By Craig Funston
I have often wondered what would happen to certain people if they stopped swearing. I think the resulting silence would be deafening. And refreshing.
Today’s commandment, now the third one, speaks primarily of abusing the Lord’s name; but by extension, it really applies to any vulgar language. Simply stated: “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.”
There are two ways we can use the Lord’s name: one is bad; the other, good. One is cursing; the other, blessing; and one fills the atmosphere with a cloud; the other, with sunshine.
The key difference, of course, is both intent and content.
On the good side of the ledger, if I wish someone “God speed,” that’s good. It’s also very archaic and we don’t hear it too often. Even the “good” in good-bye has its roots in the word “God.” And if I speak in such a way that I promise or request a “so help me God,” that is bringing God (honesty, justice, and integrity) into the situation. And you all know what many say in response to our sneezing. (And it’s more than gesundheit.)
Those are very timely and appropriate uses of the word “God.”
Taking the Lord’s name in “vain,” then, means it has no purpose, it is empty. Men and women (this is an equal rights column) will often spew out God’s name with no kind intention whatsoever.
Doing that is purposeless and empty, and so meaningless. And as a wordsmith, wasted words and useless utterances really stretch my patience. And then to add insult to injury, I see it as a personal attack on the God Who made each and everyone of us, this writer included..
The appropriate use of “God” is in worship, adoration, requests, and confiding. There should be no other purpose for using His name. Any other use would be considered taking His name in “vain.”
I have always found it strange that a culture that is becoming more and more godless, we’re hearing more and more outbursts that involve the use of His name. Have you ever considered that contrast? In other words, we leave Him out of our hearts, homes, schools, and media, but we make sure His name is used as a convenient whipping boy (I say that reverently) when it comes to language. Go figure.
I have often thought of starting movement whereby “God” is replaced by “Hitler” or “Crosby” or “Mom.” That’s ridiculous , of course, but no more ridiculous than cursing with the name of the God Who created all mankind.
It’s a bad habit that has plagued all of us since Day One (“Day One” is the day we started effectively expressing ourselves verbally). And by extension, cursing God leads to other foul language and minced oaths (eg., God becomes “gosh,” damn becomes “darn,” hell becomes “heck,” and so on.)
Again, I am not asking you to agree, but I am asking you to think about it. Agreeing with me would be great; but I’d settle for you at least finishing reading today’s column.
A culture without cursing, lewd responses, and all those squiggly symbols (#^@$$) is hard to imagine. Can you envision a book without profanity, a movie without f-bombs, and songs with lyrics that are wholesome?
Apart from the divine perspective, a populace that cannot express itself without using vulgarity is an illiterate society, no two ways about it.
I don’t think it’s necessary to give a primer on what constitutes filthy language. There is no need to list what is bad language here. It’s more like a verbal diet: Just delete the bad stuff out of your vocabulary, and keep the healthy, helpful words in.
Is it that simple? No, but it is that necessary.
Thus, if I—as a writer, grammarian, Christian, and citizen—make it my goal in life to speak appropriately and accurately, I won’t stoop to cursing God every time I stub my toe or get cut off in traffic.
If you find that you have a bad habit of cursing, I challenge you to clean up your mouth (and there’ll be no need for soap at this point).
Sounds good to me.