Culture > Books

Books: Dr. Laura's Mt. Sinai

Books | Good on the law, but in need of the gospel

Issue: "Unholy matrimony," Feb. 13, 1999

You remember the scandal (like most scandals of late, it was quickly eclipsed by President Clinton's troubles). Within days of the release of Laura Schlessinger's new book, The Ten Commandments, the pictures appeared. A man with whom the radio moral therapist had had an affair, some 20 years ago while they were both married to others, still had some nude photos of Dr. Laura. And then he sold them to an Internet porn site. After eventually admitting the photos are real, Dr. Laura has said she regrets many things she did before she became a practicing Orthodox Jew (she converted earlier this year). How has this affected her sales? Not much, apparently; her book debuted and remains high on the various bestseller lists. And that's as it should be, disappointing though that is for her critics. "You know Dr. Laura. She's talk radio's nasty, angry, borderline psychotic with that weird, overdone laugh. She's the holy-of-holies (and surely holier-than-thou) moralist preaching no wine, women, song, sin, just shove that gruel down your gullet and love it to 18 million listeners nationwide, 9 to noon locally on WRKO," fumed columnist Margery Eagan in the Boston Herald recently. But Ms. Eagan misses the point and takes offense at the wrong things. Dr. Laura, in spite of her laugh (I find it annoying, too), does not preach "shove that gruel down your gullet and love it." Her message is much more outrageous that that. She preaches that if you shove that gruel-and if by "gruel" Ms. Eagan means a holier lifestyle-down your gullet, you'll find that you do love it. Because a real and holy God made you that way. In fact, the most significant thing about Dr. Laura's new book isn't what she says about the Ten Commandments and morality; she really just expands on what she tells callers every day. The significant thing is what she assumes. Here's an example: "The Ten Commandments are binding because they were given by God, the parent of all humanity," she writes. It's startlingly clear here, and in numerous other places in the book, that Dr. Laura believes this to be a historical fact. Here's another example: "From Eden to the present time, the God-human relationship demonstrates a subtle evolution, if not in power, then in responsibility." There's no apology in there at all-Dr. Laura writes about Eden as if it had been a real place, filled with real animals and two real people. And the God of the Bible-this is the part that should really outrage Ms. Eagan-is real, and really as He's portrayed. "The One and Only God is a Universal God," Dr. Laura writes, "whose sovereignty is all things and all people; a moral God who demands moral, ethical living, and justice from all mankind." In other words, Dr. Laura isn't just saying that Ms. Eagan's moral outlook is wrong; she's saying that everything Ms. Eagan assumes to be the truth about the universe is wrong (that goes for contemporary American culture, as well). Now, there are serious problems with this book. Although she deftly outlines the antithesis between godly morality and a godless worldview, she does not admit the differences between Judaism and Christianity, nor does she perceive man's desperate need for Christ. And there's a big, conspicuous hole in her book where she should be discussing homosexuality. Her opinion on the subject has been changing; three years ago, she was berating Christians on the air for believing their actively homosexual friends were immoral. Now, she writes, "The Bible distinguishes between holy and unholy sex. Holy sex is that which takes place between a husband and wife in fulfillment of their marital relationship. Unholy sex is everything else." And she really should have at least mentioned her own adultery when the subject came up. Her own experience demonstrates how morality is impossible for fallen human beings to attain, apart from the forgiveness and lifechanging power of Jesus Christ. But The Ten Commandments is a fine book and application of the law, if not the gospel. And that this particular section of Scripture has found such a popular voice is nothing short of miraculous.

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