Focus on the Family and its sponsors in the Southern Baptist Convention long for a return to what they (mistakenly) consider to be Old Testament law. In their view, the world needs legalism. Never mind that few Jews — in ancient times or today — have ever been as legalistic as evangelicals claim.

At the heart of this Southern Baptist vision of divine rule is the phrase “Ten Commandments.” Due to variations in texts and translations, Jews and Christian denominations interpret and number the commandments (of which there are as many 15) differently.

The Southern Baptist church’s moral and academic watchdog, Albert Mohler, happens to be a Focus board member. So Focus was a logical venue yesterday for Mohler to promote his latest book which, like others before it, seems to turn his denomination’s version of the 10 Commandments into an idol to be admired — not heeded.

One of the chief commandments warns against the casting of idols, yet that is what Mohler’s Baptists have done in erecting stone monuments to the commandments on public property.

Another commandment warns against “having no other gods before Me.” Yet, in gathering people to pray to flags and patriotic icons rather than God, Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptists conjure icons and spirits and pray to them.

Yet another commandment says, “Honor your mother and your father.” But Focus on the Family and Exodus read that differently: “Blame your mother and your father” for your same-sex orientation.

What is often considered the 10th commandment reads, “You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.” But this act of coveting may well be a key motivation of the ex-gay political leadership. They covet the freedom of those who are sexually honest and the social equality of those who are not imprisoned by their own suffocating orthodoxy. Instead of simply practicing honesty, freedom, and equality, however, Mohler’s Baptists and Focus on the Family view life as a zero-sum game in which they cannot be honest, free, or “equal” unless they deny freedom, honesty, and equality to others.

Focus on the Family says Mohler’s neglect of the Ten Commandments is “good news.” Good news for whom?