Well, almost a year after we at Patrol went on record to quell the manufactured outrage over swearing Christians, Christianity Today is back at it again. This time it is Mollie Ziegler Hemingway who posted a piece on that most specific and forbidden kind of cussing, “using the Lord’s name in vain.”

In her article she lays out her case with example after example of the way that people who do not necessarily profess to be Christians or even have any real relationship with Christianity use our Lord’s name in vain. Among the offenders are the HBO series “The Pacific,” Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, Joe Biden, and even Tiger Woods.

Hemingway’s piece does dig a bit deeper when she gets to the importance of God’s name as the way that he reveals himself to humanity, and she really hits her stride as she points out that using God’s name in vain can mean misrepresenting him in word or deed.

Certainly this must be Hemingway’s main point, so why start by admonishing the language of television shows, journalists, politicians, and athletes? If she is capable of swimming deeper, why spend so much time in the shallow end of the pool?

Though the third commandment is commonly understood to refer to cursing, many Biblical scholars say this reading is actually incorrect, or at the very least, doesn’t see the full picture. Taking the Lord’s name in vain, then, is more about how we represent or misrepresent him, as Hemingway pointed out in her final, and more substantial, point.

So, again, a year later, let’s stop policing people’s language. To do so perpetuates the “Church Lady” stereotype of Christians and stifles the intellectual growth that is so needed in Christendom. I acknowledge that certainly violence can be done with the tongue, and we should stand against that as we stand against all violence, but in essays like Hemingway’s, or the swath of articles that surrounded the release of Derek Webb’s latest album a year ago, what they are talking about is actually quite trivial. Swearing is not about blaspheming, it’s about manners, and it just doesn’t matter as much as our Sunday school teacher’s wanted us to believe.

 

 
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Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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