It played out like a scene straight out of Isaiah 6. Apocalyptic, vision-like stuff.
Smoke fills the air. Loud sounds of voices ring out. The ground nearly seems to shake with blasts. And a figure emerges at a house of worship.
But then the script changed.
The figure doesn’t cry for forgiveness. He doesn’t admit his unclean lips. He doesn’t profess to have seen the Lord Almighty.
The figure poses. He holds up a Bible snatched from inside a $1,500 handbag. He looks at the book unfamiliarly. He touches it like it’s a live coal in his hands. He looks not for the Divine but for a camera, seemingly whispering “Here am I, see me!”
Ever hearing, but never understanding. Ever seeing, but never perceiving. As cities lie ruined. As the land again is laid waste. Still not able to turn and be healed.
This reversal of Isaiah 6 flashed on screens Monday night near the White House. Police used flash bangs and tear gas — which is banned for use in warfare — to remove peaceful protesters from the area. Officers in military gear pushed people off the street and even removed clergy from the private property of St. John’s Episcopal Church. All this so that President Donald Trump could walk over to that church for a photo op with a Bible.
Not to enter. Not to worship. Not to pray. Not to confess. Not to listen to God. But to awkwardly pose with a borrowed Bible.
And that is what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain.
Growing up, I always thought that commandment simply meant not cursing. And I do still think we shouldn’t use God’s name that way — which Trump has on multiple occasions. But I also realize now that taking the Lord’s name in vain means much more.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we act like God is nothing more than a political prop.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we squeeze the breath of God out someone until they die.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we create and support judicial systems that treat people differently just because of the color of the skin God gave them.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we treat those who look differently than us as an enemy rather than a neighbor.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we let anger, hatred, racism, and hypocrisy trump the fruit of the Spirit.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we destroy and deface businesses, homes, and houses of worship.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we look the other way in silence as systemic injustices continue to rob people of their God-given potential.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we restrict access to what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “beloved community.”
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we refuse to repent and repair the damage of structural inequalities.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we fail to admit our own failures and fail to humbly seek forgiveness from God and our neighbors.
We take the Lord’s name in vain when we fail to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
Woe is me!