Project Failure: “Thank God we don’t keep His commandments!”
[Disclaimer: The use of the word “noahide” in this article has little to do with the reference in Jewish tradition that all “bnei noach”, i.e., Gentiles in general, were enjoined to keep the Seven Commandments. It refers more to a label for those that belong to a certain group or club of fuzzy or ambiguous definition.]
It’s been a symptom I’ve seen in too many of my interactions with self-proclaimed “noahides.” [As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I distance myself from that label, even more so now after my recent experience with how that word was used.] The worship of the country in which they live to the point where the Seven Commandments take a lower priority is an all-too-common occurrence. Once it is seen that the Seven Commandments can be used as a lens to scrutinize the country or governmental system they love so much, it is as if I had released an irritant into the air and their bodies work to protect that which is held to a higher importance. And all to often, that thing of higher importance is not the Seven Commandments.
It hit me almost like a slap across the face when a noahide gave thanks to God that the Seven Commandments were not kept by the country or community in which that noahide lived. There was once again a devotion to the idea that person had of the country of their birth – it was only devotion to an idea because reality told a very different story. There was the same old claim that this country had similarities with what was termed as “noahide principles”, but looking closer, I saw that these principles where nigh-absent from the Seven Commandments, and sometimes nigh absent from the reality of the country this person was so devoted to. As per usual, this country’s legal system and government contradicted the Commandments God had enjoined on Gentiles, yet it was held high as the paragon of life, liberty and property (despite the fact that its practices had gradually shredded these three values).
If this were an isolated incident, I could maybe deal with it better. But time after time, both Jew and Gentile presented themselves with the same nationalism over God’s principles, shouting out against Torah itself. More than one noahide has denigrated the Seven Laws in one way or another, some comparing it to the perceived harsh laws of the muslim (I think some call it “sharia law”), others preferring modern values above the Seven Commandment. If the Seven Commandments were a club, if a religious group was a natural outgrowth of the Seven, and that group was the noahides, I would be tempted to leave. That’s how despondent I can sometimes feel. If I were part of this movement (I don’t consider myself part of it), I would feel as if I were back in church, fidgeting and fighting with myself upon seeing how servile and slavish these people were to a teaching book produced by the church headquarters rather than to the Bible or the book’s insulting of other groups. But this time I see such a worship of the greatest murderer, thief and liar of all time: government, governments that all but spit on the details of Seven Laws.
But I’m more into the principles than the people (thank God!) lest I … do what? Got no clue. Become an atheist? That would be dangerous knowing the void their morality is based on.
But it’s this clinging on to the immorality that makes this “noahide movement” a failure before it starts. As a friend recently reminded me, idolatry comes in many different forms, be it the worship of a messiah figure, or the worship of the state, or the devotion to a political system, or faith that pieces of paper can protect you against a person who wants to rule or control you. And yet I see the bones and skeletons of old christian cravings in so many of those I’ve talked to or read about amongst the noahides. And I see the graven image of the current political systems in places of reverences in their language. And as long as these systems and images still have a hold, then I see nothing but failure ahead.
I remember reading in some books about Gentiles who accepted the seven commandments in the past, how a group would appear for a little while only to be subsumed by a bigger religion or worldview as time went by. I would not be surprised if that’s the fate of this current noahide club. I can see why God commanded the Jews to keep specific laws to stay set apart from the nations, because looking at the history of the Jews, it is easy to see how easy it is for them to cast away God’s law to fit in and become assimilated and totally lost amongst the nations.
And I ask myself if there is a qualitative difference between a noahide and a republican, or a democrat, or a minarchist or a statist or a liberal or a christian, something that could make them really stand apart from the worldviews that are already out there. Once again, my mind rolls back to when there was a radio station called “Noahide Nations” on Israel National Radio, and how some of their episodes spent time discussing which candidate should be supported in the American presidency race. It was critiquing Obama and Romney. There was little reference to the Seven Commandments, although it was called “Noahide Nations”. It was essentially just a reinforcement of the current way of life. And from that and so many other experiences seeing that group, I draw a tentative conclusion.
To me, the Seven Commandments, or at least a societal observance of them, demand a system change, both a change in the legal system and a change in the system of society. Unless these things take effect, all anyone can be is a decent person. That’s it. A person can learn about the Seven Commandments, live according to them, forget the “noahide” club and try to find a place in the community in which they live. In that place, one can share what that person has learnt with others who are willing and maybe try to spread the knowledge.
Am I saying that the “noahide” idea is totally useless? Nah! It’s nice to find people to grow from and with who are supposed to use the same sources to grow from. But where it comes to changing the system we currently live under, the noahide club/movement is dead in the water. You can’t clean muddy water with mud. You can’t dismantle Edom by encouraging it. All I see a lot of times is people happy enough with the way things are, even on a fundamental level. And you can’t change anything when you’re already satisfied with it. In fact, I don’t even see much desire to change the system.
I’m glad that there are those who, through varying experiences, have seen the monster and the monstrosity that is the political and legal systems. A friend of mine has been caught in the meat grinder of the British legal system. I’ve seen and heard of the victims in other lands, like America. I’ve seen the contradiction between how these grand human-cattle farms (called countries) operate and both the Seven Commandments and my own morality. And I guess we, as individuals, can only do what we can to make whatever difference we can. And I know for sure there are those amongst the noahide club I could learn more about or be challenged concerning the Seven Commandments.
But if I have a yearning deep inside for a consistency between the Seven Commandments and the world around me, I don’t think I would turn to the noahides on a whole. [Heck, the way some Jews be lovin’ the countries of their exile … it’s hard to believe that they really know they’re in a degraded position not being in the Holy Land, having the Torah held in its proper place.] I wouldn’t want the company of those who prefer that the Seven Commandments not be the “law of the land” (done in the proper way, not just an imposition from some dictator), who thank “God” that the express will of God is not in effect here on earth. Hey, I’m not saying that many noahides don’t say with their mouths that they keep the seven laws. But … let’s just say that I’m no longer convinced about how deep or consistent that claim is anymore from the noahide club.