A Playlist for the Ten Commandments – Pt. 8

Westboro - dead soldiers

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes God’s name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

What comes to mind when you read those words – the Third of the Ten Words?

Growing up I understood it to mean using “Jesus!” or, “God damn it!” to express anger, frustration or shock. And, in an only slightly less serious way, swearing in general. Even seemingly harmless words like “Crikey!” or “Blimey!” still had their etymological roots in taking God’s name in vain, and so were off-limits. And anyone who swore with these kinds of words was committing blasphemy, was taking God’s name in vain. So this particular sin was most likely committed by “heathens,” because “good Christians” would never use those words. But I no longer think that way. Today I’m far more convinced that this is a sin of the pious, and not the irreligious. And that it has little to do with cussing.

It’s important to note that if there’s a ranking to the seriousness of breaking these Ten Words (other than numerical order), then the Third Word is pretty heavily weighted. It’s the only Word that describes explicit consequences for breaking it, and whose prohibition is repeated within the Word itself. Which is one reason why I think it’s not about swearing. And why violating this Word is more likely to look something like the image at the beginning of this post, than that of, say, a “foul-mouthed” comedian in a club.

The Lord – in Hebrew, YHWH – had revealed Godself to those freed slaves in this way: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” So, it seems that if you claim this Lord as your God, what you say – and what you do – ought to reflect this liberating God. The God who brought a new exodus through becoming one of us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. So if you’re going to claim the Name of Jesus, then how you speak and act ought to look at least something like the portrayal we find of him in the four Gospels. I am convinced that breaking the Third Word involves talking about God, or doing things in God’s name that are contrary to how God has revealed Godself in the Bible, most explicitly in the person of Jesus.

That is why I think groups like the Phelps family are guilty of violating the Third Word every time they hold such signs up at the funerals of soldiers – or anywhere else for that matter. That is why people walk away from the church when we label them as “sinners”, but insist on telling them that we’re only saying harsh things about them “because we love you.” That is why New Model Army wrote “Christian Militia” (the lyric with which I begin this chapter) three decades ago. All too often our behaviour has not been experienced the way we think it ought to be, but rather has looked to some like,

            “Worshiping the devil in the name of God.”

The Third Word may be the most difficult to come up with a playlist for. Are there songs that come to mind that claim to be about the God revealed in the Bible, yet are more likely to weigh people down with heavy and painful loads rather than setting them free? Or songs written by people who’ve walked away from the church because of the hypocrisy they’ve experienced or the violence of the language they’ve encountered there? I look forward to reading your suggestions in the comments below. One of them will score a copy of TEN. Please do click on one of those little buttons below and invite others to contribute a song.

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14 Responses to A Playlist for the Ten Commandments – Pt. 8

  1. stevepavey says:

    For a twist on #3 … Or maybe take us deeper than Sunday school lessons as Sean guides us .. I submit Nina Simone …. Mississippi Goddamn – But that’s just the trouble
    “do it slow”
    Desegregation
    “do it slow”
    Mass participation
    “do it slow”
    Reunification
    “do it slow”
    Do things gradually
    “do it slow”
    But bring more tragedy
    “do it slow”
    Why don’t you see it
    Why don’t you feel it
    I don’t know
    I don’t know

    You don’t have to live next to me
    Just give me my equality
    Everybody knows about Mississippi
    Everybody knows about Alabama
    Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

  2. Mark Heybourne says:

    I dont need a passport to walk on this earth
    Anywhere I go ’cause I was made of this earth
    I’m born of this earth, I breathe of this earth
    And even with the pain I believe in this earth

    So I wake up in every mornin’ and I’m steppin’ on the floor
    I wake up in every mornin’ and I’m steppin’ out the door
    I got faith in the sky, faith in the one
    Faith in the people rockin’ underneath the sun

    ‘Cause every bit of land is a holy land
    And every drop of water is a holy water
    And every single child is a son or a daughter
    Of the one earth mama, and the one earth papa

    So dont tell a man that he cant come here
    ‘Cause he got brown eyes and a wavy kind of hair
    And dont tell a woman that she cant go there
    Because she prays a little different to a God up there

    You say youre a Christian ’cause God made you
    You say youre a Muslim ’cause God made you
    You say youre a Hindu and the next man a Jew
    And we all kill each other ’cause God told us to? Nah!

