Attitude towards faith and the Name of God

Treatment of religious symbols and terminologies will affect our collective attitude towards our faith to a large extent. For that, it is crucial that we treat religious terminologies and symbols with the appropriate respect it deserves.

For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” — Romans 2:24, ESV.

For a start, let us think about what comes to mind when it comes to the use of the word, “God”? Does it give you a good impression? Does it sound like a loosely defined word? Does it sound like a swear word? What comes to mind?

Now, in contrast to the term, “God”, think, “Allah”. What comes to mind now?

You see, how we use religious terms shape our mindset. Both “God” and “Allah” essentially mean “God”. However, the usage of the two words transformed over the years and shaped the way we see them today.

These changes were not made overnight. These changes are the work of our hands.

We can see this change taking place from two perspectives. First, we can see it from the institutional level. Second, we can see it from the grass-roots level.

Institutionally, the way we insist that these religious terminologies be seen play an essential role in how it shapes one’s perspective of the word. To illustrate this, we refer to the word, “Allah”. We all know what it meant. But not many people joke about it — not among people of the faith. In fact, they held so dearly to the term “Allah” that they tried to make it exclusive. In some places, the use of “Allah” by a non-Muslim is even banned. Given the respect they gave to the word, it is no wonder why many Muslims hold on to their faith so dearly despite difficulties they will face everywhere they go. Sure, there may be differences in beliefs between the Muslims and the other faiths, but there appears to be a certain sort of mutual respect and understanding. And when someone was to say, “Allah”, or any other religious terms that can be associated with Islam, we will immediately be reminded of their faith, their religion, and their stories.

On the contrary, you don’t see that with Christianity, do you? The institution allowed the addition of the term, “God”, to a swear word — “God-dammit”, or “goddamn” (which also means, “God damned it”). The institution did not do anything to openly stop the spread of terms like, “Oh God”, which coincidentally sounded like, “oh crap”, “oh shit”, and the like. And when it comes to the name of Jesus or the use of the word, “Christ”, we have “bloody Jesus”, “oh Christ”, “oh for God’s sake”, etc. In fact, “Jesus Christ” in itself became a swear word that is of equivalent use to “f***” [2]. Think about its implications. Think about how non-Christians will think of Christ when the world uses the name of Christ alongside the world’s filthiest word.

Though the proliferation of the above practices may be permitted on the institutional level, it is also widely practiced and normalized on the grass-roots level. The wide use of profanities that are related to religious terminologies being practiced within and outside of the church plays a big role. All it takes is for one soul to spark a fire and another to catch onto it. With this, the whole forest will be set ablaze. However, when proper education is done on the institutional level, the grass-roots will hold on to its principles and shape the use of these words accordingly.

Some practical advice:

Hence, I think there is some practical advice that I would like to lay down here that would help us in ensuring that religious values are given the respect they rightly deserve.

  1. Capitalize “G” in God. — No matter when you use it. As long as you are referring to God the Father, Son, or the Holy Spirit, capitalize it. Small “g” is for idols.
  2. Abstain from any use of profanities. Jesus teaches that “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth” — Matthew 15:11, ESV.
  3. Discourage fellow Christians from the use of profanities. Starting from terms that are related to religious terminologies.
  4. Abstain from the use of casual phases that are related to religious terms. (ie: “oh god”, “goddamn”, “oh my god”, etc).
  5. Limit your exposure to art forms that views God, Christianity, or religion in a negative light.
  6. Cling onto the promises and attributes of God and familiarize ourselves with the Bible.

The more we know the attributes of God, the more we will want to cling onto His Words and forsake earthly practices and glory. It is through the clinging onto the Word of God that will enable us to be soaked in His awesome love and experience God in His full goodness. And when we understand God’s goodness, we will have the right attitude towards our faith and treat the name of God with the respect He deserves.

Footnotes:
[1] – “Malaysia Court Rules non-Muslim cannot use ‘Allah’”. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-24516181
[2] – https://www.indiewire.com/2017/08/swear-words-movies-1201863915/

Image by Wendy Corniquet from Pixabay
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