The Ten Commandments — #3

TenCommandmentsA StubbornThings Symposium   5/29/15
Introduction  •  How blissful was my ignorance of the true essence of God’s Third Commandment. Such ignorance kept me concentrating on bottling up that stream of “damns” and “mother oaths” that flowed like a polluted river through a heart undergoing reluctant reconstruction. But in digging deeper, it soon became clear that treating the symptom instead of the disease could never be sufficient – for God, or frankly, even for a wretch such as me.

We are hypocrites all. And if our hypocrisies are fueled by the natural homage that vice owes to virtue, then we soon find ourselves trading in an array of masks intended to obfuscate or deceive — and starring as both the subject and object of our religious charade. It is this mask of religion that wears increasingly thin as we pawn ourselves off as “good” to a jaundiced world. Indeed, it is that same mask that causes others to revile or curse the notion of God, as our inconstancy reveals that our entire exercise was saturated with the acid of human pride and presumption.

If one takes into account the potential number of people who have written off the Christian “pilgrimage” because they could discern little evidence of God’s transformative power in lives that were supposedly surrendered to the Cross, then the 3rd Commandment becomes that proverbial millstone around our necks as punishment for causing others to stumble. Whether one be a bishop or layman, no man is immune to the powerful witness that his life holds over the decisions of others. One need only watch a man closely for a brief span of time in order to discover the dimensions of his god.

If judgment begins with the House of God, then that which we do and say is of vital importance, lest we tempt others to revile the Deity as capricious, unholy, or unjust. If we infer to others that God’s character is somewhere on the continuum between being a mollycoddler and a brute, then are we not in spirit “taking his name in vain” and attaching it to some transitory moral cause or passion rooted in flesh and self-interest?

Once again I have been honored with the task of presenting StubbornThings symposium on the Christian Commandments. The gifted writers that follow have labored long in teasing out the 3rd commandment’s wisdom. Enjoy.

Glenn Fairman


Number 3: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”


 

ANNIEL

YOU SHALL NOT SWEAR FALSELY BY THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD; FOR THE LORD WILL NOT CLEAR ONE WHO SWEARS FALSELY BY HIS NAME. (Deuteronomy 5:11, TANAKH Version, JPS )

What does it mean to swear falsely? Is it just a matter of lying or is it more? If you promise to do something, is that the same as swearing to do so? Or if you swear to uphold or protect something is it the same as taking an oath? An oath occurs between two or more people, groups or nations, and is a symbol of an agreement or covenant. For instance, marriage is a covenant, the terms of which are sworn to before an authority of some sort. One group or nation may swear an oath to protect and defend another, or they may make a covenant of peace with each other.

An oath was once considered unbreakable and an oath breaker was the lowest of creatures. The punishment for oath breaking could be exile or even death. Adding GOD to the mix means that when you swear before HIM you are making a very serious commitment to do as you say you will.

The Third Commandment as given in the King James Translation of the Bible gives a slightly different slant to the matter. Deuteronomy 5:11 reads:

THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN: FOR THE LORD WILL NOT HOLD HIM GUILTLESS THAT TAKETH HIS NAME IN VAIN.

The word “vain” as given here means “useless”, or “of no power.” If the oath is vain it means nothing on either side of the agreement is valid. It would be wrong to ask a blessing from the Lord without making it an oath that you will do well with what you request. It is also true that using the Lord’s name unthinkingly as a epithet would be in vain.

In an age of casual promises and lies, oath breaking seems almost quaint to consider. But in the Third Commandment God says he will not clear the person who swears falsely by His Name, or will not find him guiltless. And HIS word is eternal.

Historically in Western Society it is customary for people taking a public oath to place their left hand on the Holy Bible and raise their right arm “to the square.” In the United States of America elected and appointed members of the government place their hand upon a Holy book to swear such an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” and also covenant with the people they serve that they will uphold and sustain the law according to the Constitution.

How seriously do those who take that oath mean it? Is it just pro forma these days? Do they even consider the consequences of swearing falsely? There seem to be so many liars and oath breakers in government that one must conclude most no longer take their oaths seriously.

Even Supreme Court members, the president, congressmen and other leaders denigrate the Constitution publicly and place their own judgments above those of the Founders and the Constitution with no accountability. Once again, in their presumption, we let them sell our national birthright for a mess of pottage. They have not yet met their retribution, which is in the hands of The Lord God.

