Friday, October 21, 2005

Taking the Lord's name in vain

Maybe it doesn't mean what people think it means. Do we really imagine that in the second commandment the Infinite is saying, "Hey, don't use My name when you're not really talking to Me! I hate that! I'm all like 'What do you wish to tell me, My child?' and you're all like, 'Oh, sorry about that, I wasn't actually talking to you.

Jeez that's annoying! Yes, My Son Jeez finds it annoying as well. So just cut it out, mm-kay?"

Demetrius and I spent a lot of time talking about this sort of thing a while back. It was interesting to ponder these things together--as different as our outlooks on religion seemed to be, we found a lot of common ground. Here are some of his thoughts on the Ten Commandments:

I actually taught Sunday School at one of the incredible churches we attended on our "spiritual sojourn". (And, it is an incredible church that will ask you to teach the children without actually asking what you believe!) I picked up the lesson from the previous teacher at the Exodus story. We went thru the 10 Commandments and I related each one to our relationship with the Infinite and/or our relationships with other finite beings. The first 4 or 5 seem to me to say "Hey, there's a bigger picture... Don't get so wrapped up in your petty stuff that you forget this. And, don't make the mistake of thinking your petty stuff is the Big Picture." Then they go on into "Don't damage people's bodies, or reputations, or relationships with other people... It was interesting to see 10 year olds really getting it when I divorced it from bowing down to the Big Guy With The Beard.

When we talked about the second commandment, we agreed that it probably meant something like, "Don't do bad stuff and then say it was My idea."

Dave Weissbard at The Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, IL explored the meaning of that commandment as well:

The third Commandment says, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." What that actually means is that it is a trivialization of God to make an idol of his name, much less his image. This is why Orthodox Jews do not even write out the name of Jaweh, but only use initials without the vowels, which is how some Christians came to call God "Jehovah" -- by filling in the wrong vowels. What this commandment forbids is what our recent Presidents have done to a fare-thee-well, which is to hide behind the name of God, to drop the name of God as if they were buddies and working together. Their turning of political speeches into prayers by concluding them, "God Bless You" or "God Bless the United States of America" is exactly what the Third Commandment prohibits.

I'll tell you what--I still don't feel right saying things like "Oh my G--!" And when my daughter said it a while back, I gently suggested that she say "gosh" instead, because the other expression is upsetting to some people. Her grandparents, for instance. I didn't even think to invoke a commandment at the time. I don't imagine that it's high enough on Godde's pet peeve list to make the top ten.