The name of Jesus Christ was recently on the tongue of one of the world's most famous Buddhists, Tiger Woods.
The champion golfer had just stretched his long arms and readied his powerful shoulders for what he hoped would be a Tiger-classic shot on the 18th hole at the British Open.
His mind was riveted on the ball, and perhaps Tiger was envisioning its trajectory into the hole when his eardrums were suddenly assaulted by batteries of clicking cameras. The vision died in the bombardment, concentration was vaporized, his shoulders sagged and arms dropped in mid-swing.
A frustrated Tiger shouted at the photographers the name two billion people worldwide honor as the most sacred sound that can come from human speech. Tiger was not proclaiming the name, but, consciously or not, he was profaning it.
Tiger Woods is but one more of the famous and not-so noted members of the choir that utters the name of Christ as an expletive. Strangely, as theologian-psychologist Dr. Dan Montgomery notes, the name of Christ "is America's favorite curse word."1
"Christian" America's favorite curse word is the name of the Lord? It would be as if "Buddha" were the expletive of choice in China, or "Krishna" in India. The thought of using their religious founder's name as a curse word would be repugnant and unthinkable to Muslims.
How did so many Americans and others from the once-"Christian" West descend to the level that what the Bible says is "the name above all names" has been reduced to the gutter? More important: What does the use of the name of Christ in this fashion signify?
Mass media have done with the name of Christ the same as with other spiritual and moral phenomena. They gradually stretched out the boundaries and desensitized millions by, first, a few limited shocks, and then, over time, a slowly increasing profane profusion. The same strategy embedded four-letter words in a culture that once could blush. Clark Gabel shocks audiences with a four-letter expletive in 1939 in "Gone With the Wind," and the rest is history.
Novels and other books aided the profusion of the profaning of the name of Christ, and the practice began to work its way into public use. Dr. Montgomery tells of watching a Steven Spielberg movie.
"I found myself counting the times the Christian name for the Son of God" was used in the Spielberg film. "I quit counting near a hundred," Dr. Montgomery said.
The expletives, he noted sadly, were not limited to the screen, but spewed in loud whispers and only slightly muted utterances from audience members as well.
"Why does Jesus Christ head the list of national vulgarities, so endemic to American culture?" he wonders.
In addition to the excellent insights Dr. Montgomery shares in his blog on this topic, I would also suggest that it's because of three major factors (among many). They all point to the deeper significance of this tragic cultural phenomenon.
First, there is a plainly demonic element. This is not to say that Tiger Woods, Steven Spielberg, Tom Wolfe, and hosts of others are demon-possessed. At the same time, the demonic hates the name of Jesus Christ.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and if humans didn't speak Christ's name in praise, even the rocks would cry out. However, the demons are voiceless to express their rage and disgust at Christ's name without a human voice. They seek to influence all of us to profane Christ in our living if not in our words. As Paul notes, demons try to establish "ground" – a platform within us – from and through which they can work.
Men and women can drift into casual attitudes that drive their behaviors, like thoughtlessness and indifference, and thereby unintentionally give "ground" for dark influence. But plainly there are some who invoke Christ's name as an expletive who hate it and what it stands for. They feel perverse delight in using as a "curse" the name of the Man who came to bring supreme blessing to the world.
It is the ultimate distortion.
It's vital, then, to understand the spirit behind the attitude that allows one to make coarse use of Christ's name.
Second, there is an unintended confirmation of prophetic truth in the growing practice of degrading Christ's name. A time would come, He prophesied, when His followers would be hated "because of My name." (Matthew 10:22. Emphasis added) Tiger Woods and all the others likely have no idea they are actually confirming the accuracy of Christ and His prophecy when they show disdain for His name.
Finally, the use of Christ's name as an expletive is a proof of sorts that He really is God-in-flesh, a singular human being. The fact that Christ's name is singled out as an expletive from all the spiritual leaders across history is a powerful testimony to His uniqueness.
Multitudes, however, worship Him as Lord, and voice His name with praise and hope. May the day come soon when all see the beauty of His name, and all it signifies, and reverence it as the greatest expression of love ever revealed.