We will all stand before the Judgment Seat and answer for our own oaths and covenants.

Do not swear or take an oath you are not prepared to keep. You cannot lie to God and not pay a price.

— Anniel is a frequent contributor to StubbornThings and suggested this symposium.

 

PATRICIA L. DICKSON

Exodus 20:7

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” 

God gave The Ten Commandments to Moses after He had delivered the Israelites from under the bondage of their Egyptian slave owners. During their exodus, the children of Israel witnessed God’s countless miraculous provisions and protection. Because God showed His love for the stiff-necked Israelites, it is only natural that He would demand that they honor and respect His name. The third commandment focuses on showing respect for God’s name. God commanded that His people (Christians) not take His name in vain.

The Hebrew meaning of the word take is to lift up, bear, carry, use or appropriate.  The word name in Hebrew is an outstanding mark, sign, or reputation. The Hebrew word for vain is lashav, an empty or thoughtless manner. The Greek word for vain is mataios, useless or without purpose. To use God’s name in a thoughtless careless manner is to show dishonor for Him. What are the ways that we can dishonor God’s name? When most people hear or quote “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain”, the first thing that often comes to mind is using God’s name with profanity. However, the most common but often not thought of, way of dishonoring God is when a believer (Christians) conducts his or her life in a way that is contrary to God’s teachings. In other words, a Christian will dishonor God’s name in the presence of unbelievers if his or her (Christian’s) conduct does not align with God’s teaching. Moses knew that in order for the other nations to honor God, it was imperative that the Israelites (whom God had delivered from slavery) conduct their lives in a way that would honor God. Christians are responsible for revealing and teaching unbelievers who God is. Living a hypocritical life blasphemes His name.

Romans 2:21-24

Well then, you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you teach against stealing, do you steal (take what does not really belong to you)?

You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery [are you unchaste in action or in thought]? You who abhor and loathe idols, do you rob temples [do you appropriate to your own use what is consecrated to God, thus robbing the sanctuary and [h]doing sacrilege]?

 You who boast in the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law [by stealthily infringing upon or carelessly neglecting or openly breaking it]?

For, as it is written, The name of God is maligned and blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you! [The words to this effect are from your own Scriptures.]

We often think that anyone can take God’s name in vain. It is true that unbelievers carelessly use God’s name in conversation and often in connection with profanity.  However, Christians are the ones that can truly take God’s name in vain because we are the ones that are in a relationship with Him. The world cannot honor God because it does not know Him (has no relationship with Him). Respect is the foundation of a good relationship. When unbelievers witness Christians showing reverence for God, that and only that will cause him or her to be convicted and refrain from profaning His name. However, no one that takes God’s name in vain will be found guiltless (free, clear, or unpunished).

Why is God’s name worthy of such respect? If we pose this question in reference to the Israelites, the obvious answer is that God brought them out of slavery. However; God not only brought them out of bondage, he protected them and provided for their every need. God showed them His love and faithfulness time and time again (even when they rebelled against Him). God does the same for believers today. His name is worthy of respect because of who He is and what He has done. No other name deserves the same honor and respect as God because no one has done what He has done. No one is able (regardless of claims) to do what God can do. There is no politician, minister, husband, wife, boss, father, mother or friend that can do for anyone what God can do. That is why His name is worthy of respect and should never be taken in vain.

— Patricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner. She can be reached at dicksonpat@sky.com.

 

DEANA CHADWELL

El Shaddai, El Shaddai, El Elyona, Adonai   (– with thanks to Amy Grant)

Recently I attended a baby shower for an ex-student of mine. She, and her old high school friends who were there, informed me that, even though it had been 20 years since their graduation, they couldn’t comfortably call me by my first name. We all laughed about that. It brought back the memory of a time when my students used to bow elaborately and call me “The Chad.” One of them did that one day in front of an exhausted first-year teacher and the baffled expression on his face as he glanced back and forth from me to my student was priceless and still makes me chuckle. My point here is that there is power in names and that’s the point of the third commandment.

This mandate is very interesting and one that feels curious to modern day readers. Other commandments deal with life-or-death, societal survival issues – murder, theft, adultery, lying, coveting, obeying parents, behaviors that if left unchecked can destroy a nation, as we are seeing happen here and now. This third command, however, seems to simply be a restriction that deals with God’s name, and yet it is the commandment that carries with it a threat of punishment. What’s with that?

