Sunday, September 11, 2016

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

A scared kitty saying "OMG!" Image source.
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

Dear Christian Magazine Advice Columnist, my friend told me she thinks Christians are "narrow-minded" for saying Jesus is the only way. What should I tell her?

Answer: A lot of people criticize Christians for supposedly being "narrow-minded" or "intolerant." But the truth is, this isn't our idea. We're just following what God says.
I've heard that line of reasoning a million times. You find it in any apologetics book which addresses the question of Christians being "exclusive" or "intolerant." First, they blame it on God. (Then they go on to give reasons why it's totally fine for God to be like that.)

Same thing goes for other beliefs which society (rightly) sees as horrible. Christians say "don't call us bigots, it's not our fault, we're just following the bible." Sometimes this is honest- they really do wish they didn't have to believe those nasty things, but they feel like they have no choice. [Note: You DO have a choice. There are plenty of non-terrible gods out there to choose from. Many of which are named "Jesus" and based on the bible. If you're into that.] But occasionally you see a Christian who seems happy to have an excuse for their hate- they love the idea that they can be super bigoted against certain demographics of people and haha, no one can get mad at them for it, they're just following the bible.

(Isn't it interesting that they never take it a step further and say, if God is really like that, then God is not worthy of worship, and the only moral thing I can do is to oppose this God? The idea that "it's not my fault, I'm just following what God said" fails because YOU CHOSE TO OBEY THAT GOD. And that IS your fault.)

Claiming God agrees with their nasty, dehumanizing beliefs is just one way that Christians take the Lord's name in vain.

Or, here's another example: Two Christians are debating about something they disagree about. Then one says, "well, you can believe that if you want, but I'm going to side with God's word on this." Oh god that makes me angry, that is triggering as hell. In other words, "God agrees with me, so it doesn't matter what you say, you're automatically wrong. I'm not going to listen to any of your reasons." They take the Lord's name in vain.

And then there's all the Christian leaders that are teaching "this is God's way to do xyz" or "this is the biblical way." Here's God's way to raise children. Here are God's rules for dating. Here is God's definition of marriage. Here is God's plan for your life. Here is God's design for sexuality. Here are God's rules for managing your money.

When people teach "here is God's way," they take the Lord's name in vain. What they really mean is "based on my interpretation of the bible and my understanding of who God is, I have come up with these rules and guidlines." Or, if I'm being more cynical, "here is my opinion about topic xyz, I will attach the word 'God' to the front of it so it sells better to a Christian audience."

It's not "God's way." It's people's opinions. And yes, sometimes those opinons are worth listening to- they are based on evidence, research, logic, and common sense. But they are not infallible. They are not "God's." And anyone who claims they have "God's way," anyone who equates their own opinion with God's opinion, anyone who uses God as an excuse to spread bigoted lies about other people ... well, the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses that name.

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