German church publishes 10 commandments for the digital age

(Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC)

Digital technologies permeate almost all areas of life, changing the way people live, work and relate to one another so the Evangelical Church in Germany has offered guidance on dealing with the digital world.

The guidance put out by the EKD as the main Protestant denomination in Germany is known is based on the insights of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, one of the world's best known set of guiding principles.

The publication – Digital Freedom: The Ten Commandments in Times of Digital Change – is structured around 10 sections.

Each takes one of the Ten Commandments, exploring its insights for understanding the opportunities and dangers of digital technologies.

"The Ten Commandments reveal new perspectives on digital transformation and ethical insights on how we can shape it," the chairperson of the EKD council, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, writes in a foreword to the publication.

"The prohibition of graven images in the religious context, for example, offers criteria for a human-based approach to image-based digital technologies," he writes.

"Biblical statements about killing, adultery, or bearing false witness offer new perspectives on dealing with autonomous weapons systems, private and intimate relationships in digital space, and the opportunities and dangers of a new communication culture."

Digital technologies have developed so rapidly over the past decade that social norms on how to deal with them have lagged, Bedford-Strohm said at an April 22 press conference to launch the new publication, the World Council of Churches reports.

"This makes it all the more urgent to focus more on the ethical consequences of digitalization," he said.

The EKD brings together Germany's main regional Protestant and Lutheran churches.

It is one of the co-organizers of an international symposium on "Communication for Social Justice in the Digital Age" in September, being jointly hosted by the World Council of Churches and the World Association for Christian Communication.

The 248-page EKD publication (in German) is accompanied by a website and a social media campaign using the hashtag #EKDigital.

The Ten Commandments in Times of Digital Change:

1. Protect and live out freedom as God's creatures in the digital realm.

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Ex. 20: 2-3)

2. Understand how the worlds of digital images shape identity and solidarity.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing . . . (Ex. 20: 4)

3. Be aware of the options for religious communication in the digital world.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain . . . (Ex. 20: 7)

4. Give (digital) life a wholesome rhythm.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Ex. 20:8)

5. Make inter-generational relations more equitable digitally.

Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Ex. 20: 12)

6. Stop digitalized violence.

Thou shalt not kill. (Ex. 20: 13)

7. Give space for freedom and respect in intimate relationships in the digital sphere.

Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Ex. 20: 14)

8. Encourage just participation in the digital economy.

Thou shalt not steal. (Ex. 20: 15)

9. Promote truthfulness in the digital world.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Ex. 20: 16)

10. Beware of covetousness in digital space.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's. (Ex. 20: 17).

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