Think most Americans know the Ten Commandments?
Despite living in a country with a rich and still prevalent Christian heritage – as evident from the Pledge of Allegiance to the nation's motto, "In God We Trust" – Americans were found to be more familiar with the ingredients of the McDonald's Big Mac hamburger than some of the Ten Commandments.
In a new study conducted by Kelton research in conjunction with the upcoming release of the animated feature film, The Ten Commandments, 80 percent of respondents knew "two all beef patties" were among the ingredients of the Big Mac but only six out of ten could identify "Thou shalt not kill" as one of the Ten Commandments. Also, while 43 percent of respondents – including those who regularly attend worship – could recall Bobby and Peter, two of the least-recalled names from the Brady Bunch, they were less familiar with two of the least recalled commandments – "Remember the Sabbath" (34 percent) and "Do not make any false idols" (29 percent).
"This gradual erosion of our knowledge of the Ten Commandments is a pretty serious issue," said Paul Lauer, founder and president of Motive Entertainment, the group marketing the Ten Commandments film. He adds that he was shocked because these were statistics coming from a country that is known as "a Christian nation."
Lauer, along with makers of the Ten Commandments movie, say they hope the film will inspire Americans to improve their literacy of the Ten Commandments and the Bible. The film, produced by Promenade Pictures, is slated to hit theaters Oct. 19.
The family-friendly film tells the story of Moses, the reluctant prophet of God, who leads the enslaved Chosen People from Egypt to the Promised Land. During the journey, Moses, who is also accompanied by his brother Aaron and sister Miriam, delivers the Ten Commandments given to him by God to the people.
Ed Naha, the film screenwriter of The Ten Commandments, said that one of the unique aspects of the movie is its portrayal of Moses.
"He was actually a very reluctant prophet," said Naha, who also wrote Honey I Shrunk The Kids. "He tries to talk himself out of the job. It's actually a leap of faith for Moses to accept the job of being God's voice."
The film is unlike other movies carrying the Ten Commandments theme not only because it works more from actual scripture but also because it traces the development of Moses as he gets more comfortable, more assertive, and more connected with his calling, according to Naha.
"Our Moses is very close to the Moses found in the Bible," he added.
Naha said his depiction of God in the film is also different from what people might expect. While many people considers God to be "vengeful" and "angry" in the Old Testament, Naha, who grew up Catholic, said he tried to portray God as a fatherly figure.
Cindy Bond, president of Promenade Pictures and producer of the animated movie, said her decision to make The Ten Commandments stemmed out of moral duty for her faith and nation.
"As a mother, as an industry profession, a wife… and someone who grew up in a Christian household, I watched the erosion of our values in our society," explained Bond.
"The Ten Commandments are the entire backbone of the reason why the United States was started. It's important to bring back the Ten Commandments to the society."
Dr. Ron Wexler, president of the Ten Commandments Commission, which commissioned the survey comparing American's knowledge of the Big Mac and the Ten Commandments, also stressed the value of the commandments.
"Knowing and living the Ten Commandments empowers people and feeds their souls, while knowing the contents of a famous hamburger, at most, only feeds the stomach," said Wexler in news release.
The Ten Commandments Commission is a coalition of churches, synagogues, civic and community organizations dedicated to keeping America "One Nation, Under God."
Wexler, who likened the commandments to "principles" according to the Hebrew translation, is also involved in an effort to declare May 6 as "Ten Commandments Day" and has invited people to sign the petition.
"How empowered we would be as individuals and as a culture if we knew and lived by the very foundation of our moral and ethical codes," said Wexler.
But even if people have no background knowledge of the Ten Commandments, they will still be able to enjoy the film, according to Naha.
"I would love for this to just appeal to everybody … no matter what your religion is," said the screenwriter. "It's about people having faith and overcoming all sorts of obstacles and being guided by their faith.
Viewers will also get a chance to hear a song written and performed by Christian music artist Jeremy Camp for the film.
Camp, named 2005 Best Male Artist of the Year by Gospel Music Association, said the song "I Am Willing" is about answering to God's call in spite of the insufficiencies one may see in himself.
"Moses had a hard time stepping out at first. He was saying to God that I'm not a very eloquent speaker," said Camp.
But it's important to have a "willing" attitude, said the music artist, and tell God, "But Lord, I am willing, to be whatever you want me to be — with arms stretched wide — use me as you will."
"In our own strength we can do nothing but in his strength we can do everything," he added.
The upcoming Ten Commandments film is the first installment of a 12-part series called "Epic Stories of the Bible" from Promenade Pictures. The second release in the series will be Noah's Ark: The New Beginning. Other installments will feature the story of David and Goliath, the battle of Jericho, and possibly Daniel and the lions and Genesis.
As part of a grassroots campaign for the movie, Motive Entertainment has launched the "Ten Commandments Challenge," available on the movie's website, that will enable participants to test their knowledge about the Ten Commandments and see how well they stack up to the national average in their age bracket.
The Ten Commandments will be distributed in 150 markets and shown on 700 screens.
On the Web:
The The Ten Commandments movie trailer at 10commandmentsmovie.com
The Ten Commandments Challenge at 10commandmentschallenge.org..