Dr. X - Bush To Pope: "Go Stick It" genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Gifts are fascinating things to psychoanalysts. An analyst does not accept a gift from an analysand without giving careful consideration to the possible meanings of a gift to the gift-giver. Like the dreams and stories recounted by the analysand during the analytic hour, gifts convey manifest conscious meanings that often disguise multiple unconscious meanings and feelings held by the giver of a gift. A gift that is ostensibly given as an act of love, friendship, gratitude or generosity, may, for example, also express unacknowledged or unconscious ambivalent feelings held by the giver.

A few months ago, Chris Allan at InThe Room offered a wonderful brief discussion of receiving a gift of a crossword puzzle book from a patient prior to his leaving for a three-week vacation. Chris understood the gift of "cross words" as an expression of unacknowledged anger the patient felt over his leaving. Chris’s discussion offers an interesting example of how an analyst or therapist might go about understanding the purpose and meaning of a particular gift.

During his recent visit with Pope Benedict at the Vatican, President Bush presented the Pope with a walking stick inscribed with the Ten Commandments. I can’t help but think of possible meanings of giving the Pope this particular gift.

Pope: But I don’t need a walking stick, Mr. President.
Pres: That’s okay, Benny. Just stick it somewhere.

Unmentioned anywhere in the coverage of the President's gift to the Pope, is whether the stick carries the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments or the version accepted by Protestants. Catholics drop the second commandment that forbids making graven images while dividing the last commandment into two commandments, keeping the total number of commandments at ten. Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians see much of Catholic art as idolatry — a violation of the second commandment. Carved by a black man in Texas, I strongly suspect the stick carries the version used by Protestants.

The gift is particularly interesting because the Pope has been an outspoken moral critic of the US presence in Iraq. One can’t help but consider the multiple possible meanings of giving the Pope a stick inscribed with a moral code that even includes a commandment that morally condemns the Catholic Church in the eyes of many evangelicals and fundamentalists. Sold for the artist by a friend of the First Lady, the walking stick might well convey the President’s feelings about the Pope’s moral rebuke of his policies. It isn’t hard to imagine the President being publicly cordial with the Pope, while privately or even unconsciously feeling what he cannot say with words but can say with a gift: “do you know what you can do with your moral condemnation, Your Holiness?"

Cross-posted at Dr. X's Free Associations

Dr. X | June 11, 2007 | 11:39 AM
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1 On June 11, 2007 at 8:45 PM, Timothy wrote —


Catholics do NOT drop the 2nd commandment. That is an urban myth propogated by people who don't know the true history of the ten commandments.

What many Protestants, particularly Calvinists, refer to as the 2nd commandment is actually the last line in the 1st commandment. Nothing is dropped or missing.

The 1st commandment reads in full:

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them." (Ex 20:2-5; cf. Deut 5:6-9)


Historical documents show Augustine enumerated the ten commandments in the traditional Catholic manner. After the Reformation, Catholics and Lutherans continued the ancient traditional Catholic manner of division.

I believe you'll fnd that John Calvin redivided and rewrote the ten commandments. I would ask by what authority was John Calvin authorized to rewrite the ten commandments over what the Church had before and immediately after the Reformation.

God bless...

2 On June 14, 2007 at 1:04 PM, Dr X wrote —


You are arguing the Catholic position, which is a position that Calvinists do not accept. This difference has practical implications. The difference between the Catholic understanding of the commandments and the protestant understanding means that Catholics may adorn their churches, shrines and sometimes their homes with images, statues, icons and art that protestants consider a violation of the second commandment as they enumerate the commandments. There is nothing mythical or urban about what this means in practice. Calvinists often villify Catholic art as idolatry. Catholics do not accept this interpretation and Calvinists do... and that is the point of the post.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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