What’s in a Name?

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Gwen Amos, “Dark Angel”

I’ve recently reread Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series. In the second book, A Wind at the Door, the young heroine Meg teams up with a cherubim to pass three tests. He explains to Meg that she is a Namer. In fact, all of us who are on the side of good in the world are Namers. Those who are on the side of the Echthroi, or the chaos, evil and war in the world are “un-namers.” In this story they can X creation out, including stars, thus creating tears in the universe.

Meg’s plight resonated with me because I love naming things–pets, children, artwork–and yet there is a big responsibility that goes along with it. In naming something or someone we are calling out what something truly is or who they are meant to be (except the Jack Russell Terrorizer down the block whose name is Angel). In the Genesis story (Chapter 2) God brings his creation to mankind for him to name them. This story tells us that this is our first “job” on earth.

Recently in the USA we’ve all been roiled by the specter of American nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups openly demonstrating their dark beliefs. Some are trying to normalize them by calling them Alt-right groups and making them parallel to so-called “Alt Left” groups. There is one group that sometimes uses violence called Antifa and this stands for “Anti-fascists,” which is not on the same moral plane as someone who is racist and is comfortable celebrating political ideologies that lead to genocide.

Alas our skill at naming things to be what they truly are is getting so out of practice that many people are confused. As Marilyn Chandler McIntyre points out in her book Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, “the deceptions we particularly seem to want are those that comfort, insulate, legitimate and provide ready excuses for inaction.” (p 57) Because if your electoral power depends on those who view the other as less than fully human, then you need some way to justify not standing up to #45 and others who give them credibility.

These are perilous times. This morning Pastor Frank preached on Matthew 16: 13-20 when Jesus asks the disciples, “who do you say I am?” He began by calling our community of faith to be clear that there are white supremacists and nazis mobilizing in our country today. It does no good to equivocate and call them something else. Just as it does no good as a person of faith to call Jesus “Elijah” or “John the Baptist.” We must recognize the power of the living God to have the Spirit’s help in discerning what is real and what is comfortable deceit.

What strikes me as particularly confounding is the evangelical “Christian” churches belief that they are persecuted for their faith in the USA. This fear that someone is about to keep them from saying “Merry Christmas” must keep them from examining what real persecution looks like. Just listen to this story on NPR.org about Esther who was kidnapped by the Boko Haram and enslaved for sex and hard housework. (The Lament of the Boko Haram ‘Brides’ August 27, 2017) When she was caught worshipping Jesus, she was beaten and her life threatened. When we call having to live alongside people of other faiths as “persecution” we cheapen what it really means to people of faith around the world.

Let’s be impeccable with our words. And give no allowances to those who are not.

One thought on “What’s in a Name?

  1. “Be impeccable with your words” – one of the Four Agreements I continue to hold as model (challenge) for living mindfully. You have called out the human tendency to gloss over with superfluous “soothers” rather than choose impeccable words. Good post!

    Like

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