Breaking the Second Commandment

Every so often I rent a movie to watch on my iPad because I don’t own a television. We’re not Amish. We just gave up TV when we realized the entertainment industry was undermining everything we were trying to do as parents.
With four daughters, it was virtually impossible to monitor what they were watching, so in a fit of what I like to think was justifiable anger, I pulled the cable box out of the wall and went to Walmart, where I bought a set of rabbit ears, which let them watch two channels for the news, the weather and maybe “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” or “Little House on the Prairie.” No more “Jerry Springer,” no more “Dawson’s Creek,” no more “Beverly Hills 90210.” That was a while ago and things have gotten immeasurably worse.
I eschew R-rated movies although PG13 can be pretty downright vulgar too. When I’m looking to rent a film, I usually google it and ask the question, “Why is (film name) rated R?” You’d be terrified by the answers. There are generally a large number of violent acts, sex acts, deaths, dismemberments…and the requisite “pervasive language,” which in simple terms means a whole lotta swearing. They say you are what you eat. Well, you certainly are what you watch.
The other day, I came upon a few movies I thought might be appropriate and I rented what seemed like the most innocuous possibility of all—“The Bad News Bears” with Walter Matthau, a classic kid comedy that most of us have probably seen several times since it was released in 1976. Rated PG, it seemed like it would be my kind of movie, so I settled down for a predictable plot with a few laughs along the way.
Now to be sure, there was no gratuitous bloodshed or recreational sex in “Bad News Bears.” However, I found plenty of swearing and, most disturbing of all, what was once called “taking the Lord’s name in vain,” which in modern America and Hollywood is perfectly acceptable. Everybody does it, right? Well, everybody in the movie industry certainly does it.
I lost count of the times Walter Matthau took God’s name in vain or used the name of Jesus as a curse. Every time he did, I cringed and said a prayer for forgiveness.
Forgive us, Lord, for using your name as a curse, for taking it in vain, which has become commonly accepted, along with four-letter words we sprinkle throughout our conversations at work, at home, on the street, in the bar and everywhere else.
I still remember being in fourth grade when we learned the Ten Commandments from the Sisters of St. Joseph. I wasn’t quite sure what the words “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” meant, but I figured it must be a pretty important commandment if God made it number two…when murder was number five and stealing was number seven.
A few years ago, I really started to pay attention to my language and launched a major personal campaign to stop using profanity even when I was insanely angry. I got so bold that when someone used Jesus’ name as a curse, I would object. As you can imagine, I didn’t get many invitations to sports bars and rock concerts.
But this is important stuff. If we don’t tell our kids, family, friends and coworkers that we don’t like to hear God’s name tossed around like a common curse, who will?
Whenever you hear anyone taking God’s name in vain, ask for forgiveness for that person and say a prayer of reparation.
Our faith is pretty explicit on this topic. The Catechism says, “The name of the Lord is holy. The second commandment prescribes respect for the Lord’s name…and forbids the abuse of God’s name and every improper use of the names of God, Jesus Christ and also of the Virgin Mary.”
God’s name should only be used to bless, praise or glorify and not be abused in hateful words, false oaths, anger, reproaches or defiance of God.
Never forget the fundamentals: “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”