Most Americans can tell you what blasphemy is. Their definitions may lack precision, but they likely achieve a level of accuracy. And why wouldn’t they be able to? After all, in movies and shows and novels, the blasphemy of using God’s name in vain surrounds Americans. What most Americans may not know is that blasphemy offends Christians. They may not know that it hurts Christians.
The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us the word “blasphemy” derives from the Greek language. It was likely formed by combining the words blaptikos (meaning “hurtful”) and phēmē (meaning “utterance). But it is not a random hurtful utterance. It is a hurtful utterance against God. From a Christian perspective, that would be bad enough. But it is much broader than that.
Blasphemy is a hurtful utterance against Christians.
Look at it like this. If a man said something hurtful about your father, it would likely hurt you by extension. Why? Because you love your father. Empathy is the notion of suffering with another out of love. The more you love another, you more you suffer when he suffers. To disrespect one's father is to disrespect him.
The “in vain” part might be less obvious to non-Christians. But the idea could be illustrated in the following way. Let’s say a friend came up to you with an idea:
Mike, instead of saying “s---” or “dammit” or “son of a -----,” I’m going to start using your daughter’s name. So if the opposing team ever scores a touchdown, or I stub my toe, or I miss a golf shot, I’m going to shout “Martha Jones!” You’re OK with that, right?
Though it would be rather odd, this request might seem funny at first. But after you heard it a few times, and after your daughter heard her name shouted in anger and disgust, you might stop thinking it’s so funny. And you might wonder something else. You might wonder why your daughter and her name was singled out as the chosen “profanity.” What did she ever do to offend your friend? For that matter, what did you ever do?
To hurt and offend Christ is to hurt and offend a follower of Christ—otherwise known as a Christian.
It is unlikely that you’ve ever heard someone explain blasphemy like this before. It is unlikely that a Christian has ever reprimanded you for taking God’s name in vain. And it is terribly unlikely that a Christian has ever explained to you why blasphemy causes him pain. But for those of us who love Jesus and seek to love Him more, such expressions hurt us.
Of course, you may show this article to a Christian friend who assures you that my observations are nonsense. He might say that he’s “cool” with your blasphemy. He may even chuckle at the word blasphemy. Yes, there are Christians who are indifferent to this issue. For that matter, there are Christians who violate the Second Commandment.
But my contention is not that Christians like this don’t exist. My contention is that Christians like myself do.
John Clark is an author and speechwriter. His first book Who’s Got You? reached #1 in the Amazon Kindle “Fatherhood” category and his new book How to Be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford A Decent Cape was just released by Guiding Light Books. He has written hundreds of articles and blogs about Catholic family life and apologetics in such places as Magis Center, Seton Magazine, Catholic Digest, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review. A graduate of Christendom College, John and his wife Lisa have nine children and live in Virginia.