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Before my friend's dad became a Lutheran pastor, he was a rough and tumble seaman who, well, swore like a sailor. He was even reprimanded once by a Navy superior for using excessive foul language. So when The Pacific, HBO's new series about Marines in World War II, came out, he made sure to catch it.

But he could not watch it. The language—particularly the taking of the Lord's name in vain—was just too much. When a sailor says you've crossed the line, you've crossed the line.

The series was on HBO, a venue that loves going to extremes. But taking the Lord's name in vain has become something of a pastime in popular culture.

Jonathan Chait, a senior editor at the liberal political magazine The New Republic, wrote a blog post during the health-care debate that shocked me. "J---- C-----," the headline began, followed by the statement that some arcane legislative process was "Not That Difficult!"

When Tiger Woods returned to golf following his sex scandal, he retained his habit of cussing a blue streak whenever he made a bad shot. "G--! Tiger! J---- C-----!" he said after a lousy drive. The announcers didn't even flinch. Critics scolded Brit Hume for suggesting that Woods needed Christ's forgiveness, but almost no one cared when Woods swore in Christ's name.

Vice President Joe Biden got a lot of grief for dropping the f-bomb before President Obama signed health-care legislation into law. But how many people noticed that he used "Jesus Christ" to curse in a Wall Street Journal interview last year?

It used to be considered unacceptable to speak this way. Now it's beyond common.

Exodus 20:7 tells us, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain" ...

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Throwing Inkwells
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a contributor to GetReligion.org, an editor at Ricochet.com, and a frequent writer for Christianity Today and a number of other outlets. A committed Lutheran, her column ran from 2009 to 2011.
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July 2010

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