In his remarks today in the House, Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk said this:

Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind. When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president.

What I want to say is fairly simple: When God sends his people into exile in the Old Testament, one of the stated reasons is that the exile had to be 70 years to make up for 70 missed Sabbath years—the result of Israel flaunting God’s law revealed in the Decalogue for nearly 500 years. The principle, which I think is a straightforward reading of the text, is this: Flagrant and unrepentant violations of God’s law as disclosed to us in the Ten Commandments leads to exile.

One of the alarming things about the Christian right’s capitulation to Trump is that they too have made a habit of persistently violating God’s law, particularly the third commandment, which concerns not taking the Lord’s name in vain. Traditionally, Protestants have understood that command in fairly capacious terms. It is not simply that one is prohibited from saying “my god” or “Jesus Christ” as an exclamation, but that we speak God’s name with reverence, that we refuse to cheapen it through invoking it inappropriately.

Here is how Martin Luther explains the command, which in the Lutheran numbering is the second commandment, in his catechism:

We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

Likewise, this is how the Heidelberg Catechism talks about the third commandment:

Q. What is required in the third commandment?
A. We are not to blaspheme or to abuse the name of God by cursing,
perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. Rather, we must use the holy name of God only with fear and reverence,  so that we may rightly confess him, call upon him, and praise him in all our words and works.

To invoke the name of God, who Christ himself taught us to petition God to “hallow,” or make holy, is to do something profound, even fearful.

It is no surprise, then, that a movement that has wandered so far from its first love as American evangelicalism is now routinely violating this commandment. A trivial example, if we can ever use the word ‘trivial’ to speak of such a thing, came earlier this year when Sean Spicer was on Dancing with the Stars:

Loudermilk’s words earlier today are a similar sin. (And we should not be embarrassed about using that word to describe such things.) To invoke the Lord’s name in defense of President Trump is to trivialize the events of Holy Week. To draw a comparison between the trial of Christ and the impeachment proceedings for a president who tried to conduct foreign policy affairs in ways to benefit himself electorally is to cheapen Christ’s name.

In a healthy church environment, I would expect Loudermilk’s pastor to be contacting his parishioner and having a stern conversation with him about his sin and telling him that he must repent.

But we all know that won’t happen.

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Posted by Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy and author of "In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World." He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play.

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