Holy blasphemy

Yahweh warned that he would not acquit anyone who misused his name.  Yet it seems as though in giant swaths of Christianity there are all manners of misusing the name of the Lord that are considered acceptable. Having come from a Pentecostal background I must admit that many of the most egregious examples I have seen and heard in my life have come from the holy roller side of things.  I cynically came to the conclusion by the time I was about 19 or 20 that when Pentecostals say “X is annointed” what they really mean is nothing much more than “Oh, I liked it!”  I also heard people say that this or that was not annointed because they didn’t particularly like or understand things.  One short but vivid moment was when I heard a choir sing some wonderful Lutheran choral music and a woman who heard the same concert said, “Oh, they’re good technically but they’re not annointed.”

Perhaps no other misappropriation of the name of God to affirm one’s likes and dislikes is quite so absurd and self-incriminating as the “God told me I/you/he/she is going to marry person X.”  A very good friend of mine who happens to be a very attractive woman got this one a lot.  When she didn’t get this jive directly it was directed at her father by kids eager to capitalize on the name of God to land one of the hottest single women in the church.  I myself have been on the receiving end of so-called moments of discernment in which a person told me that I was going to marry someone or more generally that God had promised to them that I would marry.  I have, curiously, never gotten this memo.

I often worry that the most common invocations of the name of the Lord are for nothing more than our particular social or political or sexual or financial aspirations, whatever those may be.  What good does it do a conservative evangelical to to speak against the evils of homosexuality or fornication or pornography if he is willing to invoke the name of the Lord out of mere wish fulfillment in the hopes that if he says “God told me I’m supposed to marry that woman” that he’ll actually marry that woman?  What good does it do a politically liberal Christian to lament the use of God by theonomistic Christians as a cudgel to promote particular social and political agendas when the liberal Christian is as easily tempted to invoke the name of Christ as proof for what he or she already insists upon?  In my reflexive eagerness to be a political moderate I have concluded that Jesus was crucified by the vote of a bipartisan committee and, of course, those of us steeped in the narrative of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection remember all too well that those who had Jesus crucified among God’s people thought they were doing God a favor and preserving the fate of Israel in the face of potential annihilation at the hands of Rome.

My stepfather once gave me the counsel that if you hear directly from God or from an angelic messenger that’s probably a BAD sign rather than a good one.  It means you are so dull to considering the scriptures and so slow-witted about anything to do with the Lord that the Lord has to go send someone to get you on track.

Even if we are not discussing demons who can appear as angels of light if the Lord really sends an angel to you in the manner of saints of old you might just be like those saints of old who needed angelic counsel–odds may be very high that you’re a moron who needs an intervention to be set on the right path.  This isn’t bad!  It’s only bad if you boast about Gods’ intervention in your life as though it made you special. If it means you’ve been “special” then it means you’re special in the  “special education” or “special needs”  kind sense of the term “special”!  Yet I have seen and heard Christians of all sorts boasting of mystical experiences and divine emails and voices of various sorts.  Years ago Internet Monk wrote about how there were no voices inside his head as an indictment of this kind of abuse of the name of the Lord.  It has stuck with me.  It’s easy to blame Pentecostals and “charismaniacs” for abusing the name of the Lord but the truth is that this is a sin and a temptation that is common to all Christians.  If we were guilty of no other sins on earth Christ would still have had to die for this one and the reality is that Christ not only died for all of our “usual” sins Christ also died for all the sins we have committed and rationalized to ourselves and others as having been ultimately committed in His name because He supposedly gave us a special mission, role, or responsibility and that justifies our actions.