“Okay,” our devotion leader said. “Can anybody name any sins that they saw committed or discussed in that clip?”
He had just shown us a 5-minute clip of a popular sitcom. It took about a milli-second before the answers started coming. Fornication. Homosexual Behavior. Coveting. Cruelty. For just 5 minutes, the writers had certainly packed a punch.
“Any more?” he asked.
A few more answers popped out, though slower now.
“Anything else?” he asked. “I’m looking for something in particular.”
There was silence for a good minute until someone offered, “They took the Lord’s name in vain pretty often.”
“That’s it,” he smiled. “Seven times to be exact.”
I thought of that devotion while watching an ABC Nightline segment from last night’s show. Nightline is currently doing a series on the Ten Commandments and last night’s segment, titled “OMG! I Just Broke a Commandment!”, focused on the third commandment. (Text story is here.)
Particularly, it focused on the increasing use of “OMG!” by Americans, both in text and verbal form. “They’re just three letters of the alphabet …” the voiceover guy says at the beginning of the segment, “… but they deliver an awfully big idea.”
The segment then goes on to show a montage of “OMG” use from sitcoms, “reality” TV shows and even as a category on the game show Jeopardy. I’ve even seen it as a category on my Yahoo! homepage.
“I think when people use it,” said one teenage girl being interviewed, “it’s more to, convey, ‘That’s so exciting!’ or ‘How cool!’ and instead of saying that, they said ‘OMG!’ instead.”
“Most teens don’t think about it,” said another, “they just say it.”
But that “not thinking” about the significance of those letters could be the problem. When asked whether “OMG!” represented a vain use of the Lord’s name, Bob Miller, an Old Testament expert at Catholic University, said:
“I seriously do think it is a problem. I think that it shows a lack of belief that God is present or that there is any sort of reverence around what it is you’re actually saying. I think the fact that it has become a casual thing that is thrown around in the language is just a symptom of that and that would never have happened in earlier centuries.”
But isn’t “OMG” just like all the other white-washed references to God’s name that we’ve become accustomed to or that may even sound corny to us, Nightline asked? Golly, Gee, Jiminy Cricket (JC), Gadzooks, Jeepers, Oh Gosh. Are those taking the Lord’s name in vain?
I’ve frequently said, “Oh, Criminy” and just now looked it up on Merriam-Webster. Great.
Th teenagers in the Nightline piece seemed to try to make that case: That “OMG!” simply is an exclamation of surprise, or amazement, or delight. That it has no religious significance.
But is that true? Or do they just not realize the religious significance that it has?
To that point, something really interesting happened at the end of the segment. Referring to “OMG,” the Nightline interviewer asked the panel of teenagers, “Will those letters be different to you now, because we’ve talked about it so much?”
Almost all the teenagers nodded their heads and agreed that, yes, it would be different. “I think I’ll be more conscious of it now,” one girl said.
For me, I’m not so much concerned about where exactly the “vain” line is drawn. I just want to make sure that I’m nowhere close to it and that my language and my heart both exemplify a reverence for the Lord.
Maybe I’ll just stick with Winnie the Pooh. “Oh, bother” should work just fine.