Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Exodus 20:7a (King James Version)
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
We've probably all seen, or at least heard of, product placement in movies. One of the stars lights up a well-known brand of cigarette or drives a particular brand of car.
It's supposed to appear casual and incidental, just a prop being used. But each of these products shown in the movie pays movie producers a great deal of money.
When Christians spend time and money soaking up movies and their fantasy worlds, they run the risk of restructuring their own thinking.
Meaning that a subtle shift can occur by which we start to think of bible history and bible events as if they were fantasy.
This can affect even bible scholars who learned bible history as children from cartoons in Sunday School material. I have myself seen this in bible scholars.
Again, it is up to us to recognize what we think with and stay sharp on what we think about.
That's because it is really advertising.
And as advertising goes, it is exceptionaly good value for money. Movies are viewed for decades by generation after generation. Cigarette advertising via product placement stays in movies long after cigarette advertising might be banned from radio, television, newspapers or magazines.
However, the placement that to me seems the most deliberate is blasphemy placement. You could be watching a television program or a movie that seems to be traditional family fun when all of a sudden, somewhere in the middle of it, out of nowhere comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Totally unnecessary for either the plot or the characters, yet it is inserted at full volume and with no background noise or conflicting dialogue.
To me it is absolutely deliberate.
Among the actors who have accepted money to shout the Lord's name as a profanity are: Tom Selleck, Sandra Bullock, Martin Freeman and Tom Jones. You can probably add more names.
Just like the product placement, blasphemy placement is presented to generation after generation. It's the genie out of the bottle.
I have myself stopped viewing movies precisely because I cannot get past the blasphemy placement.
Now, let's get closer to home and ask an embarrassing question: do we ever find blasphemy placement in "Christian" activities?
I think we do.
In the New Testament, we can see some themes that apply here. First, Jesus came down strongly against clergymen of his day, in part in my opinion, because they opted for style and status over substance. Second, Paul himself constantly battled against false teaching. He also worked to install leaders (male and female elders, male and female deacons) who would ensure proper things were taught and practised and wrong things were not.
It's not just products and blasphemy.
Movies come from an industry that at its heart is anti-Christian. It's no surprise, then, that any value that is anti-Christian gets a prominent placement sooner or later.
But, just as we can be subtly influenced to view bible history as fantasy by drinking in fantasy fiction, so we can also be influenced to view ideal Christian living as living the seductive dream. Most of the television "Christian" programs give a clean, comfortable and cash-rich image of Christians.
How very far from Jesus this is. And yet, many believers are unaware that this is the fantasy they are chasing as they structure their lives.
In the old days of movies, most Christians didn't spend their time and money on this stuff. They knew the industry was rotten and they shunned it.
I think we might do well to bring back this kind of thinking.
Today there is much pressure on us to be politically correct and to consider all faiths as equal. But all faiths are not equal. While we most definitely should support freedom of religionFreedom of Religion
Freedom of religion began with the English Protestant theologian Roger Williams.
He was a founder of Rhode Island in the United States and he learned native American languages. He worked to prohibit slavery in the original thirteen colonies and he was a peacemaker with the native people of Rhode Island.
He also founded the first Baptist church in America.
Today some of us might take for granted Williams' teaching of separation of church and state and freedom of religion, but these things were not easily won. Nor are they easily retained.
Further reading on Roger Williams is most definitely encouraged.
, we must also be mindful of Paul's struggle to exclude wrong things from Christian practice. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).
Let me share with you a couple of examples of how blasphemy placement can creep in when Christian leaders are not alert and are travelling on autopilot.
I experienced the first during a concert in a Methodist church in central England. A stalwart of the church had become a widower some years before and had remarried. His new wife was a music teacher by profession and the church soon found a role for her as the director of the church choir. However, she was Roman Catholic. This, in today's practice of uncritical acceptance, was not seen as an issue because she appeared to be "spiritual" and would talk about Jesus.
Nobody thought there might be a problem when she booked a slot for herself in the concert to perform her own composition. When it came to her performance, however, massive embarrassment and discomfort filled the auditorium as she first verbally explained her composition and then sang it while accompanying herself on the piano. To all who were assembled, she proclaimed in word and in song that the late Princess Diana was in fact the reincarnation of Mary and should be worshipped as such!
The second instance occurred at a Christmas carol service in the west of England. It was a lovely setting in a large tea room beside a lake. Two local congregations joined each year for this event, along with a local brass band. It was lovely, all except for a "copy and paste" error on the part of the person who set up the program prior to printing.
The songs on the program were old as well as traditional. One of the carols began "See, amid the winter's snow". The rest of the carol was the usual bland seasonal stuff you could (almost but not quite) sing in a politically correct department store without causing offence. However, the last verse had been copied and pasted without being proofread. The words were, "Virgin mother, Mary, blest, by the joys that fill thy breast, pray for us, that we may prove worthy of the Saviour's love".
Now, as quoted above, there is only one mediator and that is Jesus. Not Mary and not anybody else. Anything else is just man-made religious fantasy.
We don't do religion and we don't do fantasy!