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Judeo-Christian Morality and Societal Health

Laura Hollis on

Growing up, I rarely -- if ever -- heard anyone in authority discuss the relationship between Judeo-Christian concepts of morality and health. Instead, morals were cast as somewhat arbitrary rules that had to be followed to avoid being cast into Hell.

I can't speak to what may happen in the afterlife. But in my almost six decades on the planet, I have observed that there is a powerful correlation between the foundational principles of morality in Judeo-Christianity and health in this life: physical and spiritual health, emotional and psychological health, and societal health.

The Ten Commandments are an excellent starting point. The simple admonitions contained therein serve as the foundation for a healthy, well-functioning society, set in order of importance. They begin with the relationship between God and man, then allocate time between earthly work and worship, then move to the importance of the nuclear family. From there, they move outward to the relationship human beings have with one another.

The first, second and third commandments sound purely authoritarian: "I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me," "Thou shalt not make idols" and "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." But these are crafted to protect us. At the time the Ten Commandments were handed down -- and for millennia before and after -- the world was filled with religious, cultural and societal practices dedicated to pagan gods. Such practices were often brutal and bloody, demanding human sacrifice, including child sacrifice. Those who professed to speak for these deities -- or who set themselves up as gods in their own right -- used their power to exploit and enslave others, and enrich themselves.

By establishing Himself as the ultimate authority, the God of the Ten Commandments says, keep your eyes fixed on Me and only Me . Then, as now, His Word is Truth and thus a shield against the false gods and their mouthpieces.

The fourth commandment is similarly misunderstood: "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day." As a Catholic schoolchild, I was taught that this meant "If you don't attend Mass on Sunday, it is a mortal sin." But Christ's explanation focuses on our needs , not merely our obligations. In the Gospel of Mark, He emphasizes that the Sabbath is to be a day of rest from toil: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Worship is restorative, not punitive.

 

The remaining commandments can be viewed similarly. The fifth commandment sets the father and mother -- and thus, the nuclear family -- in a place of honor, below only God. The rest forbid conduct that destroys the family and society: killing, adultery, theft, lying. Even the right to one's property is acknowledged in the commandment that forbids coveting what one's neighbor owns.

The cultural and political founders of our nation proudly proclaimed it to be grounded in Judeo-Christian principles. But many of today's societal leaders -- academics, politicians, media and entertainment personalities -- pay mere lip service to these principles -- or denounce them and call their abandonment "progress."

The facts tell a different story. Because we refuse to acknowledge God as the source of truth, we fall victim to the most absurd and patently false claims possible. We deny our very identities -- men are not women, and women are not men. We deny the power and seriousness of our sexuality and instead behave like primeval pagans. Children in the wombs of their mothers are not viewed as human beings, imbued with dignity and worth, created in the image and likeness of God, but as "nonpersons," disposable aftereffects of temporary entertainment. We do not honor our spouses or our vows; we end our marriages, fracture our families and damage our children by pulling apart their love for both parents.

And that is when we marry at all. Staggering numbers of children are born into fatherless homes. Mothers are overwhelmed. Children are unmoored from and unfamiliar with any sense of healthy masculinity. They -- and we -- pay a heavy price. Our children suffer from depression and anxiety. Our neighborhoods are riddled with violence. The callous murder of one human being by others is just another video on Facebook or TikTok.

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