Oh my ___!

I remember getting really irritated with my mother as a teenager for chastising me when I said, “Oh, my gosh.” She would say, “Don’t say that. I know what you really want to say, and that is wrong.”

I was taught that this is a form of taking the Lord’s name in vain. When Mark teaches on this commandment, he says that taking the Lord’s name in vain is claiming to be a follower of Christ, a Christian, and then living as you are not by lying, cheating, and committing various other types of flagrant public sins. I guess I see this as a more full-bodied way of taking the Lord’s name in vain, but I also think saying “Oh my God,” or “Oh my gosh,” probably leads to a lack of respect for God’s name, and thus, is also a form or taking His name in vain.

Now, we have been teaching our children not to say, “Oh my God.” As a rule, they do not have the opportunity to watch what we call, “grown-up” tv shows. However, they will occasionally see Changing Rooms or Trading Spaces when I watch them. In many of these shows, when the hostess reveals the newly designed rooms, the homeowners shriek, “Oh, my God!” My children then dutifully say, “He said a bad word.”

Recently, I was watching a Nickolodian show, “Maggie and the Ferocious Beast” with the younger children, and I noticed that the animated characters on that show say “Oh, my gosh,” with regularity. I plan to take this off the approved watching list now.

Does anyone else have any thoughts about these forms of taking the Lord’s name in vain?

8 thoughts on “Oh my ___!”

  1. Perhaps I see things for a linguistic viewpoint, but I — like your mother — see little difference between “Oh my God!” and “Oh my Gosh!”. The intention of the heart is the same. Same with “For Pete’s Sake!”, “Goodness Gracious!”. I suppose this also convicts our choice of “Darn!” over “Damn!”.

    However, I do like Mark’s application.

  2. Mike,
    I guess since I led off with my irritation with my mother, I didn’t make it clear later that I, now, as a mother myself, am holding to her perspective and do not want my children to say either phrase. I should make the clarification that as a rule, Mark nor I say either phrase.

  3. My mom agreed with your mom. “Oh my God” was banned in our home, as was “gosh” and “gee” (gosh being a permutation of “God” and gee a short-form of “Jesus”, Mom said). I catch myself saying OMG more and more often now, and inevitably feel guilty each time. I’m trying to think of something else to say in its place. Or perhaps I could not say anything – but would that be too optimistic?

  4. If there is little difference between all of these sayings, how do we express surprise, or exclamation? Is it only the exclamations that are similar to ways in which people use God’s name inappropriately? What about “Oh, my” or “For crying out loud”? One could argue that even “Wow” is a substitution for the name of God or Jesus. Where do we draw the line, and how do we tell which expressions started as taking the Lord’s name and which ones didn’t?

    Just playing devil’s advocate. I’m interested to know what others think who have thought through this.

  5. Rollin,
    It is interesting that you brought this up today. I have been finishing up James Dobson’s book “Binging Up Boys” this week, and today, I read about the rules in his childhood regarding “expletives” of any sort. His father, a conservative Nazarene pastor, even reprimanded him for yelling “Hot dog!” one time when he was happy about something. That may be a bit extreme in my book, but I have been thinking more and more about what I say. I think a lot of the issue with expletives is the tone that is used. The ever-popular “dagnummit!” is obviously an attempt to euphemise another phrase. Yet I don’t think it is wrong to express enthusiasm about something one is excited about. Thus, Dr. Dobson’s “Hot dog!” seems ok.

  6. Echoing Rollin’s thoughts, I brought this same idea up to Jay a few nights ago (sorry to not blog till now!) asking, “What in the world is OK to say? Can we even exclaim and show surprise or amazement or is that a sin too?” B/c I think this can be taken to an extreme. We have greatly tempered our speech (I grew up saying “Oh my gosh” (never “god”) but was never corrected for this. Since then, I’ve come to believe that “gosh” isn’t a good word to have in my vocab. However, we often say “Oh my” or “My word!” or “My goodness!” or “Wow!” around here. And so far, Abigail [and Jonathan and Nicolas 🙂 ] haven’t said “gosh” but I know there will come a day when they overhear that phrase and we will need to sit down and have this chat with them, so it is good to be thinking about the whole thing.

  7. I know a Brit, a Christian, who in times of amazement or excitement will shout, “Glory!” Thought it was a bit odd until I read Psalm 29, where David describes a thunderstorm. The response of the worshippers in the temple is to cry, “Glory!” (vs.9) He took on this Biblical response to situations that amazed or excited him.

  8. I teach in a secular school with many staff members and parents who are different “religions.” My relationship to God is that…RELATIONSHIP, getting to know Him intimately and giving Him all of me. I am bothered by how the staff members often say, “Oh, my God!” Some are particularly loud in their classrooms, at the front desk, and in the dining room. Even my director says it. It bothers me to hear that, because I have been taught that God’s name is holy, and is to be used only when we are talking to Him. Some people see it as only a “figure of speech.” I do not see it that way. I discussed this with my school director, telling her that I find it offensive. She said that she can not correct what the other staff says about “God,” that different religions believe different things about God. She was very strong in her position. She is Muslim. I choose to teach my 2- and 3-year old students to say, “Oh, my goodness!” Is that the same as “gosh” or “golly”?
    Am I wrong in seeing the phrase “Oh, my God” as offensive? I do not see it as just an expression. I would appreciate feedback. Thanks.

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