Understanding “Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain”

Growing up Catholic, I could not help but understand many religious factoids with all the worldliness of an eight-year-old kid. For the most part, the rules about murder, stealing and lying were easy to grasp, but the stuff about bopping my friend’s mom or loving the neighborhood bully were a bit baffling. When the Nuns told me that sins put black marks on my soul, I immediately conjured a mental image of smoker’s lungs. I had to grow up before I figured that stuff out. The last rule I figured out, pretty late in the game considering the simplicity of it all, was the Second Commandment, the one about taking the Lord’s name in vain.

I have a suspicion that most folks out there still see the Second Commandment through the eyes of their Sunday school classes, and believe it is pretty much limited to dropping a GD or a JC as an explicative when they get excited. You can divide those folks into two rough groups, the atheists and the monotheists. I have to say that both groups sound equally ridiculous when they drop God’s name on a whim, like he is their drinking buddy or something.

Atheists sound positively stupid. Let me get this straight. You are not convinced that God exists and you are certain that, if Jesus existed at all, he was just a religious zealot who got lucky and founded the dominant religion on planet Earth. Yet you constantly demand that a God you have no faith in damn all sorts of petty stuff, and you beg a dead rabbi to witness all the incredulous crap that occurs in your life. That’s clever.

Religious folks are even worse, though. We actually believe in God, and most of us believe that Jesus is God become man. When we drop a GD, we are actually calling on what we believe is the most powerful being in the universe to bring his full weight and fury down on whatever is irritating us. Can you imagine if God actually paid the least bit of attention to all our blather and cursed every little thing we asked him to? That would make global thermonuclear warfare look like a crisp walk on a pleasant autumn morning. Please! And to have the vanity to believe that JC actually wants to listen to all our petty criticisms of the world around us is pure idiocy. We are like a global cloud of mosquitoes swirling around God’s ear whining “GD this,” and “JC that.” We are lucky he largely tunes us out.

Still, that is only the Second Commandment for beginners. I believe that the Bible directs the real truth of the Second Commandment at those people who use God’s bully pulpit to violate God’s law. People who don the authority of God and then commit evil in the name of God. The Bible is replete with warning about these false prophets and false teachers. These are the people who use their position of religious authority to rape and abuse children, to enrich themselves, to start wars, to commit murder, terrorist acts, genocide, and the like. From Jim Jones to David Koresh to Bernard Law to Jimmy Swaggart, these sort of folks take the Lord’s name in vain with extreme gusto. The Lord will not hold any of these people guiltless. It is better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck than to harm a child. Call it the Ratzinger Conundrum. No cloak of faith or title will protect a single person. No Imam, rabbi, priest, pastor, nun or witch will be exempt. One and all, their best hope is that the atheists are right and all religion is make-believe.

Advertisements