Editorial: A little respect, please
October 24 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Editorial: A little respect, please | Friday, Oct. 24, 2003

Friday, Oct. 24, 2003

Editorial: A little respect, please

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Have you noticed that God's name is getting precious little respect these days? Many people treat God's name as if it means nothing at all.

God revealed a personal, holy name to Israel, a name that was most likely pronounced as "Yahweh."

We don't know for sure because early Hebrew was written with no vowels. The oldest manuscripts render God's name only by the consonants represented in English by YHWH.

Vowel markings in the form of dots and dashes above and below the consonants were added to later manuscripts, but by that time the Jews considered God's name too holy to pronounce. Thus, the name YHWH was given the vowels for "Elohim" or "Adonai," more generic names for God. Jewish readers know they are to pronounce the vowels, not the consonants.

The traditional reverence for God's name continues among many faithful Jews, who consider it disrespectful even to say or write the word "God." Thus, they speak of God as "the Holy One, blessed be He," and write God's name incompletely as a sign of respect, often as "G-d."

Others show less deference to the majesty of God's name.

It has become customary in America for people to invoke a curse on others without a thought for the seriousness of their language. The words "God" and "damn" are both very meaningful words. To wish that God would damn someone is a very solemn utterance.

Yet, those words are flung about as if they mean nothing more than "ouch" or "I'm unhappy."

Lamentably, the expression "Oh my God!" has become ubiquitous as an expression of surprise. Watch some of those reality shows on TV, which purport to include representative Americans. Whether confronted with a bowl of maggots, a remodeled house or an unexpected visitor, participants inevitably cry, "Oh my God!"

And I want to say "Enough, already!"

God's name is too holy to be bandied about as a careless exclamation because we are too lazy to learn an appropriate vocabulary.

The whole enterprise cheapens the holy nature of God's name. Just as a vile-mouthed rapper wearing a heavy golden cross demeans that precious symbol, our casual use of God's name devalues its meaning. God's name is far too holy to be used as an exclamation.

Likewise, it is inappropriate to employ God's name as political ammunition.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear arguments in the case of a man who claims that having the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.

The Pledge of Allegiance was developed in the late 1800s as a statement of confidence and devotion to a country committed to unity despite the varied backgrounds of its citizens.

It served that purpose well through two world wars and the Korean conflict with no mention of God at all, because the pledge was not a religious statement, but a patriotic one.

In 1954, however, the fear of Communism led Congress to insert the words "under God" between "one nation" and "indivisible." In doing so, God's name was usurped for political ends to show that Americans were not like those "godless Communists." Utilizing God's name in this way does not demonstrate trust in God, but a lack of trust. What matters is whether God lives in our hearts - not whether we put God's name on our money or in our pledge.

The 1950s were a decade of both patriotic and religious fervor, and it was sometimes hard to distinguish between the two.

It still is.

I was born under the original pledge, but grew up reciting the amended version, and I am personally comfortable with it. Still, I can see why Americans who don't believe in God would be less comfortable.

I can also see that "under God" was added to the pledge for the wrong reason: God's eternal and holy name has been subverted for human political purposes, made subject to the courts, and cheapened in the process.

There is no winning hand in the cards for believers on this one.

The court could rule that reciting the pledge in public school is constitutional on the basis of previous decisions that allow a generalized "ceremonial deism" because it has little real religious meaning.

Or, the court could rule that requiring students to recite the pledge is unconstitutional because it does declare a meaningful faith in God, which could violate First Amendment provisions that the state should take no action to establish religion.

So, recitation of the current pledge could be endorsed because "under God" doesn't mean anything, or it could be declared unconstitutional because the words do have meaning.

It's a lose-lose situation that could have been avoided if God's holy name had never been commandeered as a political weapon against Communism.

In 1 Samuel 4, the Bible contains a most relevant story about what happens when humans try to manipulate the things of God for their own purposes. When threatened by the Philistines, Israelite soldiers persuaded the priests in Shiloh to carry the Ark of the Covenant into a battle against the Philistines. Apparently, they assumed that inserting the holy symbol into the conflict would oblige God to help them.

God refused to be used, however. He allowed the Philistines to rout Israel and take possession of the Ark.

America is not Israel, but the story contains a valuable lesson for those who invoke God's name beyond God's purpose.

A little respect please.

10/24/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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