“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). The other laws can hurt people — can hurt you — if you break them, so this one seems pointless and petty. But it’s not. (It is also not a prohibition about profanity in general. It only deals with our understanding of and respect for the very name of God. So, we shouldn’t say, “God damn it!” or “JESUS CHRIST!” No, we shouldn’t, though I contend that isn’t the only point here.)

In earlier times a name was much more than a label; it was an indication of who you were, what your character was like, where you were from, who your parents were. It was a sophisticated tracking system; it explained where you fit into the community. We have lost much of that. In many societies you were careful about who you let know your true name; it gave the other person power over you.  I saw the truth of that in the halls of the high schools where I taught. Any student I caught misbehaving in the halls was reluctant to tell me his name. If I knew his name, he was certainly in trouble.

In ancient Israel, and amongst the orthodox Jews of today, the name of God is never spoken nor written. “I am that I am” i.e. YAWH, the Tetragrammaton, or as we would write, Jehovah, was never pronounced. God was called Adonai, or El Shaddai, Elohim, or El Elyona. To this day a serious, English-speaking Jew will write the holy name “G-d” as a way to show that continued awe and respect for our Creator.

In a sense this tradition, this idea of the sacredness of God’s name, is the idea of the sacredness of language in general. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (John 1:1).  After all, God spoke the universe into existence. He spoke us into existence, so we should use that name advisedly.

I like the New International translation I quoted above.  I like the word “misuse” – it makes much more sense than “in vain.” But how does one misuse the Name of God?

There are several ways:

Of course there’s the usual – don’t swear using God’s name. For one thing, that’s just common courtesy, but as I said earlier, it isn’t the main problem here. One could assiduously avoid doing so and still violate this prohibition.

It’s more important by far to avoid using God’s name as a means of guaranteeing the veracity of some statement or contract you make. “I swear to God – it’s true!” For one thing, I’ve rarely heard someone say that who was telling the truth; the truth can stand on its own and doesn’t need enhancement. To use God’s name to back up some false allegation is just nasty.

But, if the third commandment is about veracity, why isn’t it a part of the 9th commandment? — because it is about the essence of God. Who is He? To use any of His attributes as an excuse for activities or attitudes contrary to the Word of God is to misuse His Name, His eternal perfection, His omnipresent omnipotence. Now, that’s huge, and more than worthy of guilt and its ramifications. To say, “God is love and so He must love people to love, so I’m going to marry my gay lover, “ is to misuse God’s name, His character. Likewise, to say, “God is perfect righteousness so He must hate gays, so I’ll hate them too,” is equally awful, in fact, may be worse. The Westborough Baptist church makes this kind of mistake often. To think, “Jesus helped the poor so I’ll support whoever will use the government’s power to help them,” is way off the mark. Anytime we misuse His Word to back some false idea we are misusing His name. We are claiming that He is what He is not.  Given the meaning of Jehovah, that’s dangerous stuff.

It is easy to clean up our language, but to strip our very thoughts of all misstatements about who and what God is, what His opinions might be, and who we are in relation to Him, is a vast and arduous task. For one thing we need to know what God’s character truly is. We need to “study to show [our] selves approved unto God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth, “ (2Timothy 2:15). God is not a figment of our imagination, He is not tailor-made for us to use to bolster our whiny egos. Elohim (which is plural in the Hebrew) is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Commander in Chief of the Armies, the Bright and Morning Star. We should be in breathless awe when we utter His name.

— Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.

See Also:
The Tenth Commandment Symposium
The Ninth Commandment Symposium
The Eighth Commandment Symposium
The Seventh Commandment Symposium
The Sixth Commandment Symposium
The Fifth Commandment Symposium
The Fourth Commandment Symposium
 • (4591 views)

Share
This entry was posted in Symposium. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to The Ten Commandments — #3

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    A couple notes about symposium #3:

    A couple more essays may yet come in. I’ll add them when they do and make note of it in the comments section. Also, forgive my laziness, but I’ve kept the names in the same order as last time. I just get tired of fussing with some of the particulars. Yes, I signed on for this job. But it can really be a nightmare getting some of the formatting right, so I took the path of least resistance. Just consider it affirmative action for the ladies. 😀 They’re in the front and the blokes are in the back.

