We Used to be Minimalists

Anita Renfroe is the comedian who said, “We used to be minimalists, but we called it poor.” That, pretty much, sums it all up. These days, we seem to rename everything. Sometimes we do it to be politically correct. Other times we do it simply to be cool.

You’ve heard lots of them. The folks we once called janitors are now sanitation engineers—pet owners have become human carers—bald guys are simply follicle-ly challenged. The list is never-ending.

We can complain about it, but the truth is, God started it. Think about it. Way back in the Book of Genesis, God began renaming people. Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, and Jacob became Israel. Their names were changed to give them a better fit. As an example of that, Jacob means “supplanter,” while Israel is quite another thing. It means, “May God prevail.” That’s what he got for wrestling with the Lord—and losing. At least, they used it to name his country.

I hope the Lord never renames me. My name, David, means beloved. Rowdy might be more appropriate, but I’d like to stick with the one I’ve had for the past sixty-eight years. It kind of grew on me (even though I’m probably not all that loveable).

I Am a Rock–Sort of…

But that was the Biblical point, I guess. The Lord renamed people so their handles would fit who they were (or who they were about to become). Take, for example, one of the original disciples, Simon. Jesus nicknamed him, Peter. It was a play on words. Jesus was referencing the statement Simon had just made (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”) Jesus recognized that this spoken truth was something he would build upon. Then Jesus called him Peter (which means rock), and said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church.”

To us, he’s been known as St. Peter ever since. He didn’t start out that way, however. Simon means, “the listener.” That didn’t fit him at all. He was more adept at spewing words than listening to them.

Shakespeare once wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That line sounds great, but I suspect, if the original name of a rose had been “onion flower,” we would have changed the name by now. We like to call things for what they are. We’re not always successful in making the new monikers stick, but try we will.

With the advent of the new, social media outlets, we are seeing a rise of these attempts at rechristening everything. The new names are often more descriptive of the objects they label. An article by Dominyka Jurkstaite gives us some examples:

Killer Whale = Panda Fish

Water = Snowman Blood

Sheep = Land Cloud

Zebra = Prison Pony

Volcano = Mountain Fountain

Milk = Cereal Sauce

Bread = Raw Toast

Sun = Space Bulb

Giraffe = Stretch Leopard

I’m not sure any of these will ever stick, but I kind of like Stretch Leopard, myself.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]

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