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  • Reverend James Squire

What's In A Name?

What’s in a name? Evidently quite a lot as Republicans refuse to mention the name Trump in any responses to his outrageous comments in recent days. When he suggests that we revise our Constitution, Mitch McConnell said, “No one who runs for office should make such a statement.” When he had dinner with Ye (talk about names) and a white supremacist, the response, if any, from the Republican party is, “No one should be antisemitic or in favor of white supremacy.” If you are wondering if Trump still has power in the party and a clear indication that the party itself still does not have the courage to call him out on his various affronts to humankind, you can look no further than the barometer of his power than their failure to use his name in their responses.

We have all been raised on that ethical guideline that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That is wrong advice because we all see the power of a name by the Republicans failure to have Trump’s name pass their lips. Nicknames that belittle a person hurt us, and we can get stuck with them for life. One of my school peers growing up was called chicken head. He was called that all of his life. I have no idea of the origin of the nickname. Nicknames can also be a positive and honor a person. No one asks the name of Cher for everyone knows who she is.

But the real power of names can be seen in the Bible where a change of name means a change of vocation or direction in life. When Abram became the father of a nation, his name was changed to Abraham as was true for his wife Sarai whose name was changed to Sarah. Saul in Christian Literature was a persecutor of Christians. When he was converted to Christianity on his Damascus Road encounter with God, he becomes one of the great disciples of Christ. His name is changed to Paul.

Names matter. Famous actors and actresses change their names from their birth name to one that has a ring of Hollywood to it. Evidently the movie industry’s powers to be didn’t think that Roy Harold Scherer struck the right tone so he change his name to the more manly Rock Hudson. People change their names when they get married or not. Many people want a beloved ancestor in their children’s names.

It drives me crazy that actors and actresses spend enormous amounts of money to get their names out there and then complain that they can’t get away from the masses who want their autograph which is another example of the power of names. What did they think would happen? Don’t get me started on Meghan and Harry and their recent documentary, which I refused to watch, restating again their victimhood. They are laughing their way to the bank but everyone worldwide knows that combination of names.

Names become brands. Gucci and other designers depend on communicating the best and most expensive in fashion.

That brings us back to Trump. His life has been creating the myth of a successful moral businessman. In recent weeks, we learn that his company was corrupt including his children. He pays no taxes compared to the rest of us, but he will tell you that is because he is so smart. He is now facing criminal charges. His brand and name will, I hope, signal an example of the worst in human nature. Just when you think that he can’t stoop any lower, he sets a new example of unethical behavior. Who buries his wife on a golf course to get a tax break? Evidently the apple has not fallen far from the same tree in the lives of his children and Jared.

Just has we have heard in our culture “don’t be a Benedict Arnold” to describe a traitor, I am sure that the name Trump will be a short way for historians and journalists to describe egregious forms of unethical behavior. Perhaps his name will enter the culture when a parent will say after their child does something unethical, “You are just like Trump.” Or “Only a Trump would do something like that.”

What’s in a name? I watched what my father did which I am just learning more completely is the source of some of my personality traits. He used deeds not words like the dictum, “Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary.” One thing that he did say to me, however, took root, early in m life. “Your name in the end is all that you have. Don’t do anything to tarnish it.”

The importance of living out the gift of your name was made clear by the prophet Isaiah in his writings. (Isaiah 9:6), “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. AND HE WILL BE CALLED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE.

In the Christian tradition those are names that we can live and die with.

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