    Read more: Michael Franti – Hello Bonjour Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  3. Mark Heybourne says:

    Holy War – Willie Nile

  4. Mark Heybourne says:

    He never said God helps those who help themselves
    He never said Blessed are the rich
    He never said Do unto others before they do it unto you
    He never said Its too bad buddy the winner has to take it all
    He never said success is the key
    You gotta be cruel to be kind
    And he never said it’s a jungle out there
    Where the weak must get left behind

    He Said..
    Answer a strangers cry for help
    Love your brother as you loved yourself
    You only have to seek and you will find
    Forgive your enemies drop that grudge
    Don’t judge others and you won’t be judged
    Only knock and the door will open wide, open wide

    He never said Archbishops should stick to theology
    He never said put your faith in the lottery
    He never said by any means necessary
    He never said my country right or wrong
    He never said send your money to me
    Touch the screen and your gonna be healed
    He never said every man’s got a price
    Do you want to make a deal?

    Answer a strangers cry for help
    Love your brother as you loved yourself
    You only have to seek and you will find
    Forgive your enemies drop that grudge
    Don’t judge others and you won’t be judged
    Only knock and the door will open wide, open wide

    And on that day a day that’s coming
    Who’s gonna be walking who’s gonna be running
    The first will be the last and the last will come first
    If the meek inherit the earth

    Answer a strangers cry for help
    Love your brother as you loved yourself…etc

  5. Mark Heybourne says:

    “Letter From God To Man” – DAN LE SAC vs Scroobius Pip

    This is a letter, from God to Man, it says:

    Hey There, how, how’s it going?
    Long time no see.
    I know I haven’t been around much lately
    But…it didn’t seem like you wanted me to be
    The last time I sent down a message you nailed it to the cross
    So I figured I’d just leave you to it, let you be your own boss

    But I’ve been keeping an eye on you, I have, and it’s amazing how you’ve grown.
    With your technological advances and the problems you’ve overthrown,
    And all the beautiful art you’ve created with such grace and such finesse,
    But I admit there are a few things I’m afraid have impressed me less.

    So I’m writing to apologize for all the horrors committed in my name,
    Although that was never what I intended, I feel I should take my share of the blame.
    All the good I tried to do was corrupted when all the religion got into full swing,
    What I thought were quite clear messages were taken to unusual extremes.
    My teachings taken out of context to meet the agendas of others,
    Interpretations taken to many different ways and hidden meanings discovered

    Religion became a tool, for the weak to control the strong
    With all these new morals and ethics, survival of the fittest was gone
    No longer could the biggest man simply take whatever he needed
    ‘Cause damnation was the price if certain rules were not heeded

    Some of the deeds committed in my name just made me wonder were I went wrong.
    Back at the start when I created this, the foundation seemed so strong.
    See all the elements were already here, long before I began, I just kind of put it all together
    I didn’t really think out a long-term plan.

    I made the sun an appropriate distance and laid the stars across the sky
    So you could navigate the globe or simply watch the sun rise
    I covered the earth with plants and fruits,
    Some for sustenance and some for beauty
    I made the sun shine and the clouds rain so their maintenance wasn’t your duty
    I tried to give each creature its own attributes without making them enveloped
    I gave you all you all your own space to grow and in your own way space to develop

    I didn’t know such development would cause rifts and jealousy
    Cause you to war against each other and leave marks on this planet indelibly
    You see, I wasn’t really the creator, I was just the curator of nature
    I want to get something straight with homosexuals right now: I don’t hate ya
    I was a simple being that happened to be the first to wield such powers
    I just laid the ground, it was You that built the towers

    It was You that invented bombs, and the fear that comes with them
    And it was You that invented money, and the corrupt economic systems
    You invented terms like just-war and terms like friendly fire
    And it was You that didn’t know when to stop digging deeper, when to stop building higher
    It was You that exhausted the resources I carefully laid out on this earth,
    And it was You that even saw these problems coming but accredited them little worth
    It was You that used my teachings for your own personal gain
    And it was You that committed such tragedies, even though they were in my name

    So I apologize for any mistakes I made, and when my words misconstrued
    But this apology’s to mother nature, cause I created YOU

  6. Mark Heybourne says:

    If there’s a God
    Where does He go to
    When disease and hunger
    Knock on the door?

    And if there’s a God
    How does He decide
    That she’ll be born rich
    But he’ll be born poor?

    I don’t know
    Can you tell me? Oh
    Can you tell me? Oh

    If there’s a God
    Why does He let
    People die slowly
    Wracked by pain?

    And if there’s a God
    Who blesses with children
    Why does He steal
    Some back again?