    Glenn has written an outstanding and heartfelt introduction . . . the best yet for any of the Commandments. I’ll leave you to enjoy and judge the merits of the main body of essays, but I just wanted to make special note of this.

    On a more personal note (narcissistic note?), I write my essay before receiving (or reading) anyone else’s. This is so I’m not influenced by them and inadvertently steal an idea. It would be impossible not to. When I read Pat’s essay, for example, I thunked by head in the “I coulda had a V8” way because I saw large gaps I had missed (and this is true regarding when I read the other essays as well). But we all have a different point of view and offer a difference emphasis, so it’s all good.

    As the designated heathen of this symposium, it is fun and instructive for me to delve into these Commandments. What if there really is a God who inspired their writing (or dictated them)? As Pat (and some others) notes, the worst possible thing you could do then — even beyond murder — is take that relationship away by souring the milk, by holding up oneself as such a bad example of religion that others are put off. Dennis Prager often notes this destructive aspect.

    So you learn something writing these things and even more reading them. And seeing such a fine collection from willing and generous participants, you can understand why I don’t bother with Twitter or Facebook.

  2. Anniel says:

    I love reading these and seeing what I missed. It’s funny how we agree on some things and then have something show up so unique that you almost switch gears in mid-thought. Thank you all for doing this.

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    The notion that the commandment, in the original Hebrew, referred specifically to swearing falsely in the name of God echoes today in the use of the Bible in courts (and elsewhere) to make perjury especially heinous. On occasion, my father used to use this when doubtful of someone’s alibi, demanding that they swear it on the Bible. The tradition apparently goes back many centuries at the least.

    As for the idea of NOT saying “God damn it” as a normal form of swearing, I will admit to being frequently guilty of it, especially for everyone who has ever had anything to do with Microsoft Windows, Mozilla Firefox, and Google, all of which have been very frustrating of late. On the other hand, I would argue that, as with Charlton Heston’s final words in Planet of the Apes. I really mean it, so I’m really not taking the Lord’s name in vain.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I read these a page at a time, so I have additional comments after reading Jerry Richardson’s piece. I rather liked his reminder of the easily obvious fact that Barry Screwtape Obama began his reign with a deliberate act of perjury, since he never intended to keep his oath.

      I would say that “God damn you” when used as a genuine curse rather than as simple swearing (profanity seems an odd word for it, though we may have no better one), can be considered a request to God to damn someone (or a lot of someones). Of course, Richardson’s point would seem to be that this is actually worse than using it without such serious intent. Unfortunately, for those of us who are hot-tempered, there seems to be no adequate penalty to wish on those who enrage us (such as the people at Microsoft who sell finished code that seems to be as reliable as alpha code, as I should know from my own past as a computer programmer).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I will admit to being frequently guilty of it, especially for everyone who has ever had anything to do with Microsoft Windows, Mozilla Firefox, and Google, all of which have been very frustrating of late.

      Me too. And three. And four.

      In many ways, this could be the most important commandant of all, at least in regards to keeping faith and religion on the straight and narrow. I’ll likely come off as way too persnickety, but it’s always bothered me when people say, “I prayed on it, and the Lord said I should go to Harvard instead of Yale.” Or anything like that. This is when I think “God” is basically our ID or superego. This is the “God” of our subconscious.

      I figure if I pray to God — and get an answer — it’s likely to be about more substantial things, such as loving my enemy, turning the other cheek, or forgiving a trespass. I figure if I get an answer to a prayer, and it’s really God, it’s most likely going to be an answer that is right, just, and quite likely hard. Such an answer will likely be inconvenient and a burden rather than a sudden flash that “Why, yes, that new red Olds is just what God said I should have.”

      I think the God of the Id or the superego is fairly common. I think it’s one thing to pray for guidance, clarity, or remedies. And who knows where one mind leaves off and another starts? There could be a type of blending and overlap as with fields, so I don’t discount that answers from within can come from outside. But I think there is too much of taking the Lord’s name in vain regarding this kind of stuff. It makes religion look silly and if that isn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain, I don’t know what is.

