"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." It's the third of God's Ten Commandments and Bill Grantlin, a retired insurance salesman of Raleigh, North Carolina, takes it seriously.
Grantlin already questioned the morality of the comic strip, The Boondocks. But he believed something ought to be done about it because it recently "crossed the line," as he put it, by "using the Lord's name in vain."
The edition of The Boondocks that captured Grantlin's attention made a spoof of Oprah Winfrey's latest visit to Paris. Winfrey's trip received national attention when she was denied entry to an upscale Paris store after hours. Poking fun of Winfrey and all of the hoopla over her not being able to get into the establishment, Aaron McGruder, the comic strip's creator, drew a picture of Winfrey on a ticket that could be placed with store clerks that essentially says if you see this woman, "for Christ's sake let her in."
For Grantlin, this was a final straw. Grantlin had once before contacted the Raleigh News & Observer about the content in The Boondocks, but this time he wanted some action to be taken. Grantlin said his call was not to convince the newspaper to cancel the comic strip, but simply to get it moved to a more appropriate section. "I wanted it moved to the editorial section -- back where Doonesbury is -- where an eight-year-old child is not going to read it," he said.
Unfortunately, however, Grantlin got only resistance from the N&O staff. "All the other newspapers do this," a staff member told Grantlin. "Times are changing and we are becoming more liberal. The News & Observer has a daily circulation of 160,000 people and we received exactly seven other complaints. And you know what, not one of them was a child," the staff person added. Grantlin said the remark about not receiving complaints from children was the most ridiculous statement he had ever heard.
According to Grantlin, the N&O staff also told him he ought to find more productive ways to spend his time like doing volunteer work. Despite the fact that Grantlin has been a regular community volunteer, a recurring donor for the American Red Cross, an unpaid assistant for the local SPCA shelter, and visited two indigent persons weekly until their deaths, his appeal to move The Boondocks to what he believes is a more appropriate section of the newspaper fell on deaf ears.
Can you imagine what outrage would have been spawned if McGruder's comic strip had said, "for Allah's sake let her in"? What if it had said, "for Buddha's sake let her in," or "for Confucius sake let her in." Would the staff of the N&O have been so rude at the protest of another religious figure's name being so flippantly used? I doubt it!
Interestingly, Grantlin approached a mainline denominational newspaper in North Carolina and asked them if they would be willing to report on the matter. They refused and said that there were more important battles to fight. What? There are more important battles for Christians to fight than defending the name of their God -- Jesus Christ!
The third commandment instructs that God's name is not to be misused. To take His name in vain is to make it empty, void, foolish, and frivolous. It's to use the name of God in a profane fashion. The word "profane" is a contraction of two words -- pro, which means "out of," and fanum, which means "temple." In other words, to use the Lord's name in a profane way is to take it out of the temple, out of its holy context, and drag it through the gutter of the secular streets.
That's exactly what McGruder's comic strip did. And that's exactly why Bill Grantlin thought that something ought to be done about it.
How sad most of us see something like Bill Grantlin saw nearly every day and then remain silent. Do we have so little love for our Lord that we simply sit idly by while the ungodly spurn, ridicule, and make light of His holiness? While they trample underfoot the precious name of Christ, there comes not even the slightest protest from the rank-and-file Christian.
Alexander the Great once had a soldier brought before him for court martial. The soldier stood before the great commander with fear and trembling. "What's your name?" he was asked. "Alexander, sir," the soldier replied. For a moment there was a pause. Again the Emperor asked, "Soldier, I asked you before and now again, 'What is your name?'" "My name is Alexander," he said. With a face red with fury, the commander shouted for a third time, "What is your name?" "Alexander," came the meek reply. Alexander then stood up and faced the soldier and said to him, "You either change your name or change your conduct!"
If Christians bear the name of Christ, then it must be consistent with their own names. What self-respecting person would passively allow the abuse of his family name? What believer who respects that marvelous name which heals, saves, and delivers can ignore it, when that name is used as a by-word?
Grantlin is an inspiration! The McClatchy Company, publishers of the Raleigh News & Observer, ought to be inundated with contacts from Christian people expressing their displeasure at McGruder's misuse of the Lord's name in his comic strip, The Boondocks. Here's a suggestion: Children (home schoolers and those in Christian schools) could be taught a lesson about respecting the Lord's name by getting them to write letters of protest to the staff of the N&O. Perhaps then the fire of righteous indignation would spread to other newspapers, even many other situations. And the name of our God would once again be hallowed throughout the land.
[Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 1, 2005.]
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.