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You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.  Exodus 20:7

I’m gonna jump on my anti-Christian Culture soapbox, as I seem to be so fond of doing on this blog.  The above verse you see is one of the Ten Commandments.  According to the Bible, these words were stated by God Himself and given to Moses to write down and preserve for the Israelites to follow (along with the other nine commandments.)  It is an oft-quoted verse today.  Any of you who have familiarized yourself with crosses and steeples know this.  To those who are not familiar with this verse, I would quote Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Yes, the actual 10 Commandments. The original stone tablets that Moses came down out of Mount Horeb and smashed, if you believe in that sort of thing. Didn’t you guys ever go to Sunday School?

It is taught in most Evangelical churches today that to say “Oh my God!” while cursing is a violation of this don’t-take-God’s-name-in-vain rule.  (Quick tip for picking out the Evangelical Christian in your group of friends: Give them shocking news.  The one that says “Oh my goooooooosh!” is your Christian.  They draw out the “o” part of the word, so it sounds like what everyone else is saying, but refuse to end it with a “d”, so they switch to slang.  Just a bit of random, useless info for ya. 🙂 )

Anyway, to get back on track…Here’s where I disagree.  Saying “Oh my God” does not break this commandment because “God” is not God’s name.  The command is to not take the NAME of the Lord your God in vain.  The word “God” in the English language functions much like a pronoun.  What’s that?  For those of you who slept through English class, there are three pronouns in the English language: He, She, it.  They are generalized terms which describe a certain group.  “He” describes all men, not a specific one.  In the same way, “God” describes all deities from all religions, not a specific one.  “God” describes beings from mythology to Islam to Christianity.  Even beyond that, a god is anything you worship.  You can be your own god, your job could be your god, video games, spouse, politics…whatever it is you elevate to supremacy and worship.  So yelling “Oh my God!” when you are horrified is not actually belittling or disrespecting the Christian God. (I’m not insinuating there is more than one God.  I don’t believe there is.  I am just trying to make clear which religion I am speaking of.)

But the Christian God does have a name.  If someone yelled “Allah!” when cursing (which I have never heard in such a context) we’d know just who this person was disrespecting.  In that same context, to yell “I AM” (the name God gave Himself in the Old Testament) or “YAHWEH” or “Jehovah” (not sure where Christianity came up with those names for God) would be to break the commandment I am speaking of.  That would show disrespect specifically to the God of the Bible.  (But in our culture, no one uses those terms to curse anyway.)

Just to make things clear: I don’t, as a general rule, say “Oh my God.”  I was raised not to, so its not really a habit.  Beyond that, in the Christian culture that exists today, it is considered offensive.  It is for my family, friends and neighbors that I refrain.  And even further, as an English major I don’t feel I need to use terms that mean nothing when I have a slew of vocabulary that does have a specific description.  It may sound like I’m extremely bothered by this and am looking for chances to exclaim, “OH MY GOD!” at the top of my lungs; I’m not.  It doesn’t bother me in the least.  So why did I write this?  Because it is one of my purposes of this blog to question rules that have gone unchallenged (be they religious or otherwise).  It is also my way of documenting what I am studying at this point in my life.  I’m not trying to be a nit-picky literalist. I’m just in search of the truth. 

Anyway, let me know what you think.  Agree? Disagree? Don’t really care?

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One Response

  1. I don’t know what to say. I am having a hard time typing after reading the part about how to pick out the christian in the group. That was priceless.
    You know me though, I am not big on religion and tradition. So I would lean to the “agree with you” side of the debate, although I don’t use the phrase very often just because it offends others and those that aren’t Christians see it as a sin as well. Kind of like cursing. I personally don’t believe cursing/swearing is a sin. They are made up words and most have a really interesting background as to how they were created. But others see them as wrong and in order to keep peace I try to refrain. Unless I hit my finger with a hammer, then the bad words seem to come out on the own.

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