The New York Times has revealed a lawful method of displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools.
The subtle insight was embedded in the July 21 Sunday Review cover editorial "Why Men Need Women." To explain how Bill Gates' mother influenced his generosity, the author quoted her as saying, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." The editorial then helpfully offered that this "message was reminiscent of Voltaire (or Spiderman)."
You backwater fundamentalists strumming your banjos while watching Huckabee may recognize the line from elsewhere: it's a direct quotation of Jesus' Parable of the Talents in Luke 12:48.
The author must know this. His career conveys nothing but brilliance and scholarly diligence. He teaches at one of the most prestigious academic institutions of its kind.
One cannot accomplish such an arduous ascent to the top of the ivory tower without stumbling over a New Testament – even if it was one carelessly dropped by a Unitarian some years before. Nor can this carefully edited statement reflect ignorance by the learned Times' editorial staff. The Grey Lady is no hipster barista.
On the contrary, this quotation's attribution appears to represent the last shallow breaths of an exhausted group of editors. And no wonder. Consider the effort and discipline required to continually ignore Christianity's relevance to moral principles "discovered" by the latest opinion page studies. How painstakingly tedious it must be for the Times' staff to trace each principle to the sacred canons of either the Times' print subscribers (the French Enlightenment) or online consumers (Hollywood)?
And what to do when the principle is an explicitly Christian quotation? Well, apparently, the quotation must be washed. It must be sanctified. It must be born again with a secular voice fit for the public square.
But the Times' mindset has ended in embarrassing irony: Times' readers are too sophisticated to accept a bigoted Bible, so we'll attribute its message to an anti-Semitic Voltaire. Our trendy Jon Stewart-watching consumers find Jesus simplistic and childish, so we'll filter his teachings through a comic-book superhero. The Grey Lady has refused to serve her guests drinking water from the faucet and has instead scooped it from the dishpan in which she washed the dinner plates.
Moreover, the Times has inadvertently given Christian adherents the keys to the secular kingdom. Public schools may display the Ten Commandments so long as they are attributed to Spiderman. For "we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time." Wasn't that from Lassie Come Home?