Losing Moses on the Freeway: America's Broken Covenant with the Ten Commandments

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Overview

In Losing Moses on the Freeway, Chris Hedges, veteran war correspondent and author of the bestselling War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, delivers an impassioned, eloquent call to heed the wisdom of the 10 Commandments. Celebrated for his courageous reporting on the crucial issues of our time, Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School, explores the challenge of living according to these moral precepts we have tried to follow, often unsuccessfully, for the past 6,000 years. The commandments,...

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Overview

In Losing Moses on the Freeway, Chris Hedges, veteran war correspondent and author of the bestselling War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, delivers an impassioned, eloquent call to heed the wisdom of the 10 Commandments. Celebrated for his courageous reporting on the crucial issues of our time, Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School, explores the challenge of living according to these moral precepts we have tried to follow, often unsuccessfully, for the past 6,000 years. The commandments, he writes, do not save us from evil. Instead they save us from committing evil.

Inspired by unyielding faith, rigorous moral scrutiny, and a fierce sense of social responsibility, Hedges offers a breathtaking meditation on modern life. Losing Moses on the Freeway illustrates how the commandments usually choose us — and how we are rarely able to choose them. We cannot protect ourselves from theft, greed, adultery, or envy, nor from the impulses that lead us to commit evil acts. In honoring the commandments, we free ourselves from self-worship and are called back to the healing solidarity of community. It is in the self-sacrifice championed by the commandments that integrity, commitment, and, finally, love are made possible.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist Chris Hedges describes the experiences of ordinary people who struggle with the ancient imperatives of the Ten Commandments in the modern world. Each chapter pairs a biblical commandment and a contemporary person. A provocative treatment of an ever-timely topic.
Publishers Weekly
Hedges, a correspondent at the New York Times, first made a name in the book world with his remarkable study War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Now Hedges, the son of a Presbyterian minister, brings together ruminations on the 10 Commandments. Inspired by Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Decalogue (a series of 10 films, each based on one of the commandments) each of these pieces profiles someone who has "struggled on a deep and visceral level with one of the commandments." Some of the chapters-like Hedges's meditation on how consumerism becomes a way of taking the Lord's name in vain-are quite profound. And some of the connections he makes are refreshingly creative; his chapter on idolatry, for example, tells the story of a young woman who makes an idol out of the rock band Phish. But sometimes, he's banal ("Time is short. Life is brief"), and sometimes Hedges's very creativity drains his profiles of impact. The chapter on greed, for example, portrays a woman named Karen Adey, who dreams about becoming a multimillionaire and has hemorrhaged thousands of dollars attending self-help seminars in an effort to make her dream come true. This chapter could have resonated more if he had written about someone whose covetousness was just as pervasive, but a little more run-of-the-mill, like the college kid who goes into credit card debt buying clothes and CDs he doesn't need. Although this exploration of the 10 Commandments is uneven, much of it is provocative. (June 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The Ten Commandments of the Hebrew Bible-often viewed as basic rules for living-are frequently violated in American life, argues New York Times reporter Hedges, whose War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Based on his own experiences or stories he has previously written, the book is really a critical indictment of American culture-a wake-up call for those who are morally ruined by narcissism. Hedges's writing is engaging, but his reports are often brutally violent. From the horrors of living in a Boston ghetto to the battlefields of Vietnam, the reader is exposed to one tragedy after another. In the chapter on the Fifth Commandment, he tells the touching story of his father's stormy life as a Presbyterian minister-a vocation he could not follow even though he has a master's from Harvard Divinity School. Hedges has no love for religion or the church, but he shows a great deal of courage here: in 2003, he was shouted off the stage at Rockford College, IL, for giving an antiwar commencement address. His book is bound to make many readers uncomfortable, but perhaps the message needs to be heard. Recommended for all libraries.-James A. Overbeck, Atlanta-Fulton Cty. Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A melodramatic, overwritten examination of present-day virtue-or the lack of it. This investigation of the Ten Commandments and how far Americans have fallen from their standard began as a series that staff correspondent Hedges (War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, 2002, etc.) wrote for the New York Times. He now devotes a chapter to each commandment and chronicles the stories of quirky individuals whose lives intersect with each. The chapter on the Sabbath, for example, describes the outre Friday-night rituals of pediatricians Stephen Arpadi and Terry Marx, who drink Shabbat vodka gimlets and allow their kids to watch a video, Shabbat TV. He also tells us that letting go is an integral part of parenthood; that "all love hurts"; and that love "is difficult and hard" and "filled with a transformative power." Self-help pabulum of this kind might be expected from a Hallmark Hall of Fame special, but not from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. The most engaging section is the transcript of a controversial antiwar commencement speech Hedges gave in 2003 at Rockford College. He was practically booed off the stage, and he transcribes every heckle the audience hurled at him. It's a revealing slice of Americana, though perhaps only tenuously connected to Hedges's putative theme of honoring one's parents. Another failing is Hedges's grandly capacious interpretation of the commandments: ironically, this roominess may even allow ordinary readers to wiggle out of the commandments' range. Take the chapter on adultery, for instance. Hedges profiles a man named H.R. Vargas, whose father left his mother and took up with another woman while Vargas was in utero. Vargas, now a father himself, is stillbattling the emotional consequences of this early abandonment. The story is powerful-but abstract: one wonders whether the tale of an ordinary, white-collar office affair might have cut a little closer to home for most readers. In the main, uninspired and trite.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743255134
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Hedges was a foreign correspondent for nearly two decades for The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. He was a member of the team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for The New York Times coverage of global terrorism, and he received the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. Hedges is the author of the bestseller American Fascists and National Book Critics Circle finalist for War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. He is a Senior Fellow at The Nation Institute and a Lannan Literary Fellow and has taught at Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University.

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Table of Contents

Decalogue I Mystery 9
Decalogue II Idols 39
Decalogue III Lying 53
Decalogue IV The Sabbath 67
Decalogue V The family 81
Decalogue VI Murder 101
Decalogue VII Adultery 115
Decalogue VIII Theft 129
Decalogue IX Envy 145
Decalogue X Greed 157
Epilogue: love 171
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005

    If you want to understand ...

    If you want to understand that religion shouldn't be about rules but should be about love read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2005

    easier to be cynical

    This is a wonderful little book whose aim seems to be to remind us that God is about love and grace and kindness and forgiveness, all of which we run from as though they were curses, rather than gifts. God told Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM,' but most of us are so afraid to examine our lives and truly find out who we are. So we turn from God, from love, and seek answers elsewhere. We listen to diet soda ads or Glamor magazine or Beck or wacko fundamentalists who are sending everyone else to Hell. Hedges lays bare the emptiness of our consumerist greed-based culture. The terror most of us feel in the face of raw, honest emotion is exposed. I don't believe in God but I do believe in the foundations of His Commandments: love, grace, kindness and forgiveness. It's easier to be cynical, to be greedy, to be glib. It's not better, just easier. As a friend of mine says, 'You can stand in the garage all you want. Doesn't make you a car.' We hide from the truth because the truth demands too much in return. I'd suggest two steps. first, read this book. Second, reflect on your 3 o'clock in the morning self. How do you feel about you all alone, in the dark at 3 am? Then be truly brave, truly adventurous and make yourself into a person you can stand to be alone with in the middle of the night.

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