Text messaging had given birth to a whole new language. When I started teaching in 2001, texting was new, but it caught on quickly with the young crowd. Perhaps partly that was because the girls could hide their cell phone in their skirts to send and receive texts during class. I knew they were doing it, but what could I do? I wasn’t about to reach for the phone when hidden there.
Texting did present certain challenges. Most students had flip phones with the numbers 0-9 on the key pad. To enter a letter, one had to click the right number a specific number of times. C was the number 2 clicked 3 times. An O was a 6 clicked 3 times. N was the number 6 clicked twice and so forth. Because I never got the hang of it, I do not text, but some of my students could click away with both thumbs are a rapid rate.
Even with the dexterity and speed displayed by some of my students, texting was cumbersome. Soon they began using contractions. The word YOU became U. ARE became R. This made messages shorter and simpler. It also drove English teachers crazy because some students began trying to use these contractions in their assignments. Soon an entire vocabulary evolved. Often three or four letters could communicate half a sentence such as a code to say, “My parents are watching.” The language spread until today they are used even by some adults. For example, my friend often comments on e-mail (LOL). At first I thought he was teasing me by calling me a Little Old Lady, but I learned it meant Laugh Out Loud.
Today, religion in general and Christianity in particular is under attack. Young people, in particular, see no need for any religion. Even many of the older people are no longer “religious”. A few have taken up atheism, both simply ignore church and any deity. At the same time some of them attack God and the entire concept of religion.
Let’s do an experiment. Open another window and look to see how many Facebook entries and how many e-mails open with (or include) OMG. Yep, a lot of people of all ages, but especially those under 30, make frequent use of OMG. Some even verbalize it in their conversations.
Now if OMG meant something like Organic Mixed Grains, I would be less surprised, but OMG is written or said as a contraction of, “OH MY GOD.” Does that mean that revival has hit the nation? Hardly. Many of these people who use OMG are the same people who have rejected religion and have turned their backs on God or for that mater any deity.
You see, “Oh my God.” was originally a prayer, a very good way to open a conversation with God. Later it became a way of expressing surprise, but it still had the context of a prayer. Basically, the person was shocked or pleased by something. If they were shocked, they were asking God to protect them and possibly to rectify the situation. If a person was pleasantly surprised by a gift or a rain storm in the middle of a drought, uttering, “Oh My God.” would be a prayer of thanksgiving.
Now when I see a Facebook post by a young friend who writes something like, “OMG. John invited me to the prom,” how am I supposed to interpret the post? Obviously the young lady is pleased, but how can she write OMG unless she recognizes the existence of God and accepts Him as her personal God? In most cases, neither she nor John have been inside a church since the last time they attended a funeral.
Are communication skills in decline with people saying one thing to mean another? Are phrases like OMG and various swear words simply empty words without meaning that are thrown into sentences by people who think the words add emphasis? I would hope this is not the case. Communications skills are difficult enough as they are. As an author, I know how difficult it is to write without having a reader misunderstand what I write. Such misunderstandings happen frequently when the reader is of a different cultural or demographic group than I am. The people of the world need to work on improving our communications skills. Let us say and write what we mean and mean what we communicate. We can not do this using words that mean different than what they literally say.
I am more concerned that the frivolous use of OMG is causing people to minimize God. I take God seriously. He is real to me. He is my Lord and Savior, a magnificent God of Glory and Power. We have a personal relationship, and I lean on Him for nourishment and for protection. Were I to use OMG frivolously, I would be insulting my God the same way I insult my Mexican friend when I call him a cholo.
To me religion is only a vehicle for worshiping and praising God. I fear that some of these people who use OMG have long ago abandoned any relationship with God. They may remain religious to some extent, but they long ago have abandoned any personal relationship with God. I fear many depend on a particular organized church to be their mediator with God. They may think that attending a service adds a like to God’s Facebook page, or they may think it is sufficient for a clergy person to pray for them. Theologically this is called salvation by works, but God is less interested in our works than our relationship with Him. It is not enough to be a member of a church or even to attend church and receive its sacraments. God calls us to pray personally to him, to repent of our sins and to seek a personal relationship with Him as our Lord and Savior.
It is time for Americans to wake up. If we write or say OMG, we must mean it. We must be addressing a God with whom we have a personal relationship. That means we need to engage in Bible study and prayer. If God is a personal friend to you or if God is the supreme power in your life, you may wish to honor him by attending church on a regular basis.
When we write or say OMG in response to something shocking or horrible, we need to be praying to God for protection. If we respond OMG to something wonderful, we need to be saying it in an attitude of thanksgiving. In either case, we need to be recognizing our dependence on God.
Next time your fingers are about to type OMG, ponder if you honestly can type that. Is God your personal God? If so, act like it. If not, seek out a good Bible believing church and ask for help.
Reynold Conger is an author. ReynoldConnger.com showcases his work.