I'm So Tired of Hearing Jesus' Name in Vain (Tiger Woods Should Apologize Again)

Be warned- the video above re-plays Tiger Woods unleashing his fury over his golf game with abusive, offensive language.

I’m not interested in getting into the whole sordid Tiger Woods’ womanizing issue- I am, however, ready to start challenging the whole phenomena of using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as some kind of throw-away profanity. It doesn’t really matter what the religious make-up of the blasphemer is, but it seems to me that when a Buddhist like Tiger Woods decides it is fair-game to throw out the use of Jesus’ name in a derogatory way on National TV- well this should be a teachable moment.

Before Larry David chose to attack Jesus Christ in his infamous “Piss on Christ” episode, I used to watch his show- I like his off-beat humor, but I had to draw the line finally for my own conscience sake. What always bothered me was how  many Jewish comedians on his show seemed to use “Jesus Christ” as a running casual swear word. I started wondering if there was some historical connection inside the Jewish community where the name of Jesus is commonly used as a derogatory reference point.  I know that it is extremely common in Hollywood films where there is a lot of Jewish and fall-away Catholic participation. Does anyone know more about the roots of how Jesus’ name in particular has become a cross-religious blasphemous name?

I think it is important to push back on this front- certainly it is harder to go after those who use G-D—, since everyone can sort of claim God as their own. But Jesus Christ is to Christians someone utterly unique to say the least. If we embrace segments of our society who take offense to various words, and declare these words off-limits in polite society- lest you find yourself facing a media storm and possible loss of livelihood without sufficient apology and proof of new found sensitivity- then why not add the name of “Jesus Christ” to the list of forbidden culturally insensitive terms when used as a swear word- particularly among non-Christians?

Let me just add this one last bit- I’m not so much concerned with my own need to be kept unoffended- I don’t want to come across as thin-skinned. I am concerned with how people get jaded and young people fall more easily into bad habits like swearing, and the people who abuse the name of Jesus are themselves perhaps most at risk. They may not know what they are doing, but that is our job as Christian disciples to try to get the Truth out in circulation- especially among the tax collectors and prostitutes of our times. If we act like the name of Jesus Christ is fair game for public abuse, rather than the name that should cause every knee to bend- then we must share in the shame of the rest of society.

16 Responses to I'm So Tired of Hearing Jesus' Name in Vain (Tiger Woods Should Apologize Again)

  • I agree completely. Think back on an otherwise very good movie like the Aviator. It really was ruined by the heavy use of “G.d.” Unbelievable – it’s almost like the cast and crew was just eager to poke their finger in the face of vast portions of their audience.

  • Honestly, I think people say crap like that because it makes them feel ‘more adult’ at first and then they just get into the habit of expressing their exasperation that way.

    I used to drop the G.D. a lot and went through a brief J.C. period. I do notice that on rare occasions when I’ve really just had it I drop that bomb. It’s terrible and inexcusable, really. J.C. was always the worse to me because it was so SPECIFIC.

    It is interesting that I’ve never heard Moses or Buddha or Mohammed ever converted into popular swear words. I suppose it could happen if you put some effort into it.

    I guess that now everyone knows what ‘kind of guy’ Tiger is, he’s not going to bother with the pretense of being a role model or feel obligated to act in a dignified manner when the world is watching?

  • Holy Moses!

    And I mean that in only the best way….

  • Tiger is a vulgar whore chaser. That’s all he ever was. The best advice he ever received came from Brit Hume. Tiger obviously ignored it.

  • It’s the responsibility of Christians to keep Christ’s name holy. Until we show some restraint ourselves — as a group — it seems a bit ridiculous to complain of it being offensive when non-Christians use the name.

  • I honestly think most people don’t even know they’re doing it it. It’s a holdover from when religious language was a natural part of our culture’s everyday language. Say you just heard that so-and-so died, you’d exclaim “Oh my God!” and really mean it as a pious ejaculation or say you’re making an impassioned plea with someone you might say “For Christ’s sake, do the right thing!” and really mean you want the person to do it for God’s glory even though they don’t want to.

    I think over time people began using phrases like these more casually which caused them to lose their meaning through over-use. A similar thing can be seen with saying “Bless you” when someone sneezes – how many people actually intend to pray for God to bless that person and how many people just say it as an almost Pavlovian reaction? Eventually we’ve come to today where these words are just meaningless exclamations – they don’t really mean anything to most people but something’s gonna come out of your mouth when you stub your toe or smash your thumb with a hammer and these are the words many people heard growing up.

    If anything, I think it’s a reflection of the “stickiness” of Christianity rather than of people’s hatred toward it. People don’t use other gods as expletives because they’re not a part of their cultural past. I’d be shocked if there are, for example, non-Christian cultures who use Christian terms as expletives.

  • Brian,
    Thank you for a very thoughtful post.

  • I’ve noticed that using God’s name in vain is acceptable, even on the networks. But it’s odd what they think is unacceptable.

    For example, one of my favorite movies of all time is “Blazing Saddles.” It just completely makes fun of racists, but it’s filled with racial epithets. When AMC or CMT plays the movie, though, they bleep out the racial slurs and leave in the G.D. or J.C. It absolutely and completely defeats the purpose of the movie, and it’s ridiculous that they find nothing wrong with using the Lord’s name in vain (or even risking offending those who see this as sinful or offensive), but they can’t leave in the racial slurs that are central to the movie’s “punch.”

    So, as a review:

    Racial Slurs are bad.

    Offending stupid Christians is good. Or at least okay. They’re probably not fun enough to want to watch Mel Brooks anyway.

  • Excellent post!

  • Once upon a time, must of the worth profanity involved blaspheming God — now the “worst” profanity involves blaspheming sex. Interesting that…

    Personally, I would feel more guilty using one of God’s names in vain than dropping the “f-bomb” — which is probably why my co-workers have heard one but not the other. I don’t know if that’s virtue at all on my part, profanity is something for which I am aware I have a moral weakness, but I think one must at least have such basic standards.

  • Good feedback- thanks to all- I’m relieved to see that my thinking is shared by many out there- I wonder now if the sleeping giant of genuinely disgusted Christians can somehow get more mass media circulation on this issue to start getting the unconscious abusers of Jesus’ name to see that they are being hypocrites when they get all excited over a racial slur, but totally indulge in disrespecting the name of Jesus Christ. Anyone with contacts to a national columnist please pass on the idea of bringing this topic up and encouraging some discussion on the news/talk show front. God Bless- and I mean it!

  • Great post. A priest at our parish told us about how he has made it a habit to always bow his head when he hears the Lord’s name. When spoken reverently, it reminds everyone of the holiness of the name. When it comes up as a profanity, he doesn’t say anything or scold anyone. But that simple, silent act often makes the profanity speaker feel guilty enough to stop, at least for that conversation. I think if Catholics and other Christians would return to that traditional gesture, then other people would at least feel it was impolite to use the Lord’s name so casually. I’ve tried to pick up the habit myself. Haven’t noticed anyone noticing me yet.

  • I’ll add that I had gotten into a really bad habit of saying dammit or G-ddammit all the time. Ironically, I was mimicking my grandfather who was a very holy man. I admired him and wanted to be like him and I thought it sounded cool and grown-up. Picked it up as a teenager (once I was old enough to get away with the occasional bad word with no serious consequences from mom…) I eventually realized how inappropriate that phrase is, and have tried to break the habit. I try not to make any sort of angry outburst, but if I am going to let one fly, I’ve settled on sh*t as my bad word of choice. Because, really, is sh*t such a bad word? It’s not nice, but it has no spiritual connotation. It’s not as vulgar as the f-bomb. It’s just, well, sh*t.

  • I need help because I have a serious question.

    I grew up in a “Christian” household, in which my parents (as did many), would fight constantly. Throughout these arguments my parents (mostly my father) used extremely profane language. And my mother would use acronyms to retaliate against him.
    Outside of that, I was sheltered from profanity until I was removed from my private Christian school and placed in a public schooling system (after moving). I was exposed to extreme amounts of profanity, as well as secular music, secular film, secular everything.

    I indulged in so much garbage, that by the time I was 14, I was using God’s name in vain in combination with dozens of swear words. I along with my newly made secular friends, used horribly profane language throughout our teen years (which were also plagued with my overall Spiritual downfall, leading to experimentation with various other sinful activities).

    My biggest question is, can using God/Jesus Christ’s name in vain lead to eternal guilt? I am questioning, because Exodus 20:7 makes it very clear that God will hold them guiltless. But when Jesus died, all of our sins were forgiven, no? So does that not mean that all sins (including using God’s name in vain), may be forgiven?

    I am now 20, and for the last half year I’ve realized my wrongs (after rebuilding my faith), and have ceased from using the Lord’s name in vain. Obviously I’ve slipped up a couple times, but I immediately pray afterward, and apologize for doing so.

  • Good Morning Moses,

    If taking God’s name in vain were a damning sin that could not be forgiven, then there would have to be limits on God’s being. This cannot be so and, therefore, there is no way that any sin you can do or think of cannot be forgiven. Despair is, perhaps an “unforgivable” sin, but only because the conclusion that one cannot be forgiven because God is not great enough creates a gulf between God’s unlimited offer of salvation and our willingness to accept it. (Think, perhaps, of Judas as he hanged himself.)

    One last thought… sin is serious but we are deeply flawed creatures. Don’t expect perfection or let the defects command your every thought. There is too much beauty in the world for a 20 year old to be so consumed.

  • Survey: ‘Jesus’ is used as a cuss word in movies today. Do you think its right, wrong, or could care less? email: tweetsurveyor@gmail.com

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