Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Name in Vain

Last night Maia and I went to a PSEO information night sponsored by a local homeschool co-op. PSEO - also known as "dual enrollment" - stands for "Post-Secondary Education Opportunities" and is a program for all high school students (those in 11th and 12th grades in Minnesota) to take college courses free-of-charge to earn high school and college credits simultaneously.

As we were moving from table to table, looking over options for the fall, we chatted with a woman who had one daughter who had already utilized the program and was now in college. The woman had two younger children as well and she was looking over courses for her son this year. She said she was looking at courses offered through the co-op, because with her daughter, they had just gone through the schools and she was hoping for an outcome that better supported their family's faith.

To clarify, the co-op is Christian, and offers classes for middle school and high school students. In addition to the classes the co-op offers themselves, they also partner with three, local, Christian colleges to offer a selection of PSEO courses at the co-op's location, partly to save drive time and gas for parents with kids of various ages.

The woman said that her daughter is a theater major and, having gone through the public universities'/community colleges'  theater programs, they had to regularly think about subject matter and language used in the performances in which their daughter was supposed to play a part. Obviously, this was a matter of choice for this young woman and her family and it was one in which the young woman chose to participate. That's not what this post is about anyway.

One of the situations the young woman found herself in was that the script called for her to shout out, in anger, "Jesus Christ!"and this went against her beliefs. Her mother said that she and her family talked about it. Her daughter wanted the part in the play and in fact, when she'd won the part, she had not seen the whole script and hadn't realized that this particular phrase was in it and so she ended up shouting "Cheese and rice!", which apparently sounds to the audience a lot like the former and she was able to "get away" with it.

Which brings me to my thoughts today.

I wonder, does anyone know if, in other cultures where there is another predominating faith, do they use the name of their leader, their prophet, their God, as a swear word?  Certainly here, I have never heard someone mutter or shout, as they hit their thumb with a hammer, "Oh, Buddha!" Or if they are disgusted, in frustration with a problem presented to them, "Mohammed!" Acutally, with that last one, I would suggest that it would rightfully raise the ire of any Muslim and they would likely have something to say about it.

Why then, do Christians remain silent about this? Why do some even participate?

Why do we take the most sacred name in our lives and use it as trash, as an expression of anger and hate? Why do we take the name of the one who willingly died for us and throw it around as if it were nothing? Other leaders have led and inspired and even died, but they have not willingly walked to their deaths for the sake of others. We hallow the names of Martin Luther King Jr, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi. All of their lives were taken from them and us and while they lived for us, they did not also die for us. Can you imagine using one of their names as a curse? And when you think of it like that, even if you do not claim to be a believer, most people agree that Jesus was one of the great men/teachers in history. And yet so many use His, of all names.

And do you not find it interesting that God knew we would trash His name? It is the third of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7) and yet seems so flippantly disregarded.

The young woman in the theater class chose to bend to cultural pressure while still doing what she felt was right. Standing up and speaking up for your beliefs is something that comes with time and maturity. Certainly, another curse word could have been used in place of the one written in the script without changing the storyline, but it takes guts to speak up, especially to others in authority. I understand that.

I will, however, challenge the reader, if you are a believer, that as we move closer to the end of our Lenten season to the highest holy day of our calendar year at Easter, to consider how you use His name. Is it precious to you and one you utter only with love and gratitude or does it slip out sometimes in moments of anger and frustration? This is not a hard habit to break, Friend, for that is all it is: a habit.

If you can curb swearing around your children, you can certainly stop taking Christ's name in vain. Arguing that you can't curb swearing around your children does not hold much weight, because as with any bad habit, if you were paid not to swear or if you had an authority figure watching over you or if you were in the presence of the President or royalty, you could curb your tongue. It has to do with your will and ultimately, your heart, which is what Jesus talked about over and over again anyway. It always boils down to a heart issue.

So give it some thought and put it into practice. It's an easy enough thing to do for Someone you love.
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