    I don’t know
    Can you tell me? Oh
    Can you tell me? Oh

    If there’s a God
    Why is He letting
    Violence and murder
    Be done in His name?

    But if there’s no God
    Why am I lying
    Here in the dark
    Saying his name?

    I don’t know
    Can you tell me? Oh
    Can you tell me? Oh

    I don’t know
    Can you tell me? Oh
    Can you tell me? Oh

    Read more: Proclaimers – If There’s A God Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  7. Mark Heybourne says:

    I have seen the slow corruption
    Of the best ideas of Christ
    In the pulpits of our nation
    Gospel turned into white lies
    If you preach a subtle hatred –
    The bible as your alibi
    Goddam you right here in Ohio

    Over the Rhine – All Over Ohio

  8. Crystal Pileggi says:

    Gay is synonymous with the lesser
    It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion
    Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment
    The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins
    It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference!
    Live on and be yourself
    When I was at church they taught me something else
    If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
    That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
    When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
    Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
    I might not be the same, but that’s not important
    Same Love – Macklemore

  9. Bill says:

    Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

    You say I took the name in vain
    I don’t even know the name
    But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
    There’s a blaze of light
    In every word
    It doesn’t matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah

  10. Courtney says:

    Rich Young Ruler by Derek Webb, the whole song speaks to this, but I especially love these lines: where we’re all living so good
    that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
    where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
    from going through our trash

  11. clairebrown2004 says:

    This one is hard. I am going to suggest, “Edelweiss,” from The Sound of Music. In the context of the film, the song functions as a piece of civil disobedience in an argument about the name, not of The Lord, but of Austria. (The Captain has just been drafted into service for the Third Reich, he’s trying to escape but doesn’t know if he will, another officer is supposed to escort him to his assignment but first allows the Von Trapp family to sing in a music festival “to show that nothing has changed”; the Captain closes with Edelweiss–and invites the crowd to join him–as a way of publicly declaring what the real Austria is). Anyway, it’s an analogy so I can see that it may not suit your purposes, but I do think it’s a beautiful image of what the Third Word wants of us.

    My other more straightforward suggestion is “Jesus Freak”– the comment at the beginning about an unbelieving world gets to the negative aspect of the command (don’t misuse my name), while the rest of the song gets at the positive requirement (do carry my name–I’ve placed it upon you).

  12. clairebrown2004 says:

    Oops! I was apparently ( in my head) mashing together “Jesus Freak” and “What if I Stumble?” New nomination: both, individually.

  13. mark Heybourne says:

    Well I see the people in the balconies on the streets and in their cars
    The party going animals out in the back rooms
    And the bars saying we don’t need religion we don’t need religion
    And I been a timber jack, been a laborer
    Benn a shipyard man and a shirker
    Been a builder building houses
    And heard a million McDonald workers
    Saying we don’t need religion we don’t need religion
    We don’t need religion but we could use the love of God
    Oh, oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh oh
    Yeah yeah yeah
    Well I’ve got false prophets on my TV telling me
    This union’s doomed
    While the spirit filled believers
    Shake up the floor space in the room
    Saying we don’t need religion
    So come all you preachers and you pastors
    All you Priests and Nuns and scholars
    Come on and walk down the road without
    Those robes, crucifixes and orange collars singing
    We don’t bleed religion.
    We don’t bleed religion, we don’t need religion
    But we could use the love of God
    Now is it Saturday, or is it Sunday
    The fact is I’m never sure
    There’s a Sabbath in there some way
    How come we never try Yom Kippur?
    We can’t eat religion we don’t need religion
    And while we’re all so busy fighting using up
    God’s precious time
    There’s a thousand starving homeless people saying
    Buddy can you spare a dime saying
    We can’t eat religion we can’t eat religion Yeah
    We don’t need religion but we could use the love of God

    Brian Houston – We Don’t Need Religion

  14. Dave says:

    “God, sometimes you just don’t come through; do you need a woman to look after you?” Tori Amos, “God”

    “God is a concept by which we measure our pain. . . . I don’t believe in Zimmerman, I don’t believe in the Beatles, I just believe in me – Yoko and me. . . . The dream is over.” John Lennon, “God”

    “I don’t believe in riches, but you should see where I live. . . . I don’t believe in the Uzi that just went off in my hand. . . . I’m spinning on a wheel; it always stops beside a name – a presence I can feel. I believe in love.” U2, God Part 2

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