Hear Ye! Since 1998.
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Apr 01


I’m sure a t-shirt slogan has caught your eye recently. Something witty, perhaps, that has made you smile? Something insightful which has made you think? Or something downright stupid that you insult the person wearing it. Sometimes it’s a slogan slathered in thick black letters across a person’s back. Or maybe text small enough written across a girl’s chest so that when curiousity gets the better of you and you squint… instant pervert. Slogans are definitely attention grabbers. You’ve got those shirts reading “Pornstar”, declared loud and proud. There’s badly blurred text “too much sex causes bad eyesight”. Even the truly inane “all your base are belong to us” has been stuck onto the cotton. Slogans *say* things, and they also say things about the people wearing them.

Anyway where this is going is not that exciting, but nonetheless a slogan caught my eye of the reflective kind (thinking reflective, not mirror reflective… I’ve thankfully yet to see someone carrying a mirror around on their back). It was at uni on the bus, on the back of a guy sitting down: “God you frustrate me.”

The first interpretation that struck me was – the expression of annoyance at someone. Soon after, the word sounds rearranged themselves in my
mind and the sentence turned into an anguished complaint to The Creator (the “guy in the sky” so to speak). Either way, the former statement could be construed as somewhat blasphemous, and the latter, heretical. That is, of course, if you’re Christian. If you weren’t then either statement would make sense. I’m Christian, so while I didn’t take outright offense, I did shake my head (figuratively speaking, I didn’t actually shake it.)

This assumption satisfied me and I stopped thinking. Until the guy stood up. Scrawled at the bottom of the shirt was “Campus Bible Study”. Campus Bible Study (CBS) is UNSW’s evangelical Christian organisation. It’s a large society that actively promotes the faith, as all good evangelists do. Turns out that the old slogan of “Real Food” had been momentarily replaced with “God you frustrate me.” Immediately my perspective changed. For a second I was thinking, “It’s Christian, so it’s OK. There must be a reason for it.” Then I got about to thinking of a possible reason. “Must be a ruse to draw people in – people who are having trouble with their lives that they blame others and God for it. Then they sign them up to CBS and give them support.” Fair enough. A second later though I thought, “Hang on… does that justify using the Lord’s name in vain?” Why would a bunch of zealous Christians do this? I figure to get noticed you have to make a statement. “Real Food” didn’t cut it, so they switched to this. Something more noticeable and “stronger”. However, is it alright to do that for publicity? I’m sure the counter-argument would be that the good intentions justify the means. When that comes to violating a commandment, though, is that still right? Or is it really violating a commandment? How malleable is the Bible – does what it say change within accordance of what society deems relevant nowadays? A lot of people have moved away from a literal interpretation of the Bible – fair enough – but the introduction of mass subjectivity can’t be a good thing can it? Anyhow, I’m not seeking to pass judgement in this post.

The point of this post is that all the above was pure speculation on my part – a t-shirt slogan made me think for a fair few minutes on the bus – one lousy sentence.

But then again, I guess one lousy sentence said at the wrong place at the wrong time could end you up in hospital. I told you this was a rambling.

Anyway, I would suggest that the slogan is not using the Lords name in vain, but more giving voice to the anguish that many people feel to God….IE “You frustrate me God”, which is a statement, not using the Lords name in vain.  It could even be seen as an accusation against God. IE God YOU frustrate me”.  Is this wrong?  Since the statement is giving voice to frustrations that people do feel to God, and is raising the issues, I doubt it is.  The person may be in the wrong for feeling those frustrations, but to admit to them is certainly not wrong.  Besides, the frustrations are probabally due to a misunderstood view of God.  Thus come along to the talks (or whatever they are advertising), and your frustrations may be cleared up.

Of course, the statement is there to draw publicity for the CBS Easter Mission, where people can come along to hear about what God has done for them.  Will it cure their frustrations with God?  I have no idea, but it may raise some “thinking” material, and get people talking.

Anyway, another point you made with regards to using the Lords name in vain, you are right, if the statement was in itself wrong (Say using the Lords name in vain), then CBS should not be using it, it is inappropriate, and is not what they say they are about.  IE They claim to follow the bible, but will ignore it for publicity purposes.  THis would be clearly wrong.  I don’t think they are doing this.

Cool, thats my 2cents, though looking back I’m not sure if I explained it clearly. –Mike

Yah, I think it is the second meaning I described, not the first (after I discovered the CBS connection). The phrase is something someone “looking for direction” (or a way to ease their frustrations) would say. It’s just a little weird because when you wear a t-shirt, you are making a statement about yourself normally. However, these evangelists wouldn’t be the ones expressing frustration – they’ve already been given the knowledge of Christian liberatation/salvation etc. Anyway, whatever the motivation, that shirt got me thinking, and I guess that was the aim.