Do You Use “OMG?”
As a child and teen, I attended a very strict Christian school of a non-denominational/charismatic persuasion. This school came from a tradition that promoted a very high view of living a life of holiness. Cussing in any form was certainly prohibited. There were lots of words that we were not allowed to say. All of the usual four letter words were on the list, including words like “Heck,” “Screw (it/you)”, “Crap,” and so on. These words would earn the utterer 30-60 minutes of detention. And detention wasn’t just about sitting there; it usually involved some form of Bible study, with an essay due at the end of the time served. And for taking the Lord’s name in vain, the punishment was justifiably harsher. Saying “Christ” or “Jesus Christ” as a flippant expression of anger, one would be rewarded with a couple of hours of detention, a larger essay, and if it was really bad? The strap…before it was outlawed in BC anyway.
Even though the school was uber-strict, (each student signed a contract stating that they would adhere to a strict code of moral conduct both at school and outside of it), I still grew up saying “Oh my G*d” as an expression of disdain or irritation. Most of my school friends said it. I even distinctly remember one of the teachers saying it when I kept getting certain answers wrong over and over…
Needless to say, I did not think it was wrong to say. I was never called out on it. I was never put into detention for it. To be fair, my mom mentioned once or twice that I probably should not say it, but I kept saying it – just not in front of her.
In the midst of all the strict religious moralism, it never dawned on me that it might be wrong to utter, “Oh My G*d,” until one of my unbelieving neighbours asked me, “You are such a hyporcrite! Why are you saying that? Aren’t you a Christian?” I was 12 or 13 at the time, and to be honest, I forgot about it shortly thereafter, and continued saying it.
I met my wife when we were 18. I was a religious moralist. She said some of the words I hated that were on that list and it drove me nuts. But she called me on taking the Lord’s name in vain. Now, 18 years later, nothing upsets me more than hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain, in any form. I am not sure why that is, but I think it is a good thing that it upsets me so much. I won’t even drink a certain brand of beer any more, because for me, it is taking the Lord’s name in vain.
Recently on a social media website, a pastor’s wife posted a status update about something she was excited about, and she included in her status update, “#OMG!”
I was floored.
I was physically upset.
I thought her account must have been hacked, until other Christians were commenting their approval of what she had said. A couple of them also wrote things like, “OMG can’t wait!” and “OMFG that is awesome!” I was more than floored. I confronted the people (privately) about it, and their responses were simple and justifiable to them. They said they were not taking the Lord’s name in vain, but merely saying, “O My Goodness!” The “F”? That was simply the word “freaking.” I still have not figured out what a “freaking goodness” is…
So when I mentioned that unbelievers and weaker brothers and sisters may view them as taking the Lord’s name in vain, the response was that most Christians know what they mean, and that they were not friends with many unbelievers. Adam Ford’s piece Lot’s of Christians use OMG and I think that is Dumb. was brought to my mind. OK…If you say that you were not taking the Lord’s name in vain, I believe you. Really I do. Because I cannot fathom that these friends of mine would willingly take the Lord’s name in vain. But because it bothered me so much, I decided to survey a bunch of people on what the phrase “OMG” means to them. Thank you to all who participated
In total, I surveyed 238 people. 102 unbelievers and 136 Christians. Not a huge sample, but big enough for a blog post 🙂
The results are in:
The tradition the pastor’s wife comes from is similar to the one I grew up in. Of the 39 respondents from that Christian tradition, 18 admit to using OMG. That is, 46% of them! I was a bit surprised at that number, but all of those who admitted to using it state that the G = Goodness or Gosh. Which puts me to shame, since I actually used to say the blasphemous version!
Of those I surveyed, the respondents from the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition were the most passionately against it. 12 of the respondents would not even type the word “God” in context of the phrase, instead opting for “G**” “G*D” or “GD.” This reminds me of the Hebrew use of ”YHWH” when referring to the name of God. Some of you may laugh or roll your eyes, but this is not a mere legalism, it is an awe and holy reverence for the name of God. Out of respect for those 12 I have put a * in place of the “o” when I write “Oh my G*d” in this post. Of 66 respondents from this tradition, 5 admit to using OMG. Or 7.58%. All of those who admitted to using it state that the “G”= Goodness or Gosh.
See chart below for more information.
Of all the Christians who claimed to use “OMG” only 2 said the “G” equalled God. Both were Roman Catholic and stated that it is not blasphemy as it is not his real name. I could write a blog post about that…but not right now. Not a single protestant surveyed who uses OMG intends to equate the “G” with “God.” That amazed me. Where were my teachers growing up? I really must have gone off the beaten path when I was a kid (or those Christians who do it did not respond) … I digress.
Let’s get to my point.
96% of unbeliever’s see the “G” as meaning God, whereas only 78% of Christians do. Out of all 238 respondents, unbeliever’s and believers alike, 86% say that the “G” = “God.” So whether you believe that you are taking the Lord’s name in vain or not, 96% of unbelievers think you are. Think about that for a moment…Jesus told us to be a light in the world, not to use the same phrases they do and change the meaning in our heads. If the world uses OMG and intends to say “Oh My G*d,” what is it that they see when a Christian types it into Facebook? I would bet that in the eyes of the unbelieving world, Christians who use “OMG” are seen as hypocrites. Just like that neighbour girl when I was twelve. What kind of witness is that? Is this glorifying to God? Is this being a light on a hill?
No. I don’t think it is. I cannot judge your heart or intentions, but I believe that Christians should not use OMG. So before you use it, ask yourself some questions:
1. Does my using this glorify God or does it mock him?
2. What will others think when they see this? Am I being a light by posting this?
3. Will I cause a weaker brother to stumble by posting this?
4. Is there a better/more Christian way to express delight, excitement, disgust, irritation etc?
This is not intended to judge any Christian tradition. It is a flawed survey in that only a very small sample of each group participated. My gut feeling is the “Christian” column is probably representative of most Christian traditions on this particular subject. I could also write about how we shouldn’t use “Gosh,” and when people say,” Oh my Word” it is also blasphemy (read John 1:1-18).
Winner for the best reponse? “Order More Grub,” this person uses it often and is searching for a religion…