      • pst4usa says:

        Brad I have never thought of those that ask for God’s guidance in a decision as taking His name in vain before. I have had discussions on God’s will in decision making, and I agree it can be taken to a level of silliness. The Islamist takes this to an extreme, he would flip a coin and say that Allah will give him the answer by making the coin land however Allah wills it, this may be true, but when the answer does not come out the way they wanted, they will ask again until Allah answers correctly. Now that definitely qualifies as a violation of the 3rd commandment.
        I think Dennis Prager puts it well by claiming God is not a Cosmic Butler. But seeking His help and wisdom in difficult decisions does not seem to me to rise to the level of taking the Lord’s name in vain. And yes, I think you may be coming off as “way too persnickety”, but it is good to look at these things from others’ perspective.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Brad I have never thought of those that ask for God’s guidance in a decision as taking His name in vain before.

          Perhaps I didn’t make clear that my persnicketiness didn’t extend to praying “for guidance, clarity, or remedies” as I wrote above. Still, it’s devilishly difficult to figure out what is inspiration, what stems from our creative subconscious, and what is willful blindness as we wrap up our own inclinations inside the sanctified veneer of “God’s will.”

          • pst4usa says:

            After rereading your post Brad, it seems I’m the persnickety one. One reason I took your post the way that I did is that I keep running up against Christians that completely balk at anyone that prays and claims to have received an answer. I cannot claim such divine direct revelations, but just because I have not,I cannot deny that someone else might have.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              One reason I took your post the way that I did is that I keep running up against Christians that completely balk at anyone that prays and claims to have received an answer.

              Well, at least I’m honest about my doubts, Pat. Many of the Christians you say you’re running up against aren’t Christians. If one doesn’t believe in the supernatural Redemption, Resurrection, Trinity and other assorted miracles, then one isn’t actually a Christian. There is a large movement (generally liberal, of course) to de-mystify Christianity, to treat it as a bunch of tall stories. So it’s no surprise to me that prayer would be another thing that, well, that reasonable, intelligent, and scientific people just don’t believe in.

              And to some extent, I sympathize. Who knows what really happened 2000 years ago? We can’t get good reports in the news on what’s happening today, let alone last week. And who knows what prayer can and can’t do?

              Moses went up into the mountains to receive the Commandments. Ten minutes later his people — including his own brother — were creating a golden calf. This is why I suppose God is not only very forgiving but has an enormous sense of humor.

              As the Pope tries to Marxify Christianity, as others have tried to de-mystify it, there is (one hopes) a God with a very tolerant and good sense of humor, for you can’t leave humans alone for ten minutes without them falling for one golden calf or another.

              • Kevin Rule says:

                With respect, brothers, I felt the need to interject here, though it’s less about taking the Lord’s Name in vain, which is something that seriously bothers me at how often it is done in our culture, and how causally we believers treat the Name, which should be considered with much greater respect then we give it.

                You are correct in one thing your saying, that claiming that He has spoken when you only think He has, is taking His Name in vain. It is also true that sometimes people can attempt to treat Him like a sort cosmic 8-ball, which is not respectful at all, and if you don’t respect Him, then your not hearing Him.

                What you are discussing, however, is sort of a side issue, but one I consider of significant importance.

                What you are talking about here is a difference between hearing from the Spirit and listening to your own spirit, or your own desires, which is close to, but not quite the same. The Holy Spirit is always willing to speak to any believer, it’s simply that today very few seem to know how or even want to listen.. how to ‘be still and know that I am God’ .

                What is more, figuring out the difference between the Spirit and our own spirit.. let alone the voice of the enemy that will attempt to deceive requires being rooted and grounded in the Word of God. The Word says the Spirit was set to us as a helper or comforter, and as teacher. As such, Spirit will use and incorporate the Word in everything he teaches us, and will never contradict, directly, indirectly or subtly, the Word.. as it is His Word, and His Words to us always incorporate it.

                Furthermore, sin also puts a barrier to how well we can hear Him, it’s one reason we should ‘throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles’ because otherwise, His voice is often beyond our ability to hear it, because sin has made it harder to hear.

                In any case, His Words will resound like tuning folk within, and you may not always like them, but they will always resonate with the Word itself. Conviction of sin is one area in which this sort of thing happens, but there are others.. such as when He brings a scripture to the forefront of your mind when you are praying or seeking guidance… or a particular individual comes to mind as needing prayer.

                To continue, if you are not rooted deeply enough in the Word, which also means continuing to spend a lot of time in the Word, then not only will you often not recognize when He speaks, or how He speaks, but everything else in your life can drown out the ‘still small voice’ that He usually speaks with.

                You might be surprised at how willing He is to speak to us, if we align ourselves with His will, and learn to listen.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The Symposium has just been updated with the addition of John Kirke’s essay on the second page.

