Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ten Commandments a Publicity Stunt?

With all the controversy surrounding the various Ten Commandments monuments around the country, many have dismissed non-Christian proposals by groups like The Satanic Temple as publicity stunts. The critics do have a point, in that Christianity is by far the majority religion in the United States and many of the groups themselves admit that their reasons for proposing monuments have more to do with bringing attention to the separation of church and state than the statues themselves.

Cracked, which has transitioned from a knock-off of Mad magazine to a site that produces humorous articles with some surprisingly good journalism, has an article up today that points out another side of the Ten Commandments dispute (see #5 on the list). It turns out that many of the monuments that Christians are working so hard to protect were themselves created as publicity for the 1955 film The Ten Commandments.

While Cecil B. DeMille was working on the movie, he learned that a judge from Minnesota had been working with a Christian fraternal organization to send framed copies of the Ten Commandments to schools and public buildings for display. Not in anticipation of a big epic movie coming out, but because he thought America needed reminding of God's laws before those filthy beatniks could corrupt the nation.

Eager for publicity, DeMille contacted the judge and suggested that they replace the framed certificates with bronze tablets, but the judge said no way. Moses' tablets were in granite, so bronze wouldn't do (apparently no one bothered pointing out that framed paper certificates were just fine for the judge before DeMille and Paramount got involved).

So, with DeMille's backing, around 150 granite tablets were made and distributed across the country, with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner dedicating a few of them in person. Having Heston and Brynner on a faux religious tour was great publicity for the film, which grossed around $80 million. When the movie was out of theaters, the monuments stayed, and the group that helped the judge at the beginning of the story kept right on sending them out into the mid-'80s.

In the immortal words of Alan Rickman as the Metatron in Kevin Smith's Dogma, "Say you're the Metatron, people stare at you blankly. Mention something from a Charlton Heston movie and suddenly everyone's a theology scholar!" Or in this case, they're apparently Poor Oppressed Christians angry at the evil Satanists wanting to put up a devil statue next to their favorite movie prop. The horror!

So if you still thinks these promotional items are worthy of special protection, I'm sorry for you. Just because a publicity stunt dates back to 1955 doesn't mean it deserves special rights, and that light there's no real difference between a 60-year-old movie prop and a brand new statue of Baphomet. The law is clear - the government can either allow both on public property or allow neither. There is no in between, no matter how loud the Poor Oppressed crowd whines.

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Nerd said...

I don't see why these Jesuspeeps are so obsessed with the OLD Testament.

Perhaps we should send them copies of the Gospels. They could be missing out!

Scott Stenwick said...

I think the Poor Oppressed crowd just likes the idea that God was a total badass back in the day. That newfangled love-and-light stuff that Jesus taught doesn't allow them to be nearly as obnoxious or judgmental.