I was almost suspended from class in fifth grade for taking the Lord’s name in vain.
The crime took place after a classmate showed us a cool new math trick for the nine times table, and my response was an awe-filled “oh my lord!”
My tablemates looked at me with shock, the class began a chorus of “uh-ohs” and “you’re in troubles.” Amid the shaming, our teacher Mrs. Ausland told me to get up from my desk and step outside. For taking the Lord’s name in vain.
I cried in the hallway, sick to my stomach with worry. What would my parents think? What would my father – a Baptist minister – think of me? What would my Girls in Action teacher think?
As a newly baptized believer in Christ, I was about to be kicked out of school for hurting God with the ultimate curse; and over a child’s trick to solving a math problem. How foolish.
My teacher walked me down to the office, my mother was called and told of my offense. But much to my surprise, the call was not short. And the fury ensued in one of the most tense phone calls I had ever witnessed in my 11 years on earth.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mrs. Ausland hung up the office phone, cleared her throat, led me back to the classroom and told me I would not be suspended that day.
I do not know what my mother told her, and later that day my parents had to remind me that there were bigger things that hurt God’s feelings than saying “oh my lord.”
This was a year before Columbine, a year before Cassie Bernall would become a martyr for young Christians to look up to when her story was romanticized and seen as the true act of our faith.
For those who are too young or do not remember, it was rumored that one of the shooters pointed their gun at Cassie and asked her if she was a Christian. We were told that she did not hesitate and said, “yes,” and was shot point blank because of her faith.
Her story became a book sold at Scholastic book fairs. Her story was told at youth rallies during invitations to dedicate our lives to God, and retold by DJs on the contemporary Christian radio station KLOVE.
Before I could understand that it was a comprehensive policy that we needed, I was made to believe that my commitment to Christ would either save me or make me a martyr worthy of my heavenly prize.
I lived in a world where you either took God’s name in vain or died claiming it. There was never an in between and these were your options.
This week, Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas (District 1) stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and gave his best mental gymnastic performance yet in an effort to avoid comprehensive gun reform.
The congressman from Texas did not like the pushback on “thoughts and prayers” in response to tragedies because he believes that now, more than ever, prayer is what would save our children in schools.
Democrats are “disgusted hearing about prayers,” he said. “Look, maybe if we heard more prayers from leaders of this country, instead of taking God’s name in vain, we wouldn’t have the mass killings like we didn’t have before prayer was eliminated from school,” he added.
In a gracious assumption of Rep. Gohmer, I believe him to be a man of faith. A faith that taught me, and I assume him, that God is unbound by our human understanding. Greater and bigger than any box we create to contain divinity.
And with that, the idea that prayer, or communication with the divine, stops at the entrance of a public school, assumes that the representative from Texas might have forgotten his Sunday school lessons.
However, this is my kindest assumption. A more honest thought is that Rep. Gohmer has, in fact, left God out in the courtyard of schools. Maybe at the flagpole.
With every vote against gun reform, any policy maker who claims the Christian understanding of God has abandoned the call to be agape love in the world and has chosen instead hell on earth for any child they so desperately think and pray for.
I wonder if that is what taking God’s name in vain actually is.
Prayer in school never ended. Children have prayed before tests, while walking the halls on their first day of school, while hiding under their desks from shooters.
What has ended is the facade of concern some leaders in our government have for children.