I will tell you what taking God's name in vain means to me. It means calling yourself a follower but not really being a follower, not really acting like a follower. A good example of this phenomenon would be George W. Bush. He takes God's name in vain every second we're in Iraq.
I bring this up because I wanted to write some more about "The Christian Paradox," the great article in this month's "Harper's Magazine." There are so many good points made in it that it's difficult to pick which ones to quote...ummm, how about this one:
Despite the Sixth Commandment, we are of course, the most violent rich nation on earth, with a murder rate four or five times that of our European peers. We have prison populations greater by a factor of six or seven than other rich nations...Having been told to turn the other cheek, we're the only Western democracy left that executes its citizens, mostly in those states where Christianity is theoretically strongest. Despite Jesus' strong declarations against divorce, our marriages break up at a rate--just over half--that compares poorly with the European Union's average of about four in ten.I actually read the Bible the other day, and I don't remember why, but I was shocked to see what I must have read a thousand times before, but just didn't remember it. Of course one always hears the part about "turning the other cheek," but the context is rarely given. Jesus says, in Matthew 5:39 not to resist evil, or ones who are evil, or evildoers, to wit:
"But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. "
"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. "
More translations here.
Is this explicit instruction from Jesus why George Bush so frequently talks about "evil" and "evildoers?" Have you ever heard our great Christian leader George Bush say that we should'nt resist evil or "one who is evil?" But that's what Jesus, 'his favorite philosopher", said to do.
But hell, I didn't even plan on trashing Bush with this entry. Although did you see the news about his new lows in his approval rating? He's the least-liked he's yet been, on this the day he appoints John Bolton to the U.N. without the Senate's approval. Even people my wife and I know to have been big Bush supporters here in Mississippi are complaining about him, and that's saying something.
However, they follow such comments immediately with something inane like "Kerry just wasn't likable enough." What the fuck kind of logic is that? Were these people saying "I know Bush took us to war illegally, is fucking over the little man, giving tax breaks to the rich and all that other shit, but I just can't see myself voting against him?" People had to have been having doubts because the article about the approval rating drop points out that "Bush's previous low favorable rating came twice in October 2004, when 51% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the president and 46% had an unfavorable opinion." So something like my little screwed-up scenario must have taken place in about 3,00,000 minds (that is, if you believe the election wasn't stolen).
But anyway, that's enough for tonight. But my point is that the Harper's article (written by Bill McKibben) is so right on and makes arguments so obvious that they needed to be pointed out. It's like this guy I know whose Protestant minister father made a racist remark in public. When the son pointed out to the father that maybe a minister shouldn't talk like that based on the teachings of Jesus, the father tried to explain that the racist remark wasn't really wrong and asked the son why everything has to come back to what Jesus said. And this happened only a week or so ago.
Sure, the Bible has a lot to offer the intolerant, homophobic redneck--especially the Old Testament. But Jesus, God in the flesh, contradicts a lot of that stuff. Always remember and never forget: Jesus never said the first word about homosexuality or abortion. But he did say to turn the other cheek, give people more than they ask for, treat other people how you'd like to be treated, love everyone as you love yourself, and so forth. And a lot of the most self-professed "Christian" leaders in America today are taking the lord's name in vain...for their own gain.