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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Arizona's Monument Garden

Arizona's Wesley Bolin Plaza features a monument garden that I think is pretty impressive. I had the opportunity to walk through it today and was reminded of just how diverse the objects of memorial are. Sure, we have monuments to wars, but there is also a monument to police dogs that died in service. And there is the pictured monument to those who died in the Armenian genocide and another one to the conservation corps that did so much work during the Great Depression. There is plenty of controversy: memorials to confederate soldiers, to Spanish missionaries, and a 9-11 memorial that gives more notice to dissenting voices than some would prefer. There is also a Ten Commandments Memorial.

How are we Arizonas doing at living up to the principles found in these commandments that are allegedly foundational to our society. The first four deal with respecting and honoring God. We have agreed not to compell participation in a religion, or even to directly support any religion. But there are other ways to honor God. In fact, the prophet Micah suggests that God doesn't care about "com[ing] before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old, . . . with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil [or even] offer[ing] my firstborn for my transgression." Rather, God "has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." To my knowledge there is no First Amendment prohibition against loving mercy or acting justly. Do we do that here? I suppose we do okay on the behavioral commandments.

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