If “OMG” were a spice, it would be salt. It’s in everything.
From “Oh my god, that dress looks great on you” to “Oh my god, can you believe gas prices?” people seem to throw “OMG” into just about any sentence. It’s a one-size-fits-all exclamation that is as pervasive as “um” or “like.”
And it troubles me. So much so that even writing it out gives me pause. I don’t capitalize the word “god” in these contexts because it doesn’t seem like the Lord is really any part of the subject matter. I was always taught that saying “OMG” in a casual way is taking the Lord’s name in vain—using the Lord’s name without any true, reverent thought of Him was breaking the second commandment. As an adult, after studying the Word and the Heavenly Doctrines, it seems pretty clear to me that the casual use of OMG is problematic and we shouldn’t say it carelessly (my emphasis below):
You are not to take the name of Jehovah your God in vain, for Jehovah will not hold anyone guiltless, who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)
Taking the name of Jehovah God in vain means in the natural or literal sense the misuse of the name itself in all sorts of conversation, especially false statements or lies, and in swearing without good cause, or in order to avoid being blamed, in evil intentions, which are curses, and in witchcraft and spells. (True Christianity 297)
In the spiritual sense the name of God means the whole of the church’s teaching taken from the Word, and through which the Lord is invoked and worshipped. Therefore taking the name of God in vain means using anything from this source in idle talk, false statements, lies, curses, witchcraft and spells; for this too is slandering and blaspheming God, and so His name. (True Christianity 298)
I guess what I’m focusing on here is the “idle talk” referred to in True Christianity 298. I’m not talking about deliberately disrespecting the Lord’s name. That’s more obviously wrong. I’m more concerned with the way people throw OMG around in an unintentional and thoughtless manner.
After some Googling on the subject, I found that other Christian groups are troubled by the OMG phenomenon, so this isn’t just a New Church thing. On the other hand, some people seem to think that “OMG” just doesn’t mean what it used to, so we shouldn’t worry about it. Sort of how “literally” used to be mean the opposite of “figuratively” and now they are considered synonyms. Language does crazy things over time. To many people, “OMG” is just another way of saying “Wow!” or “Are you kidding me?” and we shouldn’t give it a second thought.
Well I have given it much more than a second thought. I flinch every time I hear someone utter OMG in a way that seems irreverent. But that’s part of the problem—it seems irreverent. How do I know? Sure, I know plenty of atheists who use OMG regularly and I wonder what it is they think they’re saying. But I don’t think they intend to be irreverent. Maybe they say it just because it’s something that people say. It might be thoughtless and a misuse of the Lord’s name, but I don’t think it is typically an intentional slight to God or to those who believe in Him.
But what about people who believe in and love God? Who am I to say that someone doesn’t enjoy a very chummy kind of relationship with the Lord (as they understand Him) and that they really do think of the Lord whenever they slip OMG into conversation? It’s possible. Maybe I shouldn’t flinch as reflexively as I do.
I guess what troubles me the most is being uncertain of what to do about this phenomenon where the “G” in “OMG” seems essentially meaningless to most speakers. Since I can’t judge another person’s relationship to the Lord, it is hard for me to speak up about my discomfort even when close (non-New Church) friends use OMG in everyday conversation. It feels wrong to stay silent, but it also feels wrong to speak up when I can’t know a person’s mind or heart.
I’m not sure what there is to do besides live by example and not use the Lord’s name in this way. That’s better than nothing, but it does little to ease my concern about how this excessive use of OMG came to be socially acceptable and how this trend might affect people’s ability to connect with the Lord. After all, when we call someone by name, we’re referring to the whole person and not just a label. Saying someone’s name is fundamentally an effort to make contact with that person. And knowing how to connect with God is the greatest gift there is.
Do phrases like OMG trouble you? Why or why not? Have any of you had any breakthroughs in navigating our OMG culture in your relationships with people who may or may not be a part of the New Church? How do you handle the use of OMG in your home or workplace? How do you establish boundaries about this phrase being used in your presence? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.