I've been reading Wendy Farley's Gathering Those Driven Away. I haven't gotten very far ver quickly because I have not found it engaging. But, then, I read her discussion of the first three of the ten commandments and was very intrigued.
These prohibitions, these love letters, invite us to recognize the dynamics of idolatry so that we might be better able to desire and adore the Beloved.
And what are those dynamics of idolatry? Clearly not worshipping idols made of stone or wood. This isn't now nor ever was the problem.
Together these first warnings remind us of the threefold nature of our ignorance: 1) we cannot fathom the great mystery of liberation; 2) in our ignorance we fasten on symbols of power, desire, and fear as if these were themselves divine; 3) we magnify our mistakes and cruelties by perpetrating them in the divine name.
For Farley, the key to the First Commandment is the way that God identifies God's self: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me." She writes, "Liberation is the signature of YHWH; it is the secret mark that identifies the Beloved amid all impostors."
If we are looking for God and trying to identify God among all the competing powers of this world, God will be the power of liberation and healing, the one bringing people from bondage.
The Second Commandment then warns us not to make any idols. Again, this isn't about crafting some artistic image. It is about assuming that divine power is like anything we are familiar with. It is not. "When we tie this power down to our imaginations, we betray it, subjecting it to the small and limitied things created by the Divine but which the Divine infinitely transcends."
Finally, the Third Commandment is not about cuss words, rather it prohibts us from using the name of God to justify our actions, particularly those that act against the nature of God (those that fail to liberate and heal). She writes:
The violation of this third commandment is the most complete betrayal of our faith. It is not simply that we do not understand the Divine. This lack of understanding is fundamental to our condition and is not itself a betrayal. But identifying our mistakes and baptizing our cruelties in God's name is the root violation of the intimacy between humanity and the Beloved. It betrays the divine love, it betrays our desire, it betrays our obligations to love one another. By naming one of our most characteristic confusions as a violation of the Decalogue, this third commandment exposes the root tragedy of the human condition: evil and destruction are justified in the name whose real power is creativity, healing, and liberation.