Romeo and Juliet is playing at the Stratford Festival this year, but I’m not going to see it. Who needs to see another story about teenagers involved with sex and drugs?
But there’s a line in the play that we all know: “What’s in a name?” Juliet is musing over the sad fact that Romeo is a Capulet, which makes him a sworn enemy of her family. Who cares what he is called, she wonders, and why does it matter?
That question takes on a whole new dimension when you read this story.
A legal fight over a Tennessee baby’s last name took an unexpected turn late last week when a judge ruled that the parents of the seven-month-old boy must change his first name. The issue, at least as Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew saw it, was that the child’s name was “Messiah,” a moniker Ballew believes should be reserved only for Jesus Christ. Here’s local NBC affiliate station WBIR-TV with more of the judge’s logic:
“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Judge Ballew said. … According to Judge Ballew, it is the first time she has ordered a first name change. She said the decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population. “It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is,” Judge Ballew said.
The judge’s solution: Changing “Messiah DeShawn Martin” to “Martin DeShawn McCullough.” But, as you would expect, that doesn’t mean mother Jaleesa Martin is happy with the name change. Martin said she originally decided on Messiah for her son because it was a unique-sounding name that seemed to fit in nicely with her two older children’s names, Micah and Mason. “I was shocked. I never intended on naming my son Messiah because it means God and I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs,” Martin told WBIR-TV. “Everybody believes what they want so I think I should be able to name my child what I want to name him, not someone else.” She is now appealing Judge Ballew’s decision.
In some countries, the name of a child does matter. As the article in Slate points out, several European countries require that a baby’s name meet certain standards. However, they don’t seem to have a problem with naming a child after a mythological character. And in this country, especially during the heyday of the hippie movement in the 1960’s, I know that some parents came up with some pretty exotic names for their kids. We all remember Moon Unit and Dweezil, and I am sure there were a fair number of Frodos, Samwises, Galadriels and Elbereths being registered for kindergarten in about 1973 or so. (And I’m sure that in the 1980’s and ’90’s, a fair number of those kids changed their names to Melvin, Norman, Emily, Sue, or whatever got them away from love, peace, and tie-dye.) So apparently we don’t need a law telling us what is the proper choice of a name for a child. The schoolyard — or family counseling — will prevail.
But getting back to the Child Support Magistrate’s ruling, she’s got a little to learn about life outside the megachurch. In a number of countries, especially Latin America, the name Jesus is very popular for boys and has been for centuries. It does not seem to upset the church or the population. If anything, it places a bit of a burden on the child to emulate the namesake. He may feel he has an obligation to go into his father’s business and hang out with twelve guys. Of course, he’ll be sure to spend Easter break in any place other than Israel. Don’t want to chance it. (For a long time I went to a barber shop and had my hair cut by a Cuban gentleman named Jesus. So when an evangelical came up to me and asked me if Jesus was my personal savior, I replied, “No, but he is my personal barber.”)
The magistrate will, of course, get her hand slapped by whatever court gets this turd of a case, and the Jesus shouters will rally to her side. The Tea Party has a new hero, I’m sure, because FREEDOM also means acknowledging without question the fact that America is a Christian nation, always has been, and that stuff about “separation of church and state” is just a lot of Commie propaganda put out by the Radical Homosexual Lobby so they can do unspeakable things in the privacy of their boudoir once they get “married” by some Quaker meeting.
None of that will matter, of course, to the child, who will get his name back, and he, along with the 700 other kids who were also named “Messiah”, will come up with a nickname like Mike or whatever to get through the normal traumas of childhood. And when he’s old enough to read about all of this, he’s going to agree with Juliet: what is all the fuss about?
HT to MJWS.