More than just an admonition against swearing, particularly blasphemous utterances, that third commandment is a reminder that, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we literally take the name. Whether it's identifying as God's Chosen People or as Christians, something about our very identity invokes God's presence.
So when I take that name, do I take it in vain? When people associate me with Christ, in whatever way, have I taken that responsibility and privilege lightly? When I identify as a faith-based theatre artist working from the Christian tradition, and I carry with me the baggage of centuries of religious art and cheesy Christmas pageants, is there something about me--about my work--that rises above that and bears the name of Christ, rather than only bearing the history and tradition?
It's bigger than simply uttering, "Oh my God!" or "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" in moments of surprise or panic.
It's a matter of taking a name, taking an identity, bearing a witness.
In one of my classes right now, I'm in the process of writing my aesthetic and artistic statements, finding the words to describe my work and how my faith impacts it, both in the general terms, and in the specifics of what I will or won't produce. I came in with that document on Friday, and presented my class with a list of works--faith-based or not--that inspire me, and certain criteria for work that I want to do. It was more about the attitude and underlying themes of the work than the story content, and I think that it surprised some of them that I didn't come in with my "WILL NOT TOUCH" list.
As I took the name of faith-based theatre artist, did I bear witness to the fact that we're not all working from a list of taboo subjects, but that my context determines the work I do, just as much as the content itself? Did they see that I want to tell good stories, just like the rest of them, and that I refuse to pigeon-hole a script that I haven't even read based on its perceived content?
I bear witness as an artist, as a Christian, as a person of faith. I take these names--do I take them in vain?