so much as leave me wondering about the point. I mean, would you really condemn someone for saying ‘Paul damn it’? That’s just silly. I don’t even know where Moses got that one. I thought that burning bush smelled a little funny; I should really look at the vegetation more carefully before deciding to burn it right under someone’s nose.”
I chose to ignore the implication that Moses was stoned. I wasn’t sure if The Almighty was just trying to bullshit me.
“Number four: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.”
“Ha! People have had a hell of a lot of fun with that one. ‘I am not allowed to work, but Dear, please go kill, clean and cook a nice meal: The Abrams are coming over for dinner.’ There seems to be a lot of interpretations of the word ‘work’, and the interpreting has all been done by men with any sort of power. I was just trying to be nice, and give folks a day off.
Makes sense. “Number five: Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Is that a threat, Jeff? Are you saying, ‘Do what your parents say or I will smite thee’?”
The Supreme Being shifted uneasily on his rock and roll couch. “You got me on that one, Paul. It had been a bad day, there were a bunch of screaming kids in the market. I just thought I’d legislate a little peace. That’s all!”
“Number six: Thou shalt not kill.”
The Almighty smiled and rubbed his hands together. “Finally! One of the meatier commandments! Why didn’t Moses write this down as the first one? I don’t think we need to argue about the validity of this one. However, Mo didn’t write down any of the exceptions.”
“There are exceptions to ‘Thou shalt not kill’?”
“Well of course there are. Morality isn’t black and white, Paul. I’m not as judgemental as it may appear in your little glittery book! For example, what if someone really deserved it? Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh, Fred Phelps – I mean, who could really blame someone for killing one of those arseholes? Am I right?”
“Hang on! You’re saying it’s okay for us to go out and kill evil people?”
“See now, Paul. That’s why I need you here. A statement like that on its own could have really caused some turmoil. No, of course not. What I’m saying is that if you do a bad thing, and kill somebody, and it just so happens that they were evil, it may not be considered QUITE as sinful. The Department of Karma and Punishment may not fulfill their mandate on that occasion. Is that a little clearer?”
I chose not to go any further with THAT line of questioning. Jehovah seemed to have a few surprises in him. “Um, Number seven: Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
“Sister, that one is serious. I mean, you’re going to promise your life to another person, right in front of all your friends and family, and then think you have the right to screw around? I don’t think so! If you’re having feelings for someone else, get a divorce, and then screw whoever you like.”
This was also a surprise. “That almost sounds black and white, Jeff. Why so definite?”
“It just comes down to keeping your promises, Paul. I’ve been cheated on, and it’s fucking lousy!”
I made a note to come back to this topic. Who’n hell cheated on our Lord?
“Number eight: Thou shalt not steal.”
“Yeah, man. Nothing too mysterious about that one. Just don’t take others’ shit, right?”
“Number nine: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
“Seriously, I shouldn’t even have to say a lot of this shit. Mo liked to write it down all official-sounding. I believe what I said was ‘Nobody likes a lying fuckhead’. Much more straightforward, wouldn’t you say?”
Moses did sound like a bit of a blowhard. Makes you wonder why The Lord would have chosen him as spokesperson.
“Last one: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
Jehovah rolled his eyes. “I swear I have no idea. I’m not saying I’m into the whole Free Market way of thinking, but really, what’s wrong with admiring your neighbour’s stuff? It can give you something to strive for. I just don’t get this one.”
I looked over my notes. “Well, Jeff, it looks like you have problems with a lot of these commandments. If that’s the case, do you have suggestions for additional commandments that truly reflect your will?”
“You’re Jeffdamn right I do. I can replace all of those with one single rule that really says everything I feel is important about morality.”
I ignored the pseudo-blasphemy, and had my pen at the ready. “I’m on the edge of my seat, Jeff. Hit me.”
The Almighty leaned back and got comfortable again on his rock and roll couch. He smiled as he proudly proclaimed, “Don’t be an arsehole.”
He was right. That really does cover it all.