Taking the Lord's name in vain and the 12 commandments

What does it mean to take the lord's name in vain?

I have recently been pondering this question. I think this question first formed in my mind when my boyfriend who was brought up Catholic became angry with me after I pulled one of my favorite Quaker jokes. He had misplaced a citation for his dissertation proposel and exclaimed, "Jesus Crist." I naturally answered, "yes." He looked at me and told me to watch my mouth, that that was blasphemous language. I replied, "No, there is that of god in all of us. So my responding to your utterance of 'Jesus Christ' is less blasphemous." At which point I think he quit listening ( I never said we were a functional couple).

However, the idea of what constitutes taking the lord's name in vain has continued to roll around in my brain. The answer that keeps coming to me, is that we take this statement too literally. That it is not as simple as avoiding using phrases like, "Jesus H. Christ" or "God Damn It."

The 10 Commandments begin:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

---Exodus 20:1-7, New International Version

It has occurred to me, that we misuse god's name a lot. We worship money, beauty, and youth...and sometimes god. We say that god doesn't like this or that. We have presidents who think they are here by some devine decree and then arrange wars, cheat the poor, and pamper the rich. I think that a lot of the talk about it being god's will to do this or believe that is in fact taking the Lord's Name In Vain. Who are we to know? Yes, you can try to be faithful, but part of being a vessel of the Lord is to discern what is worldly pride motivating us and what is divine humility. I think that every time we act with hate, prejudice, malice, or in any un-Loving manner we are taking the Lord's name in vain.

One of the main points Jesus makes in his teachings is the importance of love. I think that is infact what makes him stand out amongst the prophets of the Bible...LOVE.

Love the Lord your God with all with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and all the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Matthew 22:37-40 New International Version

Because these two commandments that Jesus brought us are two of the hardest in many ways, that might answer why we are still so far from creating a lasting Kingdom of God here on Earth. Act from the divine; act from love.


Hate, intolerance, and quaker colleges

As an alumni of two sites of higher education, I view each as very different. The institution where I received my master's degree was a means to an end and was not chosen with the same criteria as my undergraduate institution.

My undergraduate institution was chosen to learn about myself and the world. I wanted to go somewhere far away from home and to a Quaker institution. Guilford College in NC is where I ended up. I went there for a bigger purpose. There were many wonderful things that came with my time at Guilford. I met some of the most wonderful people in my life. I had amazing professors who ignited my love for a discipline I still work within. It was a time of great spiritual awakening, learning, and devotion.

I recently found out from another alum that over the weekend there was a racially motivated hate crime on the campus. The students who were attacked are Palestinian. They went to Ramallah Friends School, before coming to Guilford College. The attackers are from NC and are on the football team. It is a sad and sobering event. The college responded with this statement 72 hours after the event. More information in an article from the Greensboro News and Record. And the AP has picked it up.

I am having many mixed emotions at the moment that I should probably sit with until I know what is coming from a godly place and what is pure emotion. It pains me to see the media running stories connecting Quaker values and hate crimes. For now all we can do is to pray. Pray for the college community. Pray for the victims. Pray for the perpetrators. Pray for guidance in finding solutions to racism, intolerance, and ignorance. Pray for a day when we have true equality. Pray for a day when we have taken away occasion for war, strife, and violence. Pray for God's Kingdom here on Earth. Pray to be a vessel for God's work. Pray that the Spirit leads us to do good works to help create a more just and equitable and loving world.

The Nunnery, Part II: Living with an aching heart

I have loved. That I suppose is better than having never loved. I am not talking the love I have for my family or my friends or God, nature and creation. I mean the love of lovers. And just when I was ready to tell you, you go away. I still don't know your reasons. I miss you, I love you. But its been a month since I heard your vioce. Our last conversation gave no hint that you were leaving me.

for you
i would no longer pick
my so-pickable nose
or bite my delicious nails

for you i would fix my teeth
and buy a mattress

for you
i'd kill my favorite roach
that lives in the woodwork
by the drawing table*

I never let myself dare to love before. But you...You made me feel ways I had never dared to hope for. With you I am comfortable and safe. I feel secure and unashamed when we are intimate. I loved that though you drank Budweiser, we could take about politics, social justice, and making the world better than we found it. With you I dared to hope that I had found someone who could love me, even with all of my neuroses and scary damaged places.

Yeah that was
once in a lifetime

you gotta be clean and
with new shoes
to love like I loved you.

I think it won't happen again.*

But even though I love you so "ten dollar bill," you can't just disappear on me for a month--with only a vague email. Maybe if I were doing my research in Italy or if you were home in Kenya, I could understand going so long with such sparce communication. But as far as I can tell we are 30 minutes apart on opposite sides of the same city. And really it is indicitive of how you have always behaved...you made feel like I was a convience. That time with me only worked when it convient for you, that you were always holding back a little. But I loved you, and I knew that if you would just let down your guard we would have what I think we are both looking for. With you I knew I wasn't settling, but I would need a lot of patience. And if you were to show up on my doorstep tonight unannounced, I would be more than happy to welcome you back into my life.

damn you
you come and go
like rivers
which makes it hard
on rocks*

So how do you go about a breakup, when it isn't what your heart desires? I pray to god that I can find a way to work this out. That you will come back. That whatever happens things will resolve in a way where you and I can be happy and whole. Because even though I don't want to lose you, I want the best for you. Which is ironic because you won't do better than me.

In case you put me down I put you down
already, doll
I know the games you play

In case you put me down I got it figured
how there are better mouths than yours
more swinging bodies
wilder scenes than this.

In case you put me down it won't help much.*

Back to the nunnery with me. I don't like to date, too much effort and energy goes into it. I made an exception for you. I love you and god bless. And though I don't want to do it, I can't just keep waiting on you. Either come back and give me as much as I give you...or goodbye. It hurts, believe me. And I wish there wasn't such a large part of me hoping that you will return to me...

you are not quite
the air I breathe
thank god

so go. *

*All poems (in purple) are from More or less love poems by Diane DiPrima


Personal Query #1

1) Do I cherish that of God within me, that His power growing in me may rule my life? Do I seek to follow Jesus Christ who shows us the Father and teaches us the way?

I have come to cherish the still small voice that resonates but does not originate in me and no longer resent the intermittent interference with my plans. The sense of being sanctified/forgiven/saved, while truly indescribable, is the most significant influence on my well-being and sense of self-worth. I wish that I could walk in the power of that Light at all times, but I find I am too often distracted by the day-to-day needs of my worldly life.
I wholeheartly seek to follow Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I have no higher calling than to serve my Lord.

The preceding is the first Query for Individuals from the Faith and Practice of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) and my answer. Previous queries and answers can be found in the archives.

Elizabeth Bathurst

Race + Football

Last night, I was talking to Ms. Naylor on the phone and asked her if she could look up the final score of the Colts/Pats game for me. I'd watched the first three quarters, but had to head home for bed before it finished. I was quite happy this morning to awake to radio reports and a voicemail with the news that the Colts had rallied for the win in the second half.

Once they get past the whole pacifist female football-fan dissonance, people seem surprised that I regularly root against the Pats given my current geography. But as they defeated both my Panthers and my Eagles in Superbowls the first two years I lived here, I'm a loathe to switch allegiances. Last night I was rooting for the Colts. Not just because I wanted them to end their losing streak against the Pats in playoffs games, or because I thought it would be awesome for Vinetari to help defeat the Pats after they let him go last season. Part of the reason I was rooting for the Colts in this game was that if they won, Coach Dungy would be the second African-American head coach to take a team to the Superbowl. The first was Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears, who preceded him in that honor by only a few hours.

While professional football has been open to African Americans for many years now, the "intelligent" positions of quarterback and coach have continued to be held mostly by whites. There has been some press about the prejudices that remain about the comparative mental/physical abilities of whites and blacks, in particular the Rush Limbaugh/Donovan McNabb controversy back in 2003. While professional football is simply a frivolous entertainment, arguably neither beautiful nor worthwhile, it is pleasant to celebrate the "firsts" wherever they are happening and dream of a day when we have no more of these "firsts" to celebrate because they are all distant memories of the steps towards a just and equitable society.

Elizabeth Bathurst



Sometimes there is nothing as welcoming being home. I just returned from visiting my parents in Minnesota. It was a good visit. I was able to spend time with my parents, grandparents and friends. It was a blessing and a balm for my soul.

My mother loves Christmas music. She loves being able to listen to it. Shortly after I arrived home she and I were cooking and listening to carols-- Silent Night came on. I started reflecting on that song and many of the carols. Many carols that are traditional at Christmas rejoice and detail the birth of Jesus. But to think about Bethlehem and Jerusalem, to think of the part of the world where Jesus lived and the physical location of the stories of the Bible, we see only conflict now. Daily there is religious strife, wars, death, and exploitation. It’s true that miracles are present even in the middle of war, but they are surrounded by the brutality of humanity. There is no silent night now.

Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.

My home meeting has a lovely Christmas Eve tradition of potluck, singing, and worship. In the last few years we have even gotten my father a lapsed non-practicing Catholic to attend with the rest of the family. I get sent ahead to pick up my grandparents who no longer drive and who make a fine art of slowness. My grandfather is particularly a master in the craft of slowness.

This year’s celebration was lovely. I got to see many people I had not seen since last year’s Christmas. I was also able to reunite with old friends and start our friendships anew. The potluck was wonderful, complete with the traditional rum optional homemade Egg Nog.

After the potluck we all gather in the meeting room for caroling followed by silent worship. As we selected songs, I kept reflecting on the lyrics with their talk of peace and salvation that was forth-coming now that our savior has been born in Bethlehem. I started thinking back to my ruminations on Silent Night. Before I knew it I was speaking out of the silence between songs. Reflecting on war, conflict, religion, and humanity.

We have made Jesus’ life petty. We have made it a celebration of consumer goods prostrated before the alter of material greed. We create conflict and war in the name of the Prince of Peace. We Christians, are the new money-changers in the temple.

What was truly a blessing in this was the response after meeting had risen. Several people came to speak with my about the points I had raised and thanked me for my ministry. I am very grateful to have my home meeting.

It is good to be home.