So help me God... does it still mean anything?

If a Christian takes a solemn oath and affirms it by saying: “So help me God!” and the immediately and explicitly negates or repudiates the oath, is such a person to be taken seriously?

Hmm. Is that a trick question?

This Sunday’s Gospel says something about oaths (and a lot more).

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”

No, it is a simple direct question about people who are required to take an oath to be truthful. There are two examples which come to mind, both are related to trials. The first one is about witnesses, who must swear an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The second one is about jurors, who must swear to administer justice impartially.

So the question is about those witnesses and/or jurors, who take this solemn oath, and declare that they will NOT abide by it. They declare that they will not be impartial jurors, that they will declare the defendant guilty, even if the evidence shows that the defendant is innocent, conversely, declare that they are not interested in listening to the evidence, and will deliver a verdict of innocence, no matter what.

That is the question.

Well, then, perhaps it is a rhetorical question, because you know the answer.

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It is as it always has been, any oath is only as good as the person taking it. There will always be those who mean it and those who don’t, no matter which words are used.

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No, it is a real question.

I cannot know how YOU view such people. I can only surmise what the Christian opinion might be, since the silence surrounding this question is rather deafening. There was no outrage when some people explicitly declared that they will not be impartial jurors, and moreover they made sure that no witnesses would be allowed to testify. Sounds like bearing false witness to me, which is a violation of the Decalogue. Should not such a behavior be condemned loudly from any pulpit?

Interesting. For a non-believer, the words: “So help me God” is a meaningless “filler”, since they do not believe in God. But I was under the (possible misinformation or) view that for Christians taking the name of the Lord in vain is a serious sin, and saying “so help me God” would be such a sin if they do not intend to follow it with actual act.

As such to lie under oath (on a witness stand) or explicitly declaring that as a juror one does not intend to be impartial would be a very serious sin. And as such it should be followed by a loving but stern rebuke by others. Unfortunately that was not the case recently, and that is why I presented my question.

What on earth are you talking about? It sounds like you’re trying to get into an argument about some kind of specific event, about which you clearly have a strong opinion, in which you clearly think that someone who claimed to be Christian took an oath and then negated it, but you refuse to say what it is.

Honestly it sounds like you’re just trying to vent about whatever this is, or maybe even start an online fight about it, but you assume that every human on the planet (which is what the Internet represents; you don’t know where we’re reading your comments from) knows what you’re talking about?

Also it reads strangely to me that you’re rejecting all the answers you’ve gotten so far, despite them being decent. Like someone pointing out you’re asking an obvious rhetorical question (which clearly was that commenter’s way of saying Christians would agree with you about it being wrong to break oaths); or the person who pointed out that all oaths are only as good as the person taking them (similar to the person who pointed out that Christians are actually told by Jesus himself not to even take oaths, since our ‘yes’ should just mean ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ should be reliable as ‘no’, AKA one’s word should be so trustworthy that an oath isn’t even necessary and doesn’t add anything). Overall it sounds to me like everyone’s giving you perfectly decent answers to your question, but you’re being insulting and claiming that in fact people are being ‘silent’ and that silence is ‘deafening’.

So… What’s up? Obviously every person here is on the side of “Don’t break oaths, man.” So… ? What part do you want us to play in your (what I’m starting to suspect will be a political thing specific to your country) scripted rant denigrating another human person who you want us to ‘not take seriously’?

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Are you thinking of a specific Christian here? Maybe one in public office?

If you mean a Christian says the oath and “So help me God” and then lies on the witness stand in court, I would think that person needs the help of God probably even more than the person who tells the truth.

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Good question. There’s little doubt that such behavior is wrong, but I’m not sure that it should be condemned loudly from any pulpit. I mean, what are pulpits for? Usually for pastoral guidance of the congregation. What is accomplished by loudly condemning people who aren’t in the congregation?

Are you talking about jury nullification? If a juror actually declared that he was not going to be impartial then I would think he would be removed from the jury and an alternate sent in.

You all know, or are refusing to know, that he speaks of the Republican Senators who intended to acquit Trump without considering the charges nor permitting any testimony or evidence. The verdict was chosen by the white house and fear of disagreeing with the resident of that house.

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I was trying to give the OP some benefit of the doubt that it might be an actual question and not some veiled complaint about Trump or Republicans.

I guess since it’s an election year we’re going to be bombarded with threads about how people on both sides are evil, immoral, God should strike them dead etc. When actually all the people on both sides are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus whether we like it or not.

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Aw, come on! Must everything be spelled out? Nothing left to the imagination?

It was way more fun the other way.

Anyway, the OP chose to place this thread in the Moral Theology category. The moral question has been answered nine different ways. @Abrosz, if you want to argue politics, start a new topic in the World News category. They love that kind of stuff over there.

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While it is correct that this trial was the à propos which started my thoughts, but my question is generic and exactly what it said: “is the phrase (so help me God) still meaningful, or did it become an empty expression?” After all the jurors in any trial are free to interpret the presented evidence in any way they choose to. If the majority in this case decided that acquittal was in order, so be it. It was their right to do so. That is not the problem and that is not the point of this thread.

It is the fact that they took a solemn oath to be impartial jurors. And the problem is not only that they did not abide by their oath. The problem is that some of them loudly proclaimed that they do not INTEND to keep their oath. This is what made the whole “trial” into a charade. But that is still not the question. We had a charade, so be it.

One more time: “is the expression: so help me God” a meaningful pledge to limit the jurors to conduct an impartial trial, and if not, what kind of repercussion should such an explicit dishonesty carry. Can they lie if they so choose? After all senators cannot be impeached, but they can be removed at the next election. It is my personal opinion that liars of this magnitude should be voted out. But that is improbable if not outright impossible.

The question was about your opinion? How do you view people who blatantly violate their oath? This is what I am asking. And so far, no answer.

The phrase “so help me God” is not a pledge; it has no weight in swearing or pledging an oath.
It is a prayer for God’s help, to attempt to keep an oath.
The oath is the person responding to the question, “Do you swear to … ?”
If the person takes the oath, the person says, “I Do.” Or says, “I Swear.” and may add, “So help me God,” as a prayer to God to assist him.

“I do,” or “I swear,” is the oath that you are wondering about its meaning. The only power of that oath is in the ability to bring legal action against a person who swears an oath intending not to keep it, when the oath is required for an official governmental obligation.
Whether it can be ascertained if God Helped or not has no bearing on the oath - its fulfillment is still required.

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Earlier I wrote that you might have posed a trick question or a rhetorical question. Now I believe that you have posed a leading question, one which supposes that someone has blatantly violated his or her oath, and asks us to join in that supposition.

Charity demands that I presume that each person intends to bring about good. Each person, though having good intentions, might be wrong in some way. I doubt that any senator thought to himself or herself, “This is evil, but I will choose it anyway.”

Did some senators choose wrongly? Probably. I mean, they couldn’t all be right. But those who said, “I will not consider the testimony,” may have thought the testimony was false or irrelevant. Those who said, “I will not call that witness,” may have thought the witness was dishonest or unreliable. Perhaps they were mistaken.

I guess you want condemnation. Okay, I’ll give that a try: All are sinners.

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The legal system has mechanisms to deal with witnesses who commit perjury under oath and jurors who do not carry out their duties in the proper manner.

Just because a person is not testifying in the way you think he ought to testify, or a juror is not doing his job the way you think he ought to do, does not mean that the person is perjuring himself or not carrying out his duties from a legal standpoint.

My opinion of this is that I leave it up to the courts to deal with it. I do not sit around judging people. As the poster above said, we all are sinners.

As someone who has worked in the court system, I am also not a fan of armchair quarterbacks following along at home who make big moral pronouncements about legal proceedings.

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This is simply not true. There are two variants of making an oath. One is “I solemnly swear…” ending with “so help me God”. The other one is “I solemnly affirm…” without a special ending. In the times when everyone was expected / required to be religious, the ending was mandatory. Nowadays it is optional. But for Christians it is still an extra affirmation of being truthful.

I thought that charity would require to assess a post in the most favorable light. I explained that my question was exactly as stated. it was neither a “trick” nor “rhetorical”. Now you assume that it was a “leading” question. How about looking at it as it actually was?

And the point is that it was not a “supposition” that some people blatantly violated their oath, it is a FACT. Observe McConnell and Graham, who BOTH explicitly declared that will not be impartial jurors, despite giving a solemn oath to the contrary? (The rest of the senators did not explicitly say either way).

Really? Making a little “white” lie to spare someone of undue suffering is the same as committing a genocide? After all we are “all sinners”. I was under the impression that some “sins” are more serious than others. And I did not look for confirmation, I was looking for honest answer.

Yes, most of the time. But not when the judge and the jury are the same.

I explicitly affirmed that I am not interested in the verdict delivered. I am only interested in the solemn oath to be impartial and then immediately declaring that they will NOT be impartial.

I do my best not to judge people, only their actions. Lying is horrible, no matter the context. The truth should never be deliberately perverted. I don’t understand why we are trying to remain abstract and vague, and yet complaining that the very specific question has not been addressed. I think that it has.

Could you provide evidence for that?

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