  5. David Schmalz says:

    How interesting it is that my relatives continue to take the Lord’s name in vain so casually, so blithely, knowing that it offends me so to hear His name uttered so carelessly.
    When I ask them not to – there is always a moments pause, and as if they are either embarrassed for me or for themselves – they usually mutter an apology. Later, after I’ve left I often hear that I’m roundly condemned for taking such a stance. The inference is – “Who do I think I am?”
    I wonder sometimes about why it is they so consistently use it. After all, if they were true to the secular creed they so vocally espouse, then the use of another God’s name should be simply dropped out of ennui.
    This constant use of God’s name as a swear word ironically invalidates the lack of importance they claim to ascribe its usage.
    I remain astounded at the level of pettiness such daily conversations exhibit.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      wonder sometimes about why it is they so consistently use it.

      I don’t know your family, David, but I know the type. And in order to remain in the secular mindset, the gods must constantly be marginalized and belittled. Noble thoughts (such as gratitude or humility) must not be allowed to rise to the surface, for if they did they would show how hollow, barren, and dishonest one’s secular world view is.

      So saying “Jesus Christ” this or “God damn that” is a way for the reduced secular sorts to whistle their way through the graveyard. The indecent must always dump on the descent to maintain their own illusions and conceits.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    We are hypocrites all. And if our hypocrisies are fueled by the natural homage that vice owes to virtue, then we soon find ourselves trading in an array of masks intended to obfuscate or deceive — and starring as both the subject and object of our religious charade. It is this mask of religion that wears increasingly thin as we pawn ourselves off as “good” to a jaundiced world. Indeed, it is that same mask that causes others to revile or curse the notion of God, as our inconstancy reveals that our entire exercise was saturated with the acid of human pride and presumption.

    This is so eloquently said, as only Glenn the Greater can say it. The “mask of religion” was kinda-sorta was I was talking about in my essay which could be reduced down to “The 3rd Commandment is about making sure that God isn’t just a convenient conceit.”

    I’m probably not alone rolling my eyes at a lot of religious folk who just come off as kooky. Religion can be so many things to so many people: A bludgeon to beat others over the head with. A cult where “true believers” pump up their sense of selves by believing they have special knowledge. A superstition whose purpose is to reinforce man’s basic worldly concerns (health, wealth, and progeny). An oppressive force that wrongly sees “liberal” (or more artistic, fun, or creative) endeavors as “the work of the devil.”

    And, as with Islam, religion can be a means to empower what arguably are the ever-present 3% of psychopaths in the world.

    “We are hypocrites all.” And I don’t think Glenn says that out of false humility — something that itself can become obnoxiously affected by the religious. But anyone with standards can’t help but be a hypocrite. Those without standards (or whose dogma, as with the Left, forgives personal sins if one gives lip service to collective morals) can never be hypocrites.

    Whether one be a bishop or layman, no man is immune to the powerful witness that his life holds over the decisions of others. One need only watch a man closely for a brief span of time in order to discover the dimensions of his god.

    This is brilliantly said, and reminds me of something that a football coach (Tom Landry) once said to one of his players who was begging for more playing time: “Your actions speak so loudly, you don’t need to use words.” Again, we run into whether one’s religion is a useful affectation or goes deeper. And, I’d argue in the case of Islam, those who murder unbelievers “get” what that religion is about. To some extent, you can’t fault them. This is why I say Islam is an inherently evil religion because when you adhere to its doctrine it makes a monster out of you. That there are “moderates” who are lukewarm in their faith is, I guess, a blessing, but does not change the nature of Islam.

    On the other hand, it is arguable that if you take Christianity seriously you’ll end up looking like St. Francis, Mother Teresa, or perhaps some minor star. Affectations work wonderfully when gathered in church (whose purpose, beyond ostensibly coming together in a “body of Christ,” is to have your sanctity card at least socially punched). But the proof is what happens outside those four walls.

    If we infer to others that God’s character is somewhere on the continuum between being a mollycoddler and a brute, then are we not in spirit “taking his name in vain” and attaching it to some transitory moral cause or passion rooted in flesh and self-interest?

