Sunday, October 11, 2009
“Oh, My God!” is not a prayer
I have been bothered by something for a long time but have not blogged about it before. Then, the Nightline program on regular network television (ABC-TV) included a segment a few nights ago on the phrase “Oh, My God!” (Alternate rendering: “Omigod!”) and its Twitter and texting equivalent, “OMG!”. It set my juices to flowing.
I didn’t see the entire segment, so I don’t know whether any Christians were interviewed. The part I saw centered on a group of Jewish teenagers in New York who were asked (by their rabbi, I think) whether they ever said “Oh, My God!” or texted “OMG!” He also asked them what they meant when they used it, and whether they had ever considered that they might be breaking the Second Commandment (“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”).
All of them had used it. Not a single one of them thought he or she was breaking the Second Commandment. All of them said it was simply part of our American culture. A lot of people who think of themselves as Christians would probably say the same thing. One or two said it might be something to think about before speaking or texting in the future.
According to various members of the group, “Oh, My God!” and “OMG!” can mean “I’m shocked!” or “I’m surprised!” or “I love your shoes!” or even “He is so hot!” In other words, mindless drivel coupled with a poor vocabulary and a lack of imagination. Whatever it means, “OMG” is ubiquitous nowadays. (Ubiquitous, class, is a big word that means everywhere.)
The narrator also talked about “minced oaths” and mentioned that such interjections as “Gosh” (God), “Gee” (God), “Egad” (God), and even “Jiminy Cricket” (apparently because of the letters J. C., as in Jesus Christ) might be verboten, Commandment-wise. Keep in mind that this program was not on a religious channel. This was on network television. The phrases “Cheese and crackers, got all muddy” (Jesus Christ, God Almighty) and the singularly strange “Jesus, Mary, and Jehoshaphat” were not mentioned.
Perhaps you think such scrupulousness in speech borders on the ridiculous or is a matter of no consequence, but I think the Nightline narrator may have raised a valid point. The phrase is everywhere. “Oh, my God! She looked fantastic on the red carpet in that purple Versace gown!” “Oh, my God! This hamburger is awesome!” “Oh, my God! Our team just scored another touchdown!”
If you have ever watched ABC-TV’s Extreme Home Makeover (the one with Ty Pennington, who attended school with my three children) or TLC’s Trading Spaces (the one that used to feature Ty Pennington before he left for bigger and, one supposes, better-paid ventures) or HGTV’s House Hunters or Property Virgins or My First Place, you have heard the phrase over and over and over again. “Oh, my God! A walk-in closet!”, “Oh, my God! A tray ceiling", “Oh, my God! Granite countertops!”, “Oh, my God! Stainless-steel appliances!”, “Oh, my God! A swimming pool!”
Calling upon the name of the Lord, however, which is the opposite of taking the Lord’s name in vain, is encouraged in Scripture, such as during worship or when asking for help in time of need or for mercy and Divine intervention when witnessing something horrific or tragic. It’s really a matter of recognizing the power of His name versus being totally oblivious to it. [Furthermore, calling upon the name of the Lord requires the vocative “O”, as in speaking directly to someone, not the exclamation “Oh!” --RWP]
Mindlessness among teenagers is understandable. Mindlessness among adults is inexcusable.
And don’t think you can just substitute “Oh, my goodness,” either. Two books in the Old Testament (Psalms, Micah) and three in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, and Romans) specifically state “There is none that does good, no, not one” or something very similar.
A vow of silence is looking better all the time.
I am now officially off my soapbox.
P.S. - This is Ty Pennington. Bite your tongue.