Today I saw another post on facebook about a politician calling for our God-given right to bear arms. My first thought was of Princess Bride. I do not think when they say God given they really mean that God gave them the right to bear arms. Or did I miss that in Scripture? I could divert into a discussion on why it’s actually very appropriate considering the god they speak of in this this way is not the same God as I speak of, the one of the Bible. They speak of the god of the Declaration of Independence. I could talk to you about the god of our civil religion, but that would make my point inconceivable. Lately, I’ve been reading stuff like that a lot. Stuff that politicians insist is a God-given right. Or stuff where politicians, tv personalities etc claim to speak for God.
I began to wonder why exactly that bothers me so much. It bothers me because these people use God’s name to add weight to threats or relevance to demands. They use it to avoid the possibility of argument or scrutiny. They use it emptily for their own ends without any regard to the gravity of the idea that they are claiming to speak for God. All of the sudden I wondered if perhaps that’s what meant by using the Lord’s name in in vain. I mean sure, for years we’ve been telling kids it means not to swear using God’s name. but it seems to me that saying God damn this or that is more of a command you are making of God not unlike God bless this or that. Not to mention that the Bible often states that the Lord blesses and damns many things. While these bother me as well, I do not see them as being un-biblical; unless of course you are changing Scripture to bless or curse what you think should be blessed or cursed, rather than what the Bible blesses or curses. But those phrases are empty as well, are they not? Both of them. But anyway that’s beside the point. When people pretend to speak for God without feeling the enormity of doing so, is that taking the Lord’s name in vain?
It seems to me that taking the Lord’s name in vain is the same as blasphemy. As Christ was accused of blasphemy, why not start there. John 10:25-38 Is a passage where a group has gathered intending to stone Christ for saying that He does what miracles He does in God’s power. Christ says that you don’t have to believe Him but believe His works that He is with the Father and the Father within Him. Blasphemy in this passage is saying that you are doing things in God’s name or power, when you have no authority to say so. In several other passages in the synoptic gospels, Jesus is accused of blaspheming by forgiving sins. The accusers think that Christ was usurping God’s authority and pretending to wield it at will, thus trying to make himself like God. None of this seems equivalent to saying “Oh my God.” It seems to me that blasphemy is pretending that you are doing things or saying things that God alone has authority to say and do.
So are those crazy politicians pretending to do and say things that only God can do or say? In my opinion, yes. Saying that God gave me the right to carry a gun into a bar seems pretty equivalent to telling someone that God gave you the right to heal, or forgive, or performing a miracle. You are in affect speaking for God or on God’s behalf not using any given authority. Christ, obviously was given authority to do so, and I do believe that Scripture that speaks for itself is authority given to us. However, the day I find the passage that says God gave me a right to carry a gun wherever I want, is the day that bow down before the god of the declaration of independence.
Back to my tangent. Let’s not get confused. When politicians speak in the name of God on a topic not directly gleaned from Scripture, they are not speaking on behalf of the God they think they are. Our country has established a civil religion with it’s own traditions, sacred texts, law, and covenant. These are separate from ours. Transposing this god over the God of the Bible is blasphemous. It is putting this false God in a place that only God can sit and makes declarations only God and God’s Word can declare. This is the definition of taking the Lord’s name in vain.