The third of the ten commandments reads like this:
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)
Out of all the commandments, this one has struck as a bit stranger than the rest. I can’t quite put my finger on why though. I guess, compared to the others, I’ve put it on some sort of lower pedestal. We can all agree that murdering somebody or committing adultery is a pretty big deal. But what about letting a God damn it! fly every once and again or a Jesus Christ! or for that matter a Jesus f*cking Christ! as if the Virgin Mary inserted f*cking for her son’s middle name and Christ was somehow Jesus’ last name. If avoiding comments like this is all it means to respect the name of the LORD, then that’s not a problem. But I would like to extend what it means to misuse the name of God. Instead of mildly cursing in anger or outrage, what if misusing the name of God can happen everywhere, even in the church? For example, Constantine claims he sees a divine sign from God and then goes on to kill people for the sake of this name. Jump ahead a number of years and we see the Crusades where many Christians were killing in the name of God. Let’s even take a look at recently. President Bush has used the name of God to support the war in Iraq. But let’s not stop with the Republicans. We could point to both of the current presidential candidates saying they are on the side of God in order to win the evangelical vote. Or let’s look inside the walls of churches. We say that true christians act in such and such a manner or vote for such and such a candidate or have such and such a worship style. And christians always incite the name of God to win people over to their side. What if the third commandment was not limited to just using the Lord’s name in cursing form, but rather expanded to include the times we use God’s name to get what we want. The times where we guilt trip people by saying this is what God said in the bible and this is how God would respond today. If this is the case, that misusing the name of God includes using God as some sort of clearance sticker so people will pay attention, then I think it becomes one of the harder commandments to keep. Because it seems to me we always think God is on our side or we’d get on the side that God is on. We are constantly using the name of God as a power trip even receiving tax-exempt status as churches. I really think it is necessary that we begin to include this misuse of God’s name in our interpretation of the third commandment. And if we are trying to stay true to the text, then we can see the bible is a little unclear on just what it means to misuse the name of the Lord.