    Glenn may be right. But I’m not so sure God isn’t a brute at times. Selwyn Duke has an interesting article today on the subject of theodicy. I don’t think he answers the question. But he does present the Christian narrative. But one of the dividing lines between animal and man is certainly grievance. Those who say the Left is the work of Beelzebub (if there is one) are certainly right, for the Left’s dogma is rooted in grievance. Atheism, for instance, isn’t a belief in no god, per se. It’s grievance at the way things are.

    And anyone who has lived a life will have some grievance. Things can be pretty effed up. But do we lead our fellow man to make a religion of his grievance and thus forever pollute his heart, mind, and soul? Or do we, while accepting and acknowledging the mounds of excrement we have to deal with, hope for more, wrestle with the ineffable, stake a claim in good purpose?

    Clearly to lead people down the road of grievance is to kill something in them and to arguable do what the 3rd Commandment attempts to remedy.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I wouldn’t say atheists have a grievance against the status quo, which in fact is increasingly favorable to them. Atheism is a belief that there is definitely no god — but atheists in the West mostly are people with a grievance against Christianity (and perhaps Judaism as well). This is why so few are very concerned about the religion of Submission (Islam).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Atheism is a belief that there is definitely no god — but atheists in the West mostly are people with a grievance against Christianity (and perhaps Judaism as well).

      I do think there are completely different kinds of atheism, or aspects to atheism. As I’ve written before, there is the metaphysical aspect — one simply does not believe in a deep teleology of any kind, but other than that has no special hatred toward the religious — and there is cultural/socialist atheism — which is really Leftism and a mix of grievance (often against God). Some of the Psalms of pleading could have arguably been written by grieving atheists…people who wanted better, perhaps wanted to be treated better, but were stuck with the reality of wading through mounds of excrement. Why, God, why? It’s a legitimate question.

      I find that most atheism I’ve run across is cultural/socialist atheism. It’s more of a grievance identity with a grab-bag of Leftist beliefs . . . and/or it is an identity of supposed intellectual superiority due partly to the unremitting Alinksy-like hatchet job the Left has done on religion (at least on Judaism and Christianity) and partly due to narcissism.

      I think the reason the Left is fond of Islam is because Islam fits the narrative of those aggrieved by the West. Although the Left uses less violent means, both are 100% active in trying to bring down the West…and the West is inextricably linked to Judeo-Christian principles and beliefs.

  7. Glenn Fairman says:

    This was a very interesting topic. Thanks for the kind words, Brad.

  8. pst4usa says:

    I finally got around to reading these. All excellent post, and Glenn’s intro was superb. Thank you to all the contributes.

  9. I just finished reading them all as well. I am grateful for the sense of solidarity I felt as piece after piece expressed, each in a unique way, very similar understandings and applications, and for the learning I experienced as I discovered in each person’s statement something new I hadn’t thought of. Thank you all for a rich reading adventure, and thank you Glenn for your excellent intro — …”as our inconstancy reveals that our entire exercise was saturated with the acid of human pride and presumption.” I love that line.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      This may be a cliche, Deana, but I have the feeling “there are no wrong answers.” If someone probes those Commandments with an honest heart, there are likely all kinds of angles. Lest we forget, these Commandments are very concise. To put them into practice in thousands of unforeseen and complex situations is not sometimes so easy as just reading off the Commandment list.

      I was doing a little skimming of FirstThings, one of the first religious sites I ever frequented. I ran across in their featured Archives an article by R.R. Reno about the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. And it occurred to me that — rightly or wrongly in terms of opinions — the muscles we are exercising are our moral/spiritual muscles (gads!…The harm done with the cliche of telling people “Don’t moralize!”…we need to learn how to do so).

      In that retrospective by R.R.R. (sounds like Mork named this writer), pause to take in these two paragraphs:

      The result? Higher education has become, argued Bloom, the professional training of clever and sybaritic animals, who drink, vomit, and fornicate in the dorms by night while they posture critically and ironically by day. Bloom identified moral relativism as dogma that blessed what he called “the civilized reanimalization of man.” He saw a troubling, dangerous, and soulless apathy that pleasured itself prudently with passing satisfactions (“Always use condoms!” says the sign by the dispenser in the bathroom) but was moved by no desire to know good or evil, truth or falsehood, beauty or ugliness.

      I remember reading Bloom in 1987, feeling as though he was describing what I was experiencing as a young graduate teaching assistant. Bright, energetic, ambitious Yale students could master material with amazing speed. They could discuss brilliantly. They could write effective, well-researched papers. But they possessed an amazing ability to understand without being moved, to experience without judging, to self-consciously put forward their own convictions as mere opinions. On the whole, they seemed to have interior lives of Jell-O.

      Whatever we are doing here, we are not making Jell-O.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Kung’s essay was just added…on page three.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A short piece, but he does bring up a good point. At some point, Jews were supposed to never speak their God’s name (generally thought to be Yahweh). You may recall the stoning parody in >i>Life of Brian. According to Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, “Jehovah” came into use as a misunderstanding when Jewish priests used the diacritical marks for “Adonai” (meaning “Lord”) instead of for Yahweh. (Something similar has caused the Israelite King Ishbaal, the last son of Saul, to be given as “Ish-bosheth” from “bosheth”, meaning “shame”.)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Mr. Kung is our Prince of Precise. Love it.

        I’ve always thought it a bit odd how Jews will write “G-d” because to actually write “God” is somehow disrespectful or blasphemous (perhaps because the paper it is written on will eventually be thrown way). To me, this is the silliest sort of superstition, as if God Almighty could care about such things.

        Still, perhaps there’s nothing wrong with showing a little respect. God knows we’ve watched how our culture has been degraded by the foul mouths. But should we infuse such power in words? Is God real or a mystical incantation? And whether or not Jews stoned people for saying, “Jehovah,” this sketch by Monty Python almost writes itself.

        Do you suppose Jesus ever freaked out if people called him “Jesus”? The reverse pole, however, is this deconstructionist culture we live in that honors nothing (perhaps except Mother Gaia) and considers active disrespect of any honorable idea to be cutting-edge-cool. But, Jesus, you’d hope we could find some happy medium in all this.

  11. Brad — this discussion brings to mind the lines from “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” I don’t even remember who said what but the exchange goes like this,
    Actor 1: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
    Actor 2: What about fartblossom? 🙂

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Aside from the matter of which language (most other languages probably have no negative associations with “fart”), it comes down to the degree to which smell is physical and the degree to which it is mental — and how much the latter is subject to the power of suggestion.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      LOL. I think R&G just undermined my brilliant theory. 😀

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One of the things I enjoy about these symposiums is that I’m surrounded by fellow writers. No, perhaps none of us is (yet) world famous (I hold out hope for Deana and Glenn) but for now, this is what we do, it’s part of who we are.

    And writing is a challenge because it’s like undressing in front of people. Anyone can look good in a tuxedo (the analogy of being dressed up in conceits, false-fronts, etc.). But when you write about something (unless you’re writing for Salon, Rolling Stone, or some airhead tabloid), you’re writing not just for political effect (that is, with the consideration of fitting into groupthink as a backdrop). You’re stating what you actually think. And to do so is to dare not only to ruffle other feathers but to expose one’s potential ignorance.

    This is one reason I’ve tried to urge people (including myself) to take center stage instead of being only a nattering nabob from the peanut gallery. It is oh so easy to find fault in others. It’s quite another to be a rhetorical chief instead of a following Indian.

    So my hat is off to those who take part in these symposiums. I’m an odd ball and this is an odd site. This is so because I encourage you, and not because of concerns of page views or click counts (I could really care less). I say so because you’re exercising a muscle that I too have and enjoy (and sometimes falter from).

    • pst4usa says:

      Thank You Brad, for the opportunity, as by far the weakest link in the chain, I am sure I get the most out of being forced to honor my commitment to write. It is quite a mental exercise for someone who is nearly functionally illiterate. I know not what others go through in doing these, but after the fact, I think I may have recouped a few brain cells that I killed off so long ago. Thanks for posting my crayon scribbles up with such masterpieces. They are all so very good at this.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Pat, as WFB said, Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription.

        That is, as the reining Koch brother of this site who has contributed considerably, you’re speaking on your own dime, pal. 😀 You don’t serve at my pleasure. I think it’s the other way around now.

        But it’s nice to have your clear and concise thinking. You obviously listen and read a wide variety of sources, some of which are new to us so we benefit from that. I’m just the designated Prager stooge, although I haven’t been listening to him much lately.

  13. Thanks, Brad — for the opportunity and the encouragement. I find that I often don’t even know what I think until I start writing.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’ve had that sort of thing happen as well. Many years ago, when I reviewed Mike Resnick’s Kirinyaga stories, I had no idea what my conclusion would be. It was only in writing it that I decided on one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *