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Kirby: Make sure your children can live with their names

Published September 24, 2013 9:49 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Years ago, my family and I went to a popular hamburger restaurant. As we prepared to order, we were unaware that Jesus was in line ahead of us.

All we saw were several men trying to make themselves understood to the counter clerk. Exasperated, one of them took the clerk's pen and wrote something on the order form.

Later, as we waited for our food, the entire restaurant heard the clerk announce, "Jesus, your order is ready. Jesus?"

After some alarm, we realized the clerk had failed to pronounce the customer's name correctly — in Spanish.

Instead of using the Spanish pronunciation of Jesus, she went with her Anglo Sunday school training.

It was funny but also a bit disconcerting. Most Anglo Christians wouldn't consider naming a kid Jesus. What if he later turned out to be wanted by the FBI?

But giving the name to a child is common among Latinos. It is, in fact, a sign of respect.

It's a whole other story in the easily provoked Bible Belt, where a Tennessee judge recently overruled a lower court decision that a baby could not be named Messiah.

The kid's parents, who apparently are not married — or even currently fond of each other — went to court because they couldn't agree on a last name.

That's when Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew noticed the kid's first name. In a quote I made up entirely, Ballew got all theological on the parents.

"Do you really want this kid going to hell for borrowing the Lord's name? Pick another one. Hitler. Judas. Cher. Krusty the Clown. You can't use 'Messiah' because it's copyrighted by God. What? No, you can't have 'Lamb of God' either."

Again, I was paraphrasing a lot.

A superior court judge reversed Ballew's ruling, calling it unconstitutional to prevent parents from naming their kid after the Savior, the Alpha and Omega, Prince of Peace, King of the Jews, Logos, Redeemer of Israel…

Anyway the kid's legal name today is "Messiah DeShawn McCullough."

Is that bad or wrong? Probably depends on your attitude about Jesus and how common you want his name to be. Do you really want to be yelling, "Messiah, stop punching your sister" in public?

If you're not religious, you might even enjoy the discomfiture of Christians. After all, why shouldn't parents be able to name their kid whatever they want? Isn't it their business?

Not really. It's also everyone else's business. If you don't think so, try asserting your constitutional right to name your kid ["N-word"] and see what happens.

Let's say you're not trying to be provocative. What if you're just clueless as to the misery you're inflicting with all that Johnny Cash "Boy Named Sue" crap?

When I was in elementary school, my friend Cooper swore to me that he was going to kill his parents when he got old enough.

I moved away the following year, so I don't know if he actually did. I wouldn't have blamed him. Neither would any jury who understood just how maddening "Cooper, Cooper, the big, fat pooper" could be every day for six $%#@ years.

Anyone who ever asked "What's in a name?" isn't thinking hard enough. Names can be every bit as loaded as a gun.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley. —

Kirby on TV

Robert Kirby will be interviewed by Shauna Lake in a "Person 2 Person" segment Sunday at 10 p.m. on KUTV 2News.