It goes without saying that Christians should not tell vulgar jokes and use profane language. The Bible makes this abundantly clear. Just to take two verses:
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29, KJV).
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8, KJV).
James 3:10-12 goes farther; it clearly states that a pure heart and a vulgar mouth cannot go hand-in-hand: “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”
But as much the social circles in our culture that retain elements of Christian virtue tend to frown on innuendo and vulgarities, this culture seems to look much more lightly on taking God’s name in vain.
There’s only one problem: It is a bigger deal to God than even a terribly suggestive joke—or the worst vulgarity in the English language. It’s such a big deal to God that it’s one of the Ten Commandments. God put it right up there with murder, adultery, stealing, and making idols.
A personal recollection: I vividly remember the day the towers fell. My family turned on ABC Radio right after the first World Trade Center tower collapsed. As the ABC News Anchor, Sam Donaldson (as I recall), said that the second tower was falling, I was filled with horror. But only half of my horror came from the scope of the tragedy. The other half came from the fact that Sam Donaldson had just insulted the Creator of the Universe by taking His name in vain.
Christians, of all people, should not take God’s name in vain. Period. The desire to write a novel or act in a movie gives us no more license to break the Third Commandment than it does to break the Sixth Commandment. But it’s easy for me to point the finger at others; let me bring it closer to home, to my discipline. When historians write history, it’s one thing to mention that a character took God’s name in vain. It’s another problem entirely to reprint the blasphemy as a direct quote.
But here’s a harder question as food for thought: Should Christians consume content, for education or entertainment, where God’s name